The most important part of the pre-draft process for both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston is what we don't get to see: how they interview and interact with NFL teams. Because whoever drafts either quarterback has to be comfortable with them as the face of the franchise -- they have to sell themselves. And we don't really know how they do, other than through vague reports on both players doing very well in interview. But we finally have some actual details, now.
Former NFL scout and current NFL consultant Chris Landry joined Steve Duemig on 620 WDAE to talk Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. The most fascinating bit was when Landry talked about what Mariota and Winston said in interviews for which he was present. He got three interviews with each player with three different teams, so he managed to get a bit of a range of responses over a longer time. Some first-hand experience on what these guys said -- that's certainly new.
Marcus Mariota's interviews
"I had the impression, and I don't know why, maybe because he's a little bit of a quiet demeanor, that [Mariota] is kind of maybe a bit of a wallflower type, and he's anything but," Chris Landry said. "You can tell he's very competitive, very organized. [..] What was really impressive is he knew all the coaches' names, and I'm not talking the head coach, I'm talking the position coaches, so he'd done his homework in obviously knowing who was who, who did what, who coached what, he had a lot of good reference stuff. He asked a bunch of questions, he took notes.
"The biggest thing I got with [Mariota] was his competitive fire. He was very focused, very intense, you know he listened intently, he knew about the teams' personnel. I mean you know, in the NFL, the teams that were interviewing. He knew about a lot of their sets, the players that were on it, he knew a lot about their offensive systems.
"He was extremely good on the grease board. When they put him and put NFL stuff on it it's a lot more detailed and complex than what you see on some of the TV skits that they do. He was really good with that. He understands the difference, a lot of the differences of the concepts in the college game, was very good at explaining that. And yet you could tell he spent a lot of team studying NFL systems.
"Wasn't very interested in talking about what he was good at. That was really intriguing. He talked more about what he needed to improve on. He didn't think he was good at, you know, experience under center and whatnot, and he showed he even brought in a tape of what he's been working on and asking some feedback from the coaches. Theis guy really gets it, you can tell he has that gymrat approach to it, the 'Don't tell me what I can do good, tell me what I can do better' type of approach."
Jameis Winston's interviews
"Winston [..] is a different kind of personality, you can tell he's kind of the life of the party, came in, very bubbly, which is kind of what I expected. You could tell different leadership styles. He was more calculating in his comments, of course he had different questions to answer off the field, and some of them were really intent and some of them didn't get to much of the football stuff.
"He was you know, uncomfortable discussing some of his past. And let me say this too, there were a few people in that meeting, I think he's gonna be a little more forthcoming when he meets a one-on-one or a one-on-two-or-three with the Bucs or anyone else that's gonna meet with him. There's still too many people in there, it's not like a media setting of course, but you know some of that stuff was a little bit uncomfortable for him to get into. Yet an interesting answer to the crab legs incident, which I'm not gonna go into details, but I thought it was interesting and a little unusual.
"But he was not that forthcoming on the sexual assault incident, but I understand that and I understand that there's a chance of a civil trial possibly coming, so you've gotta be real careful about that. Which I'm sure in a private setting maybe again he can have more conversations on that.
"I thought he was good on the grease board. I thought learning football was never an issue with him, I never thought. He knows his system pretty well, he was not as familiar with what some of the other teams were doing at least in the meetings there but that's okay. It's something that I think he's gonna be able to learn. Whatever you teach him, I think he'll work at. I think he was more prepared for trying to address the off-the-field stuff than the on-the-field.
"[..] I was a little bit concerned and verified that he did weigh 252 lbs. in the bowl game. He went up to like 266 lbs. when he wasn't working out with the ankle [injury] and he wasn't working out. See these guys have to take in a high level of caloric intake and when you can't work out, which he couldn't, weight went up. Now he was 231 lbs. at the combine which shows he can maneuver his body, but the biggest thing is he's going to have to improve his diet.
"Now the way that's going to work the strength coach [..] is gonna take his body fat and say 'We want you at 238 lbs.' or whatever it is, and I don't see that's gonna be a big issue. But it would be a big issue if you don't watch it, because he's got kind of a lower body, very thick trunk and listen, if you sit there and you don't work and you continue to have the same caloric intake your weight's gonna balloon. But I don't see that being an issue because I think he's going to continue to work. When you have injuries and rehab and injuries that's gonna be a real problem and you're gonna have to work with that.
"Baseball. Here's my sense, he was very careful with what he said, the sense is with teams that it's gonna be a factor in the negotiations because why wouldn't it be. If I had baseball in my background and it was a threat, whoever takes him it's going to be a factor."
I think there's something in there for everyone to reinforce whichever narrative they like, although I think it was slightly concerning for Winston's off-field concerns. Landry's reasons for why that happened make sense, but it wasn't exactly reassuring. Still, both of these descriptions reinforce my belief that both of these players are going to be very good players in the NFL.
I wouldn't take that baseball comment too seriously. Winston has no leverage, because there's no maneuvering room with the new pay scale. He could sit out for a year, and then he'd still get the exact same contract because there's really not much to negotiate over. The one thing that could happen is that this would prevent the Bucs from inserting a character clause if Winston's willing to play hardball. That's about the only thing that's relevant there.
Of course, these interviews were only fifteen minutes long with each team and both players will have 30 hours one-on-one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I highly doubt we'll get a lot of detail out of those meetings.