With the first overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their choice of two highly touted, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks: Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. They went with the Seminole, and for now, the Tennessee Titans can feel like they had all the luck winding up with the Duck.
Sunday brought an unprecedented moment in the history of the NFL, as for the first time ever, a pair of quarterbacks who went 1-2 in the draft made their debuts against each other as starters. And things could hardly have gone more differently for the two.
Mariota got the ball first and wasted little time getting the ball into the end zone. His first pass was incomplete, his second went for 22 yards on a third-and-10 play and his third was a strike to wide receiver Kendall Wright for a 52-yard touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) September 13, 2015
Then it was Winston’s turn, and on his very first NFL pass, he also threw a touchdown. It, er, just wasn’t to his team.
So how'd Jameis Winston's NFL career start? pic.twitter.com/vUSiUs6eNR
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 13, 2015
Ouch. At least Winston is in some good company in the otherwise dubious pick-six-on-first-NFL-pass club.
Jameis Winston: 1st player to throw a "pick-6" on his first NFL pass since Brett Favre for the Falcons in 1991 (via @eliassports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 13, 2015
Their very, very early career trajectories more or less continued in those directions during the first half. Winston did manage to throw a touchdown pass, but he also threw a second interception, completing six of 12 attempts for 50 yards.
Mariota, meanwhile, was nearly flawless, completing 10 of 13 passes for 175 yards, four touchdowns and a gaudy 157.9 passer rating. Think the Bucs would like a do-over? (I know, the game isn’t even three quarters old. But still.)
The Titans now have more points in the first half than they scored in any game last year.
— Robert Mays (@robertmays) September 13, 2015
What a start by Marcus Mariota!!! Living up to the billing… 4TDs in 1st half, awesome!
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) September 13, 2015
Through one half, the matchup was very reminiscent of the College Football Playoff semifinal game back on Jan. 1, in which Winston and Mariota also squared off. In that contest, Winston had a memorably ludicrous turnover as his Seminoles lost to the Ducks, 59-20.
Update: Mariota’s services weren’t even needed in the fourth quarter, as, with his team up 42-7, he was given the rest of the day off in favor of Zach Mettenberger. Mariota finished with a perfect passer rating, the first quarterback to do that in his first NFL start since Robert Griffin III (remember those days, Redskins fans?).
Winston wound up throwing another touchdown pass in garbage time, leading to a final score of 42-14.