USA TODAY US Edition
AN AUDACIOUS DEBUT
Near-perfect Mariota outshines fellow rookie QB Winston
Sometimes, you just can’t take the draft hype at face value.
Remember what conventional wisdom told us about Jameis Winston? He was proclaimed as the most NFL-ready quarterback in the pool, which by extension meant he was a better choice at the top of the draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than Marcus Mariota.
Perhaps Winston will produce a more successful NFL career over the long run than Mariota. And, uh, perhaps not. Time will tell.
In the short run? Not even close.
The first season-opening matchup in NFL history featuring quarterbacks drafted No. 1 and No. 2 went poof Sunday at Raymond James Stadium as Mariota, the new face of the Tennes- see Titans, was undoubtedly the best-prepared quarterback on the field.
Mariota was, in fact, so prepared that he was done after three quarters — with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 and his team leading 42-7.
“What does that mean?” Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan mused in the aftermath of the 42-14 smashing of the Bucs. “I don’t know what a perfect passer is. Is that like a 300 in bowling? A
“We had a good start,” said Manziel, who was limited by tendinitis in his throwing elbow in recent weeks. “I didn’t expect Josh to get knocked out. We responded with some good things early. Travis ran a great route. My adrenaline kicked in, and my elbow felt good.
“Obviously, I didn’t get a lot of practice reps, but that is the nature of the game. There was a lot of energy in the crowd, being the first game of the season, and we built on it.”
Manziel, who was selected in the first round of the 2014 draft, finished 13-for-24 for 182 yards and ran for a team-high 35 yards.
But the turnovers proved pivotal for the former Texas A&M star, who had two starts last season before being placed on injured reserve.
“I know I can’t turn the ball over,” Manziel said. “That hurt us. We also had some penalties that slowed down our drives. I tried to do some things to bring us back, and that’s part of being competitive.
“The second half left a bitter taste in your mouth.”
He might have to wash out that taste quickly.
McCown was diagnosed with a concussion, so it appears likely Manziel will start at home next Sunday when the Browns host the Tennessee Titans and Mariota, who played far better Sunday in his NFL debut (four touchdown passes, perfect passer rating) than Manziel ever has as a pro.
“I’ll be ready to go,” Manziel said.