By Mary Cunningham
In the same manner that NFL coaches, scouts and fans are watching what collegians are doing on the field at the NFL Combine in Indy, so too are they listening to what they say.
You can glean intelligence and thoughtfulness, but you can also perceive a sense of what each player thinks they are.
Take Marcus Mariota, apple of the eye of Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly, his former coach at Oregon.
In the same calm fashion that helped him win the Heisman Trophy and lead Oregon to the national championship game, Mariota provided thoughtful, articulate answers, refusing to take the bait when reporters asked leading questions. He seemed reasonably comfortable at the podium but his soft-spoken answers could be perceived as almost timid, raising questions about how well he would acclimate to the intense spotlight of a major media market.
Communication of another sort was one of the things that Mariota said he needed to work on in his transition to a traditional NFL offense.
“For us it’s going to be huddling, I haven’t huddled in a while,” Mariota said. “That will be one thing. It seems like a little detail, but that is kind of a big thing.”
It is a big thing. Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians colorfully described how much of a transition spread quarterbacks have to make.
“So many times, you’re evaluating a quarterback who has never called a play in the huddle, never used a snap count,” Arians said. “They hold up a card on the sideline, he kicks his foot and throws the ball. That ain’t playing quarterback. There’s no leadership involved there. There might be leadership on the bench, but when you get them and they have to use verbiage and they have to spit the verbiage out and change the snap count, they are light years behind.”
It is important to note that Arians was speaking generally about spread quarterbacks and not specifically about Mariota, whose intelligence and leadership have drawn raves from all those close to the Ducks. Still, Arians’ concerns speak to the tough transition that Mariota has ahead of him and why he currently ranks second on NFLDraftScout.com’s board behind Winston.