Is Marcus Mariota Destined for Coaching?

David Marsh Editorials 34 Comments

Marcus Mariota is the greatest Oregon football player of all time. He won Oregon its first Heisman Trophy and still holds most of the quarterback records for Oregon. Tragically, though, Mariota suffered the all-too-frequent fate of many great college players; he was drafted early by a team that had no idea what to do with him.

At Tennessee, he played in a system that refused to use his unique skill set and was sacked far too often. An NFL quarterback cannot take consistent hits without significant physical repercussions. Mariota escaped from Tennessee and is now with the Las Vegas Raiders, where he has spent most of his time recovering from past injuries. These injuries have limited Mariota’s NFL success and, as a Duck fan, it would be great to see him fully heal and claim the starting job with the Raiders. However, with each passing week this feels less and less likely.

This last Sunday the Las Vegas Raiders played the Los Angeles Chargers in a game many Duck fans had once hoped would feature dueling Oregon quarterbacks. After the game there was a moment, captured in the image below, that changed the way I look at Mariota and made me believe he has the leadership skills to become a great coach.

From Twitter

Mariota comforts Herbert after another though loss.

Mariota is not a stereotypical leader in the NFL but his teammates and coaches have praised his leadership. He builds personal connections with his teammates and leads by example.

So, after another crushing loss for the Chargers, Justin Herbert and Mariota met on the field after the game. Mariota comforted Herbert as he understood the struggles of a difficult rookie year. For Oregon fans, it has been heartbreaking to watch Herbert give it his all with the Chargers only to watch the Chargers fall sort week-after-week. Herbert, like Mariota at Tennessee, is better than the team that drafted him.

College coaches are different than NFL coaches. College coaches must recruit players and develop deeper bonds with them than is typical in the NFL. NFL teams pursue the best talent they can whether that is through drafting, trading, or signing. Some players may stay with a team for years while others will sign with multiple teams in a single off season—that is simply the nature of professional football. College football, however, requires coaches to build relationships and develop talent, even five-star talent, into the best possible players.

Kevin Cline

Marcus Mariota and Jeff Lockie during the 2014 Oregon Spring game.

Mariota has proven he has the skills, experience, and compassion needed to become a great college coach.

He knows what it’s like to be the star of the team but also knows the value of being a part of the scout team. Mariota is a team player and a great scout team player must learn and understand how offenses work and then be able to execute that offense. This is not a skill every player can do at a high level and it requires a deep knowledge of X’s and O’s.

So at what point does Mariota take his skills and experiences and translate them into a coaching career? He still has another year on his contract with the Raiders so nothing will happen until the end of the 2021-22 season, but it does seem like a matter of when, not if, Mariota will become a coach.

And as Oregon fans wouldn’t we all love to see Mariota return to the sideline at Autzen Stadium?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by: John Giustina

Brad Nye, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a land conservation attorney in Central Oregon.


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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Graves Signs 2021 Guard Taylor Bigby 




EUGENE, Ore. – The Oregon women’s basketball team has added another elite talent to its future plans after signing 2021 guard Taylor Bigby to a National Letter of Intent, head coach Kelly Graves announced on Wednesday.

The No. 29 ranked recruit in the nation according to ESPNW, Bigby is entering her senior season at Centennial High School in Las Vegas after a stellar junior season that saw her win Nevada Gatorade state player of the year honors. Bigby is also ranked No. 28 overall by Prospect Nation and No. 24 by ASGR.

On Tuesday, Bigby was named to the 50-player watch list for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy for High School Girls’ Player of the Year.

“Taylor is a very talented guard with the ability to play all three positions,” said Graves. “Her versatility, especially on the defensive end, will definitely make us a stronger unit. Taylor plays extremely hard, attacks the basket hard, and is elite in transition.

“Her unique skillset, her team-first attitude, her mental toughness and her winning past make her a perfect fit for our program.”

A three-time Nevada state champion, Bigby swept state player of the year honors in 2020 while being named the MVP of the Northwest League and a first-team All-Southern Nevada selection. The Gatorade state player of the year was also a finalist for the national Gatorade player of the year award.

The 6-foot-1 Bigby led Centennial to a 24-6 record and a sixth-straight Class 4A state championship as a junior, averaging 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

“Taylor is a special talent and we are proud to been a part of her basketball journey,” said Karen Weitz, Bigby’s head coach at Centennial High School. “Her speed and quickness paired with her length makes her a tough matchup and is why she is one of the top guards in the country. Taylor’s strong work ethic will allow her to continue to be one of the best moving forward.”

Bigby was the USA Today Nevada player of the year, a first-team all-state selection and the co-MVP of the Northwest League as a sophomore in 2018-19.

An elite talent on the court, Bigby has also been a terrific student during her high school career with a 3.69 overall GPA.

“Taylor Bigby is a strong character, very coachable, highly skilled, athletic and smart basketball player,” said Elbert Kinnebrew, Bigby’s club coach. “Her excellent work ethic will allow her to thrive under coach Kelly Graves and the Oregon Ducks.”


