The sad ballad of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will be on the same field Sunday, which will spotlight the disappointment they’ve fostered for the Titans and the Buccaneers.

One of the games on the NFL slate for Week 8 will feature the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Tennessee Titans, also known as the teams that owned the top two picks in the 2015 draft. Both needed a quarterback, and there was some debate–Jameis Winston, or Marcus Mariota?

The Buccaneers of course took Winston, leaving the Titans to take Mariota. With history in mind in regard to quarterbacks going 1-2 in a draft (Drew Bledsoe-Rick Mirer, Peyton Manning-Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch-Donovan McNabb), one of them would be very good and the other would disappoint.

Winston and Mariota have faced each other once before, in Week 1 of their rookie seasons. The Titans won 42-14, and Sunday would ideally have been a reunion of two quarterbacks who have proven to be the answer under center for their franchises.

Without a major injury or some other exceeding circumstance, it’s rare for a rookie quarterback to play out his rookie contract without a contract extension tacked on. But Winston and Mariota are both playing out their fifth-year options this year, with virtually no chance they’ll be back with the Buccaneers and Titans next year.


In Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers over in London, Winston accounted for six turnovers in a truly vintage erratic performance. But the Buccaneers don’t have a viable option to replace him, and head coach Bruce Arians acknowledged as much going into their Week 7 bye. Tennessee, on the other hand, had an option to go to and they’ve gone with it.

After acquiring Ryan Tannehill during the offseason, the Titans were adamant there was no quarterback controversy. But as they were being shut out by the Denver Broncos and Week 6, with Mariota posting a 9.5 passer rating in the game, head coach Mike Vrabel had to go with Tannehill. Tannehill started in Week 7 against the Los Angeles Chargers, and played well in taking a good first step toward keeping the job for the rest of the season (23-for-29 for 314 yards, two touchdowns and interception).

So Mariota will be the No. 2 quarterback for Tennessee on Sunday, and he has been running the scout team in practice this week. That means he has been playing the role of Winston, in order to help the defense prepare. The jokes are almost too easy.

Winston will surely need to be injured to be benched this season, and it looks like Mariota will need an injury to Tannehill to play again in any substantial way this season. At around 1 p.m ET in Nashville on Sunday afternoon, with one starting the game and the other standing on the sideline, the sad case of the top two picks in the 2015 draft will be on full display.

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