Mariota’s electric debut probably a sign of things to come
Nice start, Marcus Mariota. Good luck in that encore on Sunday against Cleveland. History says you might need it, at least this week.
Mariota’s electric debut against NFL draft classmate Jameis Winston looked a little like Manning vs. Leaf 2.0, with Mariota confidently flicking four touchdown passes while posting a not-a-typo 158.3 passer rating, the NFL quarterback’s version of a perfect game.
Statistically, there’s nowhere to go but down. Just how far down? Well, Mariota hopes not too far.
”I mean I just got to continue to play my game and focus on what I have to take care of,” he said.
Mariota is probably talking about the Titans, but just in case he was also taking your fantasy team into consideration, no offense Marcus, but savvy owners will probably stick you back on the bench for a bit, though probably only for a bit.
Reality tends to come quickly for quarterbacks who turn their first four quarters in the NFL into something out of a Madden video game.
Courtesy of STATS, a look at some of the top opening week rookie performances in league history, what happened in Week 2 and beyond:
Week 1: A scrambling quarterback before being a scrambling quarterback was cool, Tarkenton was a fresh-faced 21-year-old when he entered the first game in Minnesota Vikings history on Sept. 17, 1961, against the Chicago Bears. Tarkenton threw for 250 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score in a 37-13 win.
Week 2: Nightmarish. The Dallas Cowboys picked off Tarkenton twice and held him to 8 of 24 passing for 117 measly yards in a 21-7 Minnesota loss.
It got better, right? It did. Eventually.
The Vikings went 2-8 in Tarkenton’s 10 starts in 1961, though it was the beginning of a Hall of Fame career that saw Tarkenton lead Minnesota to three Super Bowls (all losses) and retire as the league’s all-time leader in passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. Hey, that’s incredible. Or so we hear.
Week 1: Kelly was a ”rookie” in name only when he arrived in Buffalo in 1986 after the Donald Trump-led USFL shuttered. He torched the New York Jets for 292 yards and three touchdowns. The Bills lost 28-24, but Kelly’s performance served notice the sad-sack Bills were headed back toward respectability after years adrift.
Week 2: On the road in Cincinnati against a pretty good Bengals team, Kelly hit 13 of 22 for 228 yards with a score and two picks, and Buffalo fell in overtime.
It got better, right? Way better.
The Bills went 4-12 in 1986, with seven of the losses coming by seven points or fewer. Two years later Buffalo was rolling behind the ”K-Gun” offense and the Bills were playoff fixtures on their way to becoming perennial Super Bowl runners-up. Like Tarkenton, the lack of a Super Bowl win didn’t keep Kelly out of the Hall of Fame.
Week 1: The 1963 Heisman Trophy winner walked out of five years of naval service and straight into the Cowboys’ huddle for the 1969 opener against the St. Louis Cardinals (football, not baseball. Yes, there was such a thing). Staubach hit Lance Rentzel for a 75-yard score in the first quarter and finished 7 of 15 for 228 yards while adding a touchdown on the ground in a 24-3 win.
Week 2: Apparently Dallas coach Tom Landry was unimpressed. Staubach didn’t start another game the rest of the season after ceding the job to veteran Craig Morton.
It got better, right? Roger that. (Cue groans).
Staubach finally took over full-time in 1971. Eight years and two Super Bowl titles later, Staubach retired as arguably the best quarterback of the 1970s and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
ROBERT GRIFFIN III
Week 1: Oh the fall of 2012, a simpler time when RG3 was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and perhaps the most exciting player in football. The sixth pass of his career went 88 yards to Pierre Garcon for a touchdown, and he threw for 320 and two scores in all as the Redskins stunned New Orleans on the road, 40-32.
Week 2: Griffin was solid against the St. Louis Rams, going 20 of 29 for 206 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 82 yards and two scores, but the Rams rallied for a 31-28 win.
It got better, right? Uh, not really.
Griffin was Rookie of the Year in 2012, but shredded his right knee in a playoff loss to Seattle. He hasn’t been the same since because … it’s the Redskins.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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