As the NFL draft approaches like a tsunami of molasses, one thought dominates the minds of experts, non-experts posing as experts, fans, and fans’ wives: Please tell me when mock drafts, the quintessential exercise in futility are no longer front page material. Seriously, those things are a horrible excuse for non-news. I bet a blind kid could guess how many fingers I’m holding up before Mel Kiper, Jr. accurately predicts the first pick of the NFL draft. Who will be the first pick of the 2015 NFL draft?
The answer is obvious: probably Marcus Mariota. Or Jameis Winston. Or Leonard Maltin Bruce Williams.
But seriously folks, who will go first? My wholly uneducated, thoroughly informed by nothing guess: Marcus Mariota.
After all, how could any one think that the guy responsible for greatest in-game comic moment since the Butt Fumble should be a Tampa Bay Bad-luck-aneer? (Cut to Benny Hill’s ghost nodding in approval.)
Winston is all of this and more. But he has potential nerve damage in his shoulder, even though it’s the same shoulder he’s been playing with since he was four years old. (Newsflash, four-year-olds: your brother is lying to you. There is no such thing as the shoulder fairy.) When his supporting cast got slightly worse, he didn’t play better. His play in the first half of every 2014 game made him look like he and Johnny Football had more in common than just a Heisman trophy. His ability to make good decisions, both in football and his private life, is questionable.
I also question his leadership ability. His teammates like him and he can command a huddle (whatever that means). One has to wonder whether leadership is the right term when Kirk Herbstreit calls out THE ENTIRE TEAM for leaving the field without acknowledging the team that played small pox to their Seminoles. One’s leadership ability is displayed through the actions of his followers. Here, FSU marched off the field in a huff, while Jameis congratulated the Ducks. If Jameis were a leader nonpareil, his teammates would have followed his lead, and done the same. They didn’t. His comments after the game (“We didn’t lose, we beat ourself.”) further support the idea the team’s sportsmanship fail is actually reflective of his leadership. Either Jameis can’t lead (Jameis as good sport, team as bad sport) or he can lead, but only as far as his ego permits. Either way, all armchair GMs out there would have to ask themself: Do I want to bet my job on a kid that either can’t lead his team in a grade school cheer or runs off the field like a sore loser? I couldn’t.
I could recite a pro/con list for Mariota. I could start by talking about how he’s a nice and polite young man, his play in the Ducks’ scheme, how he loves the football itself more than Tom Hanks loves Wilson, and his athletic prowess. I could also talk about his inexperience taking a snap under center, his lack of huddling ability, his lack of knowledge about play calling verbiage, his Belichick-ian handling of the media, and wonder whether his quiet nature will fit well in THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
None of this matters, though. Doesn’t play under center much? Well, then Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers must also be mediocre. Looks at pictures instead of calling plays? Don’t tell Chip Kelly, because obviously an offense that calls plays with words is better than one that calls plays with pictures. Isn’t a great in front of a camera? Marshawn Lynch must be a suck too (sidebar: it isn’t called media-ball). He doesn’t talk enough in the huddle? Teddy Roosevelt was WAAAAYYYY off.
In all honesty, I think both players will be great. Jameis is more experienced under center than Mariota is, and has been playing with the same shoulders since pre-K. As long as he doesn’t become Jameis Leaf-ziel, he should be good for a long time. Mariota might not be as experienced working in the same offense as Winston, but the success of Chip Kelly’s Eagle offense, RGIII, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson show that any team drafting Mariota should see the same sign Dante saw before entering Hell.
But if they are both equally talented prospects, then Mariota’s my man. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. Or, as Dizzy Dean said it: “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.” Huddle command (not to be confused with Missile Command) and popularity contests don’t win football games.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline