Which Franchise Quarterback truly is the best
The 2017 NFL Season is the third Chapter in the storied Mariota-Winston saga that began in Pasadena, California on January 1, 2015.
Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston met in the 2015 Rose Bowl. The Heisman showdown resulted in a 59-20 thrashing at the hands of Mariota and his Oregon Ducks. Round 1: Mariota.
Heading into the 2015 NFL Draft , the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans – both starved in search of their next leader of men – were positioned one and two. For months, analysts flip flopped in determining who the number one pick should be for both QB-needy franchises.
Both teams were taking a QB, but who would be the first off the board? Roger Goodell read Winston’s name off of Tampa Bay’s draft card, and the number 1 overall pick was in the books. The Buccaneers made their choice. Shortly after Winston left the stage, Goodell announced “Marcus Mari-ah-to” – butchering the pronunciation of Tennessee’s Hawaiian signal caller. Round 2: Winston.
Mariota and Winston will forever be linked throughout their career in the NFL. The 1st and 2nd overall picks of the 2015 NFL Draft met in their 1st professional career start. Mariota continued his winning ways against Winston, defeating the Buccaneers 42-14.
Mariota’s first drive resulted in a Titans TD pass. He added 3 more. Winston’s first drive – first NFL pass? Ironically, Winston’s first touchdown pass would be to a Titans player. He ended up throwing a pair of touchdowns, but some began to speculate who should’ve been picked 1st overall. Round 3: Mariota.
After two seasons, both Quarterbacks proved they are the future of their respective franchises. Although both QBs registered a winning record for last season, neither has a winning record in their professional career. Winston is 15-17, while Mariota is 11-15.
Going into year 3, the expectations are high for both Tampa Bay and Tennessee. Both teams are on the verge of the playoff promise land. Both teams have made significant strides during the offseason by adding talent to their roster.
So what separates the two?
In this series, the QBs will be compared on a variety of levels that will help paint a picture of how successful they will be by the time their careers come to a close.
The following criteria will be examined over the past two seasons:
- Individual Impact
- Statistical Breakdown
- Receiving (Part 2)
- Running Backs (Part 3)
- Offense (Part 4)
- Offensive Line
- Defense (Part 5)
Year 3 expectations will be looked at based on the changes to the team roster.
After reviewing all the numbers, the projected potential of career success will be measured.
Head to Head: Productivity
Below is a table that illustrates what each QB has produced since entering the league.
As the above charts illustrate, Winston leads in the majority of categories. He’s thrown for more yards, more touchdowns, and has started all 32 games of his career.
But look closer. Mariota – in 27 games –leads Winston in both Passer Rating and Completion Percentage. Mariota -despite having thrown less touchdowns -has also thrown fewer interceptions. These – in my opinion – are key statistics to look at when evaluating a QB.
2015-How they fared in Year 1
Below is a chart listing the offensive production in the passing game.
Offensive production were similar in most categories. One glaring difference? Titans offensive line led the league in sacks allowed. Problems on the offensive line contributed to the injury that ended Mariota’s season prematurely.
2012-How they fared in Year 2
Below is a table comparing offensive production last season.
Again, in most categories listed above, the teams are generally in the same ballpark range. One major difference? The Titans addressed offensive line woes, thus improving their rank from 1st in sacks allowed to 26th – which helped keep Mariota healthy up until his 15th game in 2016.
What Might Have Been
Winston has the edge in terms of durability between the two. He has played in 5 more regular season games than Mariota. In those 5 more games, Winston added the following to his career totals:
- 1,888 yards
- 23 TDs
- 3 Rush TDs
- 14 INTs
- 151 Pass Completions
- 281 Pass Attempts
If Mariota played 5 more games
But what if Mariota doesn’t go down? What if he played all 32 games in his 1st two seasons?
Below is a table that illustrates what Mariota could have done in 5 more regular season games (32) based on his career averages.
If Winston did not play in 5 games
What if Winston goes down? What if injury had cost him 5 games of his 1st 32?
Below is a table that illustrates what Winston could have done in 5 less regular season games (27) based on his career averages.
What does it mean?
Hypothetical – no question. But it is interesting to see what how their career numbers would have been altered. If their career averages can help indicated how they would measure up against each other in 27 games vs 32 games the following case could be made: Winston would still have an edge in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Mariota – being measured by the same amount of games – is still better than Winston in both Completion percentage, Passer Rating, and less interceptions.
Hopefully neither QB faces an injury during the 2017 NFL season that will affect – not only their stats – but more importantly, their teams chances at a playoff run to the Lombardi trophy. I believe the two are on a collision course and will eventually meet up in the biggest game of their season at least once.
Either way, it’s easy to see that there is not much separating the two QBs in terms of what they produced early in their career. I think each QB went to right team/right environment to help them grow into their full potential.
Part 2 will focus on one aspect of their supporting cast – their Wide Receivers.
*** I do not claim credit for the photos featured above. All credit goes to respective author(s)**
***Stats referenced at espn.go.com***