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  • Neither of the 2015 draft's top two picks has established himself as a surefire franchise quarterback. What do the Bucs and Titans do now?
By Jonathan Jones
January 10, 2019

Heading into the 2015 draft, the question was: Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? Four years later, their respective teams are trying to figure out how much it’s worth to keep them.

Neither quarterback has done enough in his first four seasons for a general manager to confidently award him with a second contract. In Winston, Tampa has a quarterback who turns the ball over and has shown an inability to avoid off-field trouble. In Mariota, Tennessee has a quarterback who has yet to make it through 16 games in a regular season while doing nothing spectacular on the field. Both are set to play 2019 under their fifth-year option at $20.9 million. Instead of working on contract extensions for their young QBs, the Bucs and Titans are stuck in Quarterback Purgatory.

“Everything is going to be built around him,” new Bucs coach Bruce Arians told Rich Eisen Wednesday. “I think he can win it all. He has the intelligence, the toughness and obviously the arm ability to lead a team.”

Winston liked to throw the ball deep but didn’t do it particularly well last year. His 5.6 air yards per attempt were second-highest in the league while his 35.8% deep-ball completion percentage ranked 16th. And though he cut down on his fumbles (seven in 11 games this year compared to 15 in 13 games in 2017), his 3.7% interception rate was a career-high.

In Tennessee, Mariota dealt with nerve issues all season long that kept him out of three games, including the win-and-in Week 17 meeting with the Colts. He’s 16-12 as the starter the past two seasons while throwing 25 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. With offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur taking the Green Bay job, the Titans will be looking for the fifth play-caller in five years for Mariota.

Asked on Nashville sports radio if he’s as committed to Mariota now as he was when he became GM in 2016, Jon Robinson didn’t give an affirmative answer.

“I think Marcus has done a good job for us. He’s made some big plays for us in my time here,” Robinson said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s been dinged up but when he’s been out there he’s done a lot of good things for us. I’m glad he’s on this football team. He needs to take some time and get some rest and get healthy.”

Alrighty then.

The Bucs and Titans could go into the 2019 season with these guys on what amounts to guaranteed one-year deals and roll the dice. They could also try to sign them to team-friendly extensions that neither player should sign in a quarterback-needy league. Or, because you have no chance in this league without a competent quarterback—and because there are usually not 32 competent starting quarterbacks in the league at any given time—the teams will give in and give their quarterbacks the kind of contracts the market forces them into.

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HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Conor Orr looks back at the 2012 Saints and what key members of that team did after Bountygate. … Joke all you want about Jerry Jones, but he’s assembled a team (with a decent amount of help) that opponents should be envious of. … Andy Benoit shows the Colts how they could possibly slow down the Chiefsand more.

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: The Browns are giving Freddie Kitchens a chance to sustain his success. … The Cardinals moved incredibly quickly—maybe too quickly?—in their firing of Steve Wilks and hiring of Kliff Kingsbury. … Jenny Vrentas with a great story on the Wade Phillips Experience. … and more.


PRESS COVERAGE

1. CBS Sports’s Joel Corry looks at the expected Ben Roethlisberger extension and how much money he could make, or leave on the table.

2. Josh Katzenstein reports Sean Payton brought $225,000 in cash, three security guards and the Lombardi Trophy to a team meeting this week to show the Saints what they stand to win. 

3. Cowboys owner/president/GM Jerry Jones bought a $250 million mega yacht.  

4. Jadeveon Clowney won his dispute with the Texans over whether he’s been a defensive end or linebacker (for the sake of his franchise tag) and got an extra $1 million.

5. Brandon Mebane’s 7-week-old daughter died after being born with a defective heart condition. He missed the Chargers’ win in Baltimore but said he would play this weekend against the Patriots.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.


THE KICKER

Be nice to people today. I’m not saying hug a stranger. A lot of people don’t like to be touched by strangers. I’m certainly one of those people. But maybe verbally hug someone and just be nice.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

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