Five years ago, current Las Vegas Raiders GM Mike Mayock was a draft analyst for NFL Network while head coach Jon Gruden was an analyst with ESPN.
Although at the time they didn’t know they’d be working with each other one day, they both felt that Marcus Mariota was the best quarterback available in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Five years later, the three will finally get the opportunity to be on the same team. In Mariota’s first public comments since signing a two-year, $17.6 million deal, he told KHON2’s Rob DeMello how excited he was to be a part of the Raiders franchise. He also expounded on his relationship with Mayock and Gruden.
“There’s confidence and a sense of desire and I appreciate that. When it comes to this point in your career, you just want to be a part of a team that believes in you. With Mike and Jon, I felt that sense of belief and as a player, that’s all I could ever want,” Mariota said. “As I move forward, they’ve been understanding and patient with me and they just want to see what I can do and try to become the best player I can be.
“I think it’s been a collective amount of things but the fact of the matter is they just want me to become the best player that I can be and that really aligns with what I want to do, and that’s why this is a good fit.”
Mariota’s first NFL destination became set in stone on April 30, 2015, when he became the second overall pick of the draft by the Tennessee Titans. Jameis Winston, the only other quarterback taken in the first round that year, was the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The debate between Mariota and Winston was the talk of the draft that year, fueled by the fact that Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy at Florida State while Mariota did so with Oregon in 2014.
The consensus among scouts and analysts proved to be true on draft night: Winston was deemed the better prospect and as such, was selected before Mariota.
At the same time, Mayock and Gruden both stated on their respective outlets that they had preferred Mariota. Mayock tabbed Mariota as his fifth overall prospect and top quarterback in his annual draft rankings, while Gruden said on live television during the draft that he would take Mariota No. 1.
“Personally, I like Mariota because he can do it all,” Gruden said as the Buccaneers were on the clock.
Who knows where Mariota would be today if he were selected by Tampa Bay that fateful day in 2015. Just as the Titans moved on from Mariota by inking Ryan Tannehill to a massive four-year extension this offseason, the Bucs recently pulled a stunner by signing Tom Brady to a two-year deal.
Gruden had personally worked with Mariota during his annual Gruden QB Camp, a segment that ESPN would run on a handful of top quarterback prospects each year. After getting to work with him up close and personal, it was clear that Mariota left quite the impression.
“He is a legitimate dual threat. Adjust your offense to this kid’s skill set,” Gruden said as the Titans were on the clock. “This kid is gonna be the steal of the draft. I’m going to the wall for this kid.”
Five years later, Gruden now has the opportunity to do so on a day-to-day basis.