The number two overall pick, Marcus Mariota, made his team, the Tennessee Titans, very happy as they walked all over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who used their first overall pick on Jameis Winston, the quarterback who looked completely out of his element on the intriguing head to head debut for both franchise hopes.
Mariota threw four touchdown passes on his first game in the NFL, being the epitome of efficiency, completing 13-of-16 passes for 209 yards and posting the perfect passer rating (158.3). He was 11-of-11 for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns when passing more than 1 yard past the line of scrimmage, and all of his incompletions coming on passes thrown within a yard of the line of scrimmage. He also ran a couple of times for six yards, not showing anything special there, or simply not having to.
More Mariota notes? His 95.7 QBR was the best by any rookie in week 1 in the last decade, and the best for any Titans quarterback since Vince Young posted a 96.8 QBR in Week 16 of 2006. He was a perfect 10-for-10 when throwing in the shotgun, became the 1st player in NFL history with 4 passing touchdowns in the 1st half of his 1st career game and is only the 3rd QB since the merger in 1970 with 4 passing touchdowns in a game before turning 22. The others are Drew Bledsoe in 1994 and Matthew Stafford in 2009.
As for Winston? He completed just 16-of-33 for 210 yards, throwing two garbage time touchdowns and two interceptions, getting booed after another incompletion while the Titans built themselves a 42-7 lead before allowing the Buccaneers to score one more just so they can feel good. Winston, not used to losing, was on the losing end of a regular season game for the first time since his junior year of high school. It’s the 1st time Winston has lost consecutive games (if you count last year’s national semifinal and this game) since his sophomore year of high school in 2009. He lost to Mariota (and Oregon) too on his final college game.
Winston was having a bad day right from the start. His first pass as an NFL player was a pick six; the first player since Brett Favre since 1991, which might suggest Winston shouldn’t be too discouraged about how his career might end up. But things couldn’t pick up for him, couldn’t get into any rhythm on a debut that might not have been so painful had it not been against Mariota, who the Buccaneers, according to rumors, never considered as a second option. They always wanted Winston, although most scouts (at least those that talked to the media, anonymously) preferred Winston as well.
Robert Griffin III had a tremendous, epic debut as an NFL player. His first game, his first season. As good as it can get for a rookie, and look at him now. Mariota shouldn’t be blinded by the lights, and probably isn’t. The Titans protected him well and put the right plan into play for his to maximize his abilities. The Buccaneers were a bigger mess than Tennessee before the game began, and drafting Winston doesn’t mean it’s going to change quickly.