Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota after the 2013 Fiesta Bowl — is a reunion in the draft cards with the Eagles?

By Barbara Harrison

When Marcus Mariota came to Atlantic City for Friday’s Maxwell Awards, he naturally was inundated with questions about which team he prefers to play for in the NFL.

“I’d love to play for the Jets,” Mariota said. “Meeting with the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach was awesome. It was an opportunity for me to introduce myself, and it seems like a great organization.”

Could he see Eagles coach Chip Kelly trading up from No. 20 to reunite with the star he recruited and developed at the University of Oregon?

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Mariota said, “but Coach Kelly and the Eagles are going to do what’s best for that team, and we’ll see what happens.”

Mariota was the main attraction Friday at the annual Maxwell Football Club awards ceremony at Tropicana Casino and Resort, where he picked up the Maxwell Award as college football player of the year. It should fit nicely next to the 2014 Heisman Trophy on his awards shelf.

“I think any process or transition going into the NFL is going to be tough,” Mariota said. “It’s not easy. I think for me, the biggest step is to learn whatever system I go into and find ways to be able to learn it as fast as I can and be able to execute it.”

A transition to the Eagles would seem to be the smoothest for Mariota because Kelly is still running a similar up-tempo, no-huddle system to the one he installed at Oregon. Mariota’s close friend Josh Huff, one of nine Oregon alums on the Eagles, often jokes about how he is Philly-bound.

Then again…

“I think everybody jokes with me about it,” Mariota said.

Mariota’s legs and dual-threat ability are either the missing ingredient in taking the Eagles to the next level or fool’s gold because NFL defenses are too fast.

“I’m not sure what coach Kelly wants to do, and I haven’t talked to him about it,” said Mariota. “He’s been more of a mentor for me when I needed someone, or if I needed to talk to him about anything he’s been there for me.”

Mariota, who said he had an informal breakfast meeting with the Eagles quarterbacks coach before Oregon’s pro day Thursday, described his performance as “OK” and said he missed some throws. He was criticized for everything from being too mechanical to too nervous to missing easy throws.

It only added ammunition for those who think he is a gimmick quarterback who will have trouble adjusting to traditional NFL offenses.

“That’s people’s opinions,” Mariota said. “I can’t control that.”

But Mariota controlled making his cross-country flight to honor his commitment to the Maxwell in a show of character at a time when every action is scrutinized. He landed on the east coast at around 4 a.m. ET, and his national tour includes visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.

Will he try to convince the Bucs he is worthy of the No. 1 overall pick?

“You have to,” Mariota said. “It’s a job interview. It’s an opportunity to market myself, and I’m going to do my best to go out there and try to present myself to them.”

In the next breath, Mariota said being the No. 1 overall pick isn’t a must-have status symbol for him.

“To me, it comes down to if you find the right place,” Mariota said. “If you are in the right place, that’s where you are supposed to be.”

Mariota seemed content Friday being with his fellow Maxwell honorees, including Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

“In the process of this, you understand which teams need quarterbacks, but there is always going to be a team that might jump up and take you,” Mariota said. “It’s one of those processes where you just have to wait. It’s out of your control. Let everything else unfold and see where you fall.”

About admin

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply