There hasn't been a franchise quarterback for the New York Jets since Joe Namath left the team in 1976. Namath is hoping that will change this year.
Now 39 years after Broadway Joe left the team, he thinks it is about time for the team to finally draft that franchise-changing QB. And with the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Namath thinks the Jets could and should draft that big-time quarterback if one is still available.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will likely be off the board at that point and could well go No. 1 overall. But Marcus Mariota, the Heisman and Maxwell Award winner after a record-setting year at Oregon in 2014, could fall to the Jets. He's a popular selection for most mock drafts at No. 6, for what that's worth.
And if he does make it through the first five picks, Namath would be licking his chops for general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles to make Mariota the first pick of their new regime. Mariota would join a suddenly crowded (and deeper) quarterback depth chart with incumbent starter Geno Smith and recently acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick in the mix.
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“Yeah I would take him. I would take him,” Namath told Metro in an exclusive interview. “I don't believe he's going to be sitting there. I don't. But yeah, I would take him because he might be the best of the three.”
The concern with Mariota is not about pure talent – he is supremely gifted and can make nearly all the throws an NFL team would like. The concern is not about his production – he shattered passing records at Oregon. The concern is his acclimation to a pro style offense.
At Oregon, and in the spread, he made a lot of first-read throws. He will need a learning curve and the Jets, with either Fitzpatrick or Smith capable of starting, could be a good fit.
Mariota wouldn't come in with the immediate pressure to start and could sit and learn if he isn't ready to play immediately. This means that the Jets could be an ideal landing spot, especially with veteran wide receivers such as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as potential targets.
Namath wasn't prepared to sit down and say that Mariota was immediately ready to start, but he likes what he sees.
“You’ve got to sit down and look at every bit of tape,” Namath said. “I don't know how many of us fans have actually seen Mariota run 900 plays and how he's reacted in various situations. I don't know if any of us know the plays called ahead of time for the quarterback that weren't good calls.
“But there's no doubt that the kid can play.”