Tony Dungy tried to talk Lovie Smith, his good friend, into using the first pick overall in this year’s draft on Marcus Mariota. Dungy’s son had played with Mariota at Oregon, and so the former NFL coach had seen up close how good the Ducks’ quarterback was.
Also, Dungy had been around Peyton Manning enough with the Colts to know a thing or 10 about excellence. Smith, on the other hand, was known for saying “Rex is our quarterback’’ while he was the Bears head coach.
Lovie didn’t listen to Dungy.
He used Tampa Bay’s pick on Jameis Winston, and, who knows, maybe he’ll be right in the end. But for one day – the first day of two young quarterbacks’ careers – he couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mariota threw four first-half touchdowns in his NFL debut, leading the Titans to a 42-14 victory over the Bucs and Winston, who did not play well. Mariota looked calm, prepared and equipped with an accurate arm, something many of us weren’t quite sure he had. Winston looked like a rookie playing in front of a home crowd for the first time. And that home crowd must have been wondering what the heck Smith could have been thinking when he pushed for the Bucs to choose Winston over Mariota. Fans already were booing Winston by the second quarter Sunday. I didn’t think Tampa cared about anything enough to boo.
It can’t be overstated that it was just one game, But it’s hard to shake the feeling, based on years of watching Lovie, that he wouldn’t know a quarterback from a quarter horse. Good luck, Tampa Bay. You might need it.