For many years, there was a strong belief in baseball that college programs did more harm than good when it came to getting pitchers ready for the major leagues.
And the thought process was probably correct, at least in the days before anyone cared about things like pitch counts.
After all, most college coaches weren't about to try to serve two
masters -- in this case, winning while at the same time getting their
prospects ready for the next step.
dictates which part of an equation wins and sports, even at the college
level, is a bottom-line profession, meaning the head coach of Wossamotta
U is never going to be all that worried about what the manager of the
New York Yankees might want, especially if it's undercutting his own
A similar dynamic is occurring in football right now with
quarterbacks. Spread offenses are all the rage at the college level and
although there is more read-option than ever in the professional ranks,
most organizations aren't all that comfortable with signal callers who
have spent their entire college experience in the pistol or shotgun.
In fact, if anything the pendulum is swinging back and most teams are
more enamored with the old-school, pocket-style passer who is
comfortable with a three-, five- or seven-step drop, and capable of
planting his foot in the ground before letting it rip.
quarterback with mobility who can do that is the prototype, but you can
count the number who have both of those attributes on one hand.
With the NFL Scouting Combine less than a week away, the first-round
quarterback hype centers on just two players, Florida State standout
Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, the last two Heisman Trophy
Both are projected as top-10 picks by most and with some expecting the two players to go quickly off the board at Nos. 1 and 2.
"It's not a real good quarterback draft," NFL network draft analyst
Mike Mayock recently admitted on Philadelphia radio station WPEN.
"You've got two quarterbacks that are head-and-shoulders above everyone
else, and even they have their own holes -- one on the field (Mariota)
and one off the field (Winston)."
From a pure football
perspective, Winston is light years ahead of Mariota when projecting
both to the professional level. The ex-Seminoles star is regarded as
NFL-ready and similar to Teddy Bridgewater in 2014, only with better
size and overall physical skills than the current Minnesota Vikings'
starter, who if you were redrafting '14 all over again would probably
end up No. 1 overall.
Mariota, on the other hand, is a lump of
clay for those planning to run a traditional pro offense, and while most
rave about his athleticism, plus-arm talent, football IQ and work
ethic, you are going to need significant time to mold that clay.
"From a physical trait perspective, he has everything you want," Mayock
said. "He's big, he's athletic, he's got great feet and he's got a live
arm. So on the surface, the individual components all work. The problem
is he's a projection coming to the next level because of the pocket
awareness, the progressions and the reads."
In other words, the
Oregon offense did Mariota no favors when it comes to the pro level
unless he ends up in the one city that embraces it -- Philadelphia.
Chip Kelly's previous history at Oregon is well-documented. The Eagles
coach believes in an up-tempo offense built around the read-option above
all else, and the fact that he gushes about Mariota like he has a
teenage crush has many surmising that Kelly, who recently won an
organizational power struggle with former general manger Howie Roseman,
is set to do whatever it takes to acquire the apple of his eye.
"I think Marcus will be successful whether he's an NFL player, a banker,
a teacher, a fireman, a policeman," Kelly said on another
Philadelphia-area radio station when asked about his former recruit.
"I've said it before about some other players, but if you can buy stock
in a human being, you buy stock in that kid because he'll always be
successful in anything he does."
The Eagles are scheduled to pick
at No. 20 on April 30 and moving up to the top spot or even No. 2 is
almost untenable unless Kelly is willing to risk a Ricky Williams-like
mortgage of the future for what is essentially a high-risk venture.
And that mind-set has more than one observer worried.
The rationale is simple. If a Mariota experiment fails, Kelly can
simply move on to a high-profile college job after scorching the earth
You can allay at least some of those fears because the
Eagles will not have to go up nearly as far as most think if they want
Mariota, who piloted the Ducks to 12-1 record and No. 2 overall ranking
that past season.
Recent history magnifies the fact that
someone's stock in the first two weeks of February before both the
combine and the various pro days around the country is meaningless in
the NFL's eyes.
Before the 2013 draft, Geno Smith was projected
as the top overall pick by FOXSports and was in both NFL.com's and
Sports Illustrated's top five. Yours truly had the West Virginia product
going No. 7 overall to Arizona, and the history book says he ended up
in the second round, 39th overall to the New York Jets.
one year and you will see that Peter Schrager of FOX and this writer had
Bridgewater going No. 1 overall while most others had him in the top
five. He eventually fell to No. 32 after a shaky pro day, although his
play on the field vindicated his supporters.
The immature Johnny
Manziel, who may or may not currently be in rehab for alcohol
dependency, was drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2014,
but Don Banks of SI and Nate Davis of USA Today each had him projected
at No. 1 overall while TSN has him going at No. 4 to the Browns in early
Mariota is ripe for a similar fall and it's just a matter of how far.
If Kelly and the Eagles really want Mariota, the hurdles to get him are
not nearly as steep as advertised with the only real contenders to
usurp the perceived plan being the Jets, who struck out with Smith in
2013, at No. 6 overall, and Cleveland, which now understands they can't
count on Manziel and owns both the 12th and 19th overall picks.
The Jets are the biggest threat because Mariota's intangibles point
toward eventual success and the team's new general manager, Mike
Maccagnan, has the rope and time to take a chance.
Cleveland GM Ray Farmer is dealing with a much tougher landscape because
of his first-round shenanigans a year ago in which he passed on the
ability to take playmakers like Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham Jr. in
favor of trading down and taking overmatched cornerback Justin Gilbert.
Farmer then traded back up to get Manziel, who he would essentially be
giving up on after just 365 days.
For Kelly, the bigger issue is
not about mortgaging that future to get what he wants, it will be about
bypassing a guy who is 14-4 as his starter, Nick Foles, in favor of an
"(If the Eagles) think he's the guy and that they can
win a Super Bowl with Marcus Mariota, given people around him and a good
defense, then I think they have to try and go get him," Mayock said.