“Scott Frost Was Absolutely Right”,, you just can’t recruit to Oregon… except in football. Men’s & Women’s basketball, Softball. It used to be that cool if a 4 or 5* had an Oregon hat on the table. Now if it isn’t, it’s because Oregon isn’t interested in that player. It’s not All Oregon yet though. As I’m typing this the #1 recruit in WBB, Azzi Fudd, just committed to UCONN.


I see Marcus as getting involved in community organization vs coaching.

Jon Joseph

Ohio State at Maryland has been canceled. Ohio State is now down, optimistically, to 7 ‘regular season’ games.

This season’s PO will be 100% eye test.

Jon Joseph

David, first, thanks again for the great ponder point.

2nd, who knows, other than Jerry Palm, what would happen if the Ducks finish 7-0 with an impressive champ game win against SC?


Gotta love Jerry P, but it’s hard to get past, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Clemson. If Oregon actually gets to 7-0 and Ohio State doesn’t get that many games in, maybe. But don’t forget Cincinnati & BYU.


Well, that’s up from the 99% it always has been.

Jon Joseph

LOL + good call!

Jon Joseph

I have one bet down and 2 to go. I’m waiting until Friday to see what teams are going to be able to play.

Wake at UNC. I have the Over 66. UNC plays great O at home and Wake has bounced back to be more than decent this season.

Man, I am tempted to take the Las Vegas ‘sucker’ bet? Miami +2.5 at Va Tech. A most puzzling line. What does Vegas know?

If the weather forecast was better, I’d be tempted to double down with the Ducks -10 and the over at 57.5? I still may go with this? I just think on the road in bad weather if Mario has a 2 TD lead he will go small ball.

YTD ATS 9-5. I am making $. But not enough to retire to the French Riviera instead of South Carolina.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

This is fun to ponder, as I have a different twist on it due to my background. First, I agree with Sherman and others who state that he does not need the money, thus the long hours required of coaching and recruiting are simply a sacrifice he does not have to make when he is (later) raising a family.

I do not see him as a grinder-recruiter, but he could be very valuable in other ways. He could help Oregon in fund raising, or raise money for his own foundation to give grants to deserving charities. If you’re sitting at a table chatting with him, and he smiles and politely asks you to contribute to his cause….how do you say no?

I do not think his style would work well for recruiting 18 year olds, but he could raise millions with the Greybeard-age types out there, and frankly….the world needs more charitable planned gifts, and one more coach doesn’t matter, IMHO.


I think there are two problems with Mariota becoming a coach. The number one problem is, those than can, do, and those that can’t, coach. The other problem is the whole money thing, he doesn’t need to.

Great coaches, most often, were grinders who knew every step it took to become great, even if they never achieved greatness. The greats, they were born with so many tools they don’t understand the steps it takes the majority to make it. This is where you see the Jordan, Gretzky, Ted Williams, McHale and even our great Norm Van Brocklin failed as coaches.

The grinders often need money, but they also know what it takes to work and achieve like few people do. The can recruit, they can develop talent and they can inspire, even when it takes a bit of fire. Our coach, Cristobal is the perfect example of the grinder coach.

I haven’t given up on Mariota and maybe a coach, like Bellichick, will pick him up. What Mariota needs is a coach who knows his strengths are builds an offense around those strengths. Bellichick might be just the guy, as he picked up the wrong guy last time.

One thing is for sure, Marcus Mariota was the GOAT!


I agree stereotyping doesn’t always hold true. You have to have a deep understanding and a level of ability that can translate. I actually teach a very difficult skill many think is easy, but too many people struggle at it. I get what you are saying. I also coach, so the statement is also from experience;).

I also agree the angry coach doesn’t get it done. I will also say the quiet coach, like Helfrich, doesn’t even get listened to. You have to bring passion and purpose to the job.

The biggest thing a great coach, teacher creates is meaning. Can a person understand others and make a connection that lasts? That is an area where Mariota makes and exceeds the grade. He can make connections, and his teammates believed in him, didn’t want to let him down.

Jon Joseph

Coach Cristobal was an excellent player on great Miami teams. More of a bull dozer than a grinder.


If Bellicheck picked the wrong guy last time, then maybe he isn’t the one who knows a QB’s strengths as much as you think.

Just a thought.


rumor has it that if cal backs out of asu game, asu will play ucla. At least that’s the word spreading around asu’s program.

Santa Rosa Duck

Thank you David you are always a must read as are virtually all the writers here.

Off Topic: Watched the Stanford game again last night on the 60 minute format from the PAC 12 network. Considering that this was the first game our DUCKS have played in 11 months, I thought they looked good. Sure there are things to clean up and improve on and my guess is we will see good improvement Saturday at 4:00pm at Martin Stadium with a Saturday high forecast of 39 degrees and a low of 31 degrees, 20% change of rain with wind. Sounds delightful. GO DUCKS!

Jon Joseph

1 thing for certain: Do Not Fix The Opponent’s FG kicker!


