Marcus Mariota is “as good as advertised,” according to Jets coach Todd Bowles.
The Titans rookie quarterback was a highly sought-after pick on draft day back in May, and for good reason.
“When I went to work him out last year, he was a talent,” Bowles said. “He’s very smart, we know he can run. Obviously, he can throw in the pocket. People said he couldn’t, but he can throw in the pocket, and he can do a lot of things. He’s dangerous. It’s going to be one of those ball games.”
The Jets will come face-to-face with Mariota when they host the Titans (3-9) Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
So how close did Bowles & Co. get to drafting him? Not very it seems.
The Jets held the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 draft, which they used to take former USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams. By then, Mariota was long gone, having been quickly snatched up by Tennessee.
Asked if he thought the Jets had any shot of drafting him, Bowles said: “Realistically, no.”
Would they have taken Mariota if they had the No. 2 overall pick instead?
“I don’t know,” he said, belly-laughing.
The Jets missed its chance to secure the No. 1 spot in the draft — and a chance at Mariota — when they defeated the Titans, 16-11, on Dec. 14, 2014. Entering the game, the Jets and Titans were two of five teams 2-11 records. But with a Week 15 win in Tennessee and season-finale victory in Miami, the Jets finished 4-12 and got the No. 6 pick.
“Tough,” former Jets coach Rex Ryan said of fans wanting the team to lose out for a shot at Mariota. “You know, a real Jets fan wants to win. It doesn’t matter what pick you get ... A Jet fan is a tough guy and wants to win, and that’s what we gave our true Jets fans today.”
Fifteen days later, Ryan was fired.
In March, Bowles and new general manager Mike Maccagnan traded for veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who (after replacing an injured Geno Smith) has led the Jets to a 7-5 record.
Meanwhile, Mariota has impressed with the disappointing Titans. He’s thrown for 2,512 yards (206-for-325), 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s also shown off his speed this season, rushing for 249 yards on 31 carries — including an 87-yard fourth-quarter TD run this past Sunday against Jacksonville.
Asked to reflect on Mariota’s offseason workout with the Jets, Bowles said: “He just made all the throws. He’s very bright, very nimble with his feet. Had good footwork. He was a first-round quarterback all the way.”