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Buccaneers should alter scheme for Marcus Mariota

1/2/2015

TAMPA, Fla. -- The more I watched Marcus Mariota in Thursday night's Rose Bowl, the more convinced I became that the Oregon quarterback can fit nicely with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I went into the game thinking Mariota was a product of Oregon's up-tempo, spread offense. I came out of it thinking Mariota can fit in with just about any type of offense.

Mariota can do more than run, which he does quite well. He showed signs he can be a good pocket passer as his team shredded Florida State.

Mariota is no Tim Tebow, and that’s a wonderful thing. Mariota showed all sorts of signs he can succeed at the NFL level.

That’s where the Bucs come in. They hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft and there’s an excellent chance they’ll use it on a quarterback.

Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are the highest-rated quarterbacks by virtually all the draft experts. Despite the score, Winston didn’t play all that badly. He showed signs he can succeed in a pro-style offense.

But, with Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht in attendance, Mariota moved ahead of Winston in the pecking order.

The scouting combine, private workouts and interviews will come in the future. And the Bucs certainly should look closely at tape of all of the games played by Mariota and Winston before making a final decision.

But, at the moment, Mariota has the edge. There are skeptics that say Mariota can’t thrive in a pro-style offense, but I saw evidence to the contrary. But I’m not sure Mariota needs to play in a pro-style offense in the NFL.

Conventional wisdom says there’s no way conservative Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith would go with a spread offense. But Smith went 2-14 last season and the offense was dreadful, so conventional wisdom goes out the window.

Why not bring in an offensive coordinator like Rob Chudzinski? He had a lot of success running the spread offense with Carolina and Cam Newton.

Who says the Bucs have to make Mariota fit in their system? If they build a system to take advantage of Mariota’s strengths, they might end up with the first true franchise quarterback in team history.