I don’t see Marcus being a head coach, or even an OC. He doesn’t seem wired like that to me. I see him doing what he’s doing now.

He loved his time at Oregon, and with no fanfare drops by. It’s great for the players, coaches and fans to see him, the living legend who is most comfortable just being one of the guys.

Jon Joseph

Recruiting? That’s the question for me David. Does a laid back independently wealthy person want to put all the time into recruiting that is required in today’s CFB?

I think if anything, he would be better suitable and more comfortable being an OC?

Fun ponder point.

OT – Bama/LSU. A+M at TN + Auburn at MS ST have all been COVID postponed.

I would not be surprised to see most of this season’s bowl games canceled and perhaps, the playoff being played at the home field of the higher ranked team?

Does it make sense to fly an entire team from eastern and central time zones to LA to play a parade-less, mostly empty stadium, Rose Bowl?


Add another SEC game postponed as Georgia vs Missouri was added to the list. Probably not as exciting as the other two though.

Jon Joseph

That’s the 4th SEC game postponed this weekend. Bama at LSU, A+M at TN, Auburn at MS, also postponed.

And looking at calendar, the Bama/LSU game is likely canceled and not merely postponed?


As long as Alabama & Clemson are able to play there will be a “Playoff’. They really won’t see the problem, and no, it won’t be a problem if the game is played in Tuscaloosa.

Jon Joseph

I do not disagree. IF he was willing to put the close to 24/7, 365 days a year into recruiting that Mario and his staff put in?

An exaggeration but not that far off the mark.

Personally, with $70M plus in hand, the beach and golf in Hawaii are looking darn good.


If I remember correctly MM did not do very good when the Ducks were after the present Clemson QB. MM was brought in during one of his visits and the Ducks still lost out.

Sherman Poindexter

“It is rare to meet a Lannister who shares my enthusiasm for dead Lannisters.”

(Meaning….. I have a lot of Enthusiasm for your subject matter.)

Nice article!
Like ALL Oregonians, I’ve been unabashedly/enthusiastically on the Mariota hype train since the spring game almost a decade ago.
Marcus literally had it all:::
1. Strong, accurate arm.
2. Some of the best wheels in college football.
3. Leadership traits that only true athletes can appreciate. Which naturally excludes the scouting putzes who just didn’t get it. Iconic, monolithic leaders inspire by effortlessly/unconsciously leading by example…..tempered with humor…..which, if you know Marcus, you know he loves to laugh. That sort of leadership makes teammates want to run through brick walls for him.
4. And most importantly, complete command of the Blur. I don’t think there’s been more than a handful of college quarterbacks in the last 20 years who’ve had as much fluency with their offensive system as Mariota. That mastery allowed him to process information on the field extraordinarily fast…. (decision making!) ….which in turn, allowed the offense to hum….hence, the Blur.

And while there is a long history of NFL teams NOT properly utilizing the Duck players they’ve drafted:::
LaMichael James
DeAnthony Thomas
Joey Harrington
Jake Fisher
I think the most egregious waste of talent is what Tennessee did with Mariota. That organization deserves nothing but scorn. They had a thoroughbred and immediately tried to turn him into a Clydesdale – 3 head coaches, 5 offensive coordinators and a rotating cast of O linemen. Not a situation for success.

Anyway, all that said, I don’t agree with your thesis – that Marcus is going to eventually transition into coaching. He’s already made almost $70 million in the NFL. When he hangs up his cleats, I think he’s gonna spend his time body surfing, healing his body, playing in/sponsoring charity golf tournaments and taking naps at his home in the Heisman House. 🙂

Marcus Mariota is the GOAT.
His contributions to the UofO, the states of Oregon and Hawaii, the Polynesian culture and the game of college football give him a lifetime pass of simply embracing the spirit of Aloha.
Nothing more than that.
Besides, who needs the headache of coaching….unless that’s your calling?

Jon Joseph

Great comment.

I’m not sure all the players you listed who did not come through in the NFL did not make it because of the team(s) they played for?

DAT was never going to be an every down player. His dominant speed in the CFB was not dominant in the NFL. Ditto for LaMike. Fisher played a position that is not system sensitive.

I would like to have seen Harrington surrounded by better players, no doubt.

But the way the system works, if you are a great player you will likely be drafted by a dysfunctional team.

Not the case in the ‘real world.’ The top grad from Harvard Business School will not be drafted by the Pac-12 Network and required to report to Larry.


Agreed on DAT & LMJ, Tyreek Hill doesn’t look to have any size, but I checked a while ago, and he has 10 lbs on DAT, and is faster still. LMJ had some of Marcus’s fate, going to a 49ers team coached by Jim Harbaugh, a pairing doomed from the start. The Ducks have made their mark in the NFL on defense, save for Dan Fouts & Ahmad Rashad.

Jon Joseph

Amen. DeFo was a huge loss for SF and a great pick up for Indy. I think Lynch really screwed the pooch with DeFo?

Buckner has balled out as has Kiko when not dinged up.