Several days ago, it was reported by Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report that “more than a few teams” are not happy that Marcus Mariota said he doesn’t care if gets drafted 1st overall. Many in the media have expressed disbelief that teams feel this way. After all, Mariota’s personality has never been questioned. He’s supposedly a great guy and extremely nice off the field. According to most he would be an exemplary face of a franchise.
Here’s the thing, though. The perception out there that the quarterback is supposed to be an everybody’s-friend-type-of-guy is a Hollywood-created one. The reality in the NFL is that the quarterback needs to be more of a field general. He needs to be, for lack of a better word, a little bit of an asshole.
This doesn’t mean teams are looking for the next big off-the-field problem at quarterback. They aren’t looking for someone who treats the media like jerks. What we’re referring to is based completely on what quarterbacks need to be like on the field. It has to do with the ability to hold themselves and their teammates accountable.
The NFL’s history is filled with these types of quarterbacks. Peyton Manning is known for his command of the entire offense, both in practice and during games. He isn’t afraid to yell at other players and assistant coaches in order to hold them accountable for mental mistakes. He’s in charge and everyone knows it (Just ask Colts center Jeff Saturday, who got into a classic shouting match on the sidelines with him back in 2005). There’s a reason this leadership style has worked for Manning for 17 years; he holds himself accountable first and foremost, and this enables him to lead others from an area of credibility.
Tom Brady is the same way. He’s nice off the field and in interviews, the guy you want your daughter to marry. On the field, he doesn’t take mental mistakes lightly, though. Like Manning, he holds his players and even his coaches accountable. He isn’t timid in any way (Just think back to the shouting match he got into with Bill O’Brien on the sidelines in 2011).
Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, and Steve Young were all fiery competitors. They were in complete command in the huddle. Remember how crazy Steve Young went on the sidelines in 1994 when he was removed from the game during a blowout? That was his huddle, and he didn’t want to be taken out no matter how bad they were losing or how badly he was getting beat up. Also don’t forget about Dan Fouts, who used to wear a hat around the Chargers facility that said “MFIC” on it, which stood for Mother F-cker in Charge.
This issue with Mariota has to do with competitiveness and command. Teams are trying to turn over every stone and find anything wrong with a player that they can before drafting him. To us in the normal world, Mariota’s comments seem level-headed, which makes him the right player to lead a team. In the NFL, his politically correct response might suggest (rightly or wrongly) that he lacks a certain level of competitive spirit, which would turn teams off. This, despite the fact that teams are also looking for players who handle the media correctly, which Mariota also appeared to do in answering this question.
Still, teams want a leader like Peyton Manning, who went into Colts General Manager Bill Polian’s office before the 1998 NFL Draft and told him that if they didn’t pick him first, he was going to kick their ass for the next 15 years. Manning not only wants to win, but he clearly wants every record there is. That’s because he can’t stand to lose anything. He cares about being the best, and he wants to prove it on every single play. This competitive fire is part of what has made him the player he is.
Teams want a player like Tom Brady, who despite 4 Super Bowl rings and a storybook career, is still pissed off 15 years later that he was picked in the 6th round of the NFL Draft.
They want a player like Aaron Rodgers, who is also still mad that he wasn’t picked first overall 