By Michael McCarthy
It always cracks me up — as I am sure it does Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly — when radio blowhards go on and on about the relative merits of Marcus Mariota (photo above), Brett Hundley and every other quarterback available in the 2015 NFL draft.
Kelly has actually recruited most of them when he was coach at Oregon.
Back in 2011, when Oregon was trying to recruit their next quarterback, Kelly had his eyes on two players — neither of which was Mariota, according to this dispatch from the Associated Press:
The Ducks initially secured a verbal commitment from former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel and recruited UCLA standout Brett Hundley in the summer of 2010. Mariota was then a reserved Hawaiian with a modest prep pedigree discovered by current Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, and … Kelly (was) wondering whether Mariota was too quiet.
Mariota presumably coming in third on that list is interesting, especially since it is possible that the Eagles could have a shot at both Hundley and Manziel this offseason, one through the draft and the other through the Cleveland Browns potentially already growing tired of the partying quarterback.
Given the choice between the three now, however, it’s safe to say Kelly would choose Mariota, something he came to realize quickly once the quarterback arrived on campus back as a freshman.
During a practice early in Mariota’s first fall camp, a lineman missed a protection. Mariota dodged a rusher, stayed in the pocket, eluded another defender, and scanned all the way from the left side to the right, where he snapped a 55-yard pass over a defensive back’s head to his wide receiver. There was not even a hint of panic on Mariota’s face.
During his three seasons as the starter at Oregon, only one of which was under Kelly, Mariota proved to be arguably the ideal quarterback to run the Eagles’ offense, given his strong arm and ability to make plays with his legs.
Mariota, who will likely finish his college career tonight in the College Football Playoff National Championship, has amassed 10,463 yards passing, 103 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions to go along with an additional 2,226 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns on the ground.
“He has a gift for playing football,” Kelly said of Mariota last month. “He is everything you could want. He can throw the ball, he can run. He is the most talented kid I coached in college.”