Thursday, December 6, 2012

The case for Marcus Mariota over Johnny Manziel

Marcus Mariota - Oregon v Oregon State

Before they took the nation by storm as redshirt freshmen QB's, both Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel were committed to Oregon. Eventually though, the native Texan Manziel switched to Texas A&M, and has been the talk of the country this season. The attention is largely warranted. His numbers have been pretty darn good. He has more total yards this season than two previous Heisman winners from the SEC, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton, had during their Heisman years. It's highly likely that Manziel will become the first freshman to hoist the coveted trophy this coming Saturday....but he doesn't deserve it, at least not this year. I'm not knocking his talent or the season he's had. He's a great player and definitely at least deserves to be a finalist this season. However, I think that the Heisman trophy has sort of turned into a popularity contest that goes to the player who is the most hyped on one of the nation's top teams. It rarely goes to the actual best player anymore. Even though I'm not arguing about who deserves it this year, I will say that Marqise Lee should win it, but he won't because he isn't a finalist. Although I despise USC, just think about how good he's been this year. There wasn't a defense that shut him down this year, and if Matt Barkley plays against Notre Dame, the Trojans win going away. All he'd have to do was drop back and chuck it deep, because he knew that Lee would come down with it 9 times out of 10. Alas, this is merely wishful thinking and not relevant to the subject I'm trying to get at.

Johnny Manziel is going to win the Heisman based off his performance in ONE GAME, and you already know which game I'm referring to. Yes, his numbers throughout the course of the season have been really impressive, but don't forget the LSU game where he threw 3 picks and lost his team that game. Losses are supposed to derail a candidate's Heisman train, but maybe it's because the 'Bama game was after LSU that this didn't negatively impact Manziel. Still, if we're going to talk about statistics, then this one needs to be mentioned: Texas A&M had a 44-10 lead against a bad Arkansas team, and Manziel was still playing deep into the 4th quarter. Not only was he playing, he was still running the ball into their defense. It's just stupid why any coach would accept such a risk on their quarterback. I'm glad Chip Kelly isn't that irresponsible. Manziel also benefits from a sketchy Texas A&M defense. They gave up 56 points to Louisiana Tech. He was in the game far longer in quite a few games that Mariota wasn't, because Chip pulled him and the other starters when they got a big lead. For the record, I don't think Mariota should be a Heisman candidate this year, but most definitely next year. 

For those arguing in favor of Manziel, you could make the case that he's played some tougher teams than Mariota has, and I don't think even the most diehard Oregon fan like myself could dispute that. Certainly, playing well against top teams helps your Heisman case, and both QB's have done that. They have also had subpar or merely average outings when their teams lost, Manziel against the aforementioned LSU and Mariota against Stanford. By and large, though, both QB's have been spectacular throughout the season. However, using projected statistics, I discovered something that I already believe to be true: Marcus Mariota is every bit as good as Johnny Manziel, if not better. To be honest, I'm really glad that we have a classy head coach who instills in his guys that it's not about individual honors, because we definitely have some of the best players in the country, but they don't get as much attention as they deserve because they routinely get taken out of games in which the Ducks have built an insurmountable lead. With that being said, below are the projected stats that Mariota would have put up if he'd played as much as Manziel:


Mariota: Comp/Att/yards: 327/468, 3767 yds 
                  Yards per play: 8.0 
                  Comp%: 69.9% 
                  TD's: 45 
                   Int: 9

Manziel: Comp/Att/Yards: 273/400, 3419yds 
                Yards per play: 8.5yds 
                 Comp%: 68.3% 
                  TD's: 24 
                   Int: 8


Mariota: Att/yds: 147/1035 yds 
                Yds per carry: 7.0yds 
                Long: 86yds 
                TD's: 8

Manziel: Att/Yds: 184/1181yds 
                Yds per carry: 6.4yds 
                 Long: 72 
                 TD's: 19


Mariota: 4802
Manziel: 4652

Pretty scary how similar these kids are. Mariota seems to be the better passer and Manziel the better runner, but you have to take into consideration that Manziel was A&M's leading rusher, and Mariota had perhaps the best RB unit backing him in Barner, DAT and Marshall.
So obviously, Mariota did not have to carry the rock nearly as much as Manziel. Unfortunately, the Heisman commitee doesn't crunch numbers like those above, but I think it's clearly obvious Mariota should've been in the Heisman conversation more. What's clear is that both these guys are incredibly talented and are going to be fun to watch in the coming years. Clearly, LaMichael James knew what he was talking about when he said that Mariota could end up being the best quarterback to ever play at Oregon. No disrespect to Johnny Manziel, but I'll take Marcus Mariota any day.