Sean Larson of Addicted to Quack, SB Nation's Oregon blog, is more familiar with Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense that just about anyone. He was nice enough to take the time to answer some questions about Mariota for us here.
There has been a lot of talk about the Oregon offense, what Marcus Mariota did in it, and how it translates to the NFL game. Talk about the Oregon offense. Did you see Mariota execute a lot of "pro passing concepts" while playing QB in Eugene?
If I had a dollar for every time I heard criticism that Mariota is a "system quarterback" that won't adjust to the NFL, I could probably pay for his rookie contract. To be honest, no, he didn't execute many "pro passing concepts" during his time at Oregon because obviously, the Ducks don't run a pro style offense. He's most familiar with no huddles, shotgun formations and zone reads, something you don't really see as much of in the NFL. But even as far back as last year, Mariota was already taking snaps from under center in practices to prepare for the NFL. He's prepared for this transition and will have plenty of time to fully transition to more of a pro style before the season starts. At the end of a day, he's not only an incredibly athletic quarterback, but a really smart kid as well. I have a hard time imagining he won't be able to adapt to the NFL.
What is the biggest adjustment you see Mariota needing to make at the next level?
The biggest adjustment I see him making is learning to slow things down offensively. He's so used to the no huddle offense at Oregon, that I'm sure gathering everyone up behind the line of scrimmage, calling a play and walking up to the ball will be a bit odd for him at first. He'll need to continue to be more vocal, something he's really gotten better at during his time at Oregon. It might take a few games for him to get used to that, but if he can adjust to a slower tempo in the NFL, that'll go a long way towards how successful he is.
There was some concern about his personality- some people are concerned that he is too laid back to command a huddle. Is there anything to that? Did he have any trouble commanding the huddle at Oregon? What did his teammates say about his leadership?
One of my favorite stories leading up to the draft was that Marcus Mariota is too nice of a guy for the NFL. From my interactions with him at Oregon, he's the definition of humble. He doesn't like being in the spotlight and he's definitely more of an introvert. He's going to piss off defenders because he'll get sacked, get up and compliment the defensive end on what a good hit that was. He improved drastically during his time with the Ducks at being more of a vocal leader, something he said he was constantly working on. While he never had to huddle up at Oregon, he always did a phenomenal job of commanding the line of scrimmage. He's a quiet leader, but that's just his personality and it worked out just fine for him with Oregon. His biggest hurdle will be getting in the routine of calling plays from the huddle, something he never had to do at Oregon. But like I said, he's a smart kid and has taken huge steps on becoming more of a vocal leader.
What was the level of skill player he had around him on offense last season?
While he was the superstar of the offense last year, Mariota had a knack for really spreading the ball around and finding a new weapon just about every week. Going into last season, Oregon's top returning receiver (not counting Bralon Addison, who was out for the year with a torn ACL) was Keanon Lowe, who had 18 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. Mariota found a way to utilize what he had and as a result, turned in a Heisman season. Funny enough, Oregon's top receiver last year was Byron Marshall, the team's leading rusher from 2013. Mariota just had these types of talented athletes who could adapt to the team's offensive needs and fortunately for the Ducks, they had a quarterback who brought out the best in these athletes around him.
Do you see him being a franchise, top-10 type, quarterback in the NFL? If yes, how long do you think it will take him to get to that level?
Do I see him being one of the best quarterbacks in the league? Yes, but not right away. Let's look at Andrew Luck for example. Part of the reason Luck was so successful in the NFL was because he came from Stanford, a program that already ran a pro style offense. So there wasn't as much of an adjustment needed for Luck. There will be a learning period for Mariota, but as long as the franchise and fanbase can be patient, I think he has a bright future ahead of him. Give him a year or two to adjust to a more pro style offense and hopefully the Titans can make a few tweaks here and there so the two can meet in the middle.
There is a lot of good stuff there. I have been saying that it is going to take some time for Mariota to acclimate himself to the NFL. That's not a knock on him. It's just a fact given the system he played in at Oregon. Some very smart people, like SuperHorn, disagree with me. Time will tell.