A Tale of Two Quarterbacks, v2.0
It was the worst of times in Tampa Bay, it was the worst of times in Tennessee.
Each team had only managed to win two games in their 2014 campaign, a feat which landed them in a tie for last place in the NFL. Luckily for the Bucs, they had the weaker strength-of-schedule, so the first pick in the draft belonged to them.
Who would they select?
Pundits and fans alike drew comparisons to that of the 1998 draft debate of Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. Take the right one, and your franchise is set for decades to come. But take the wrong one and be doomed to mediocrity for the near future.
Winston and Mariota would have another similarity to Manning and Leaf: the two rooks were fated to play each other in the regular season. However, unlike in 1998 QB duel, the battle between the former Seminole and Duck would take place on opening week.
Fans around the league were geared up to see the two futures of the NFL fight it out on opening day.
Much like Pacquiao-Mayweather, the battle between Winston’s Bucs and Mariota’s Titans fell 'way short of the hype.
Mariota cut up the Bucs D all game, throwing for four touchdowns and 204 yards, completing 13 of his 16 passing attempts. Dude didn’t even play the whole game, as the Titans took him out in the fourth quarter when their victory was assured.
Whereas Mariota shined in his debut, Winston fell flat on his face.
He completed a mere 16 of his 33 pass attempts, which was made worse by completing a pair of them to the other team. Winston’s first interception came on his very first attempt, which was a pick-six, no less.
Things didn’t get much better for Winston, as the Bucs fans started to turn on Jameis when they saw how their number one pick was being out played by the guy their team passed on.
Now, it’s 'way too early to say Mariota is a hit and Winston is a bust.
Still, one can’t help but think about the implications of this game. If Mariota does become the next Peyton Manning, and if Winston’s career goes the way Ryan Leaf, we'll always have this game as a reminder of when these two promising young careers diverged.