Maurice Jones-Drew made some interesting quarterback comments this week, specifically regarding former teammate Blaine Gabbert and likely first-round draft pick Marcus Mariota.
Gabbert, the tenth overall pick in 2011, has more or less been a flop in the NFL. According to Jones-Drew, Gabbert wasn’t bad in Jacksonville, where he played from 2011 to 2013; rather, he was “uncomfortable.” Jones-Drew likened it to Mark Zuckerberg running a construction company, saying that Gabbert never adapted to pro offenses.
Jones-Drew sees the same fate for Mariota and thinks it will take years for the Oregon prospect to get a handle on leading an NFL offense.
“I would argue rather strongly with that,” CBS Sports Network college football analyst Randy Cross said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think you’re talking apples and oranges in terms of quarterbacks. Blaine Gabbert wheels-wise won’t be confused with Mariota. I think the league has done a wonderful job over the course of the last four years specifically in adjusting to these quarterbacks and kind of giving them what they need to be really successful. But there’s no comparison to me when it comes to arm between Blaine Gabbert and Marcus Mariota.
“What was holding Blaine Gabbert back in the NFL wasn’t so much his football knowledge or IQ,” Cross continued. “He just couldn’t throw those pattern passes about 15, 20 yards with DBs closing the way they can in the NFL. He didn’t have the gun. That’s one thing Marcus Mariota has.”
That’s one thing Bryce Petty has, too.
“Petty presses the ball down the field, as does Mariota, on a regular basis,” Cross said. “Sure, they do crossing patterns some and bubble screens, but that was Missouri’s offense when Gabbert was there. These guys press the ball down the field. So I’d argue that it’s two different kinds of quarterbacks.”
Cross’ opinions certainly make you question the narrative on Mariota, the idea that he can’t succeed in the NFL because he was always in shotgun and throwing to wide-open receivers in college.
Is that rhetoric or reality?
“Well, there’s some things that the NFL has bent on, and there’s other things that they flat won’t or can’t,” Cross said. “One of those is kind of that system bias. If you look at the guys that have come out of Texas Tech – the quarterbacks, specifically – that have set all the records . . . that are in the run-and-shoot or the spread offense specifically, there’s a bias against being system quarterbacks. It’s kind of an insult when you call a guy a system quarterback. But I think (the NFL) looks past a lot of the things.
“So much of college football isn’t transferable,” Cross continued. “I believe if you’re going to have that system bias against quarterbacks, you got to put it in at wide receiver. You got to have the same thing (for) offensive linemen because they’re not used to a real power running game and they don’t know what a fullback feels like crushing into your ribs in the back. I have a hard time profiling guys that way. But I think the more progressive types in the NFL are willing to look past some of that.”
Cross pointed out that 2014 was a great year for rookie wide receivers, especially Odell Beckham and Mike Evans.
“That wasn’t just because they’re such an unbelievable crop,” Cross said. “A lot of that was the NFL putting routes in to make those young guys comfortable. I think you just got to be progressive enough to do the same thing with your quarterback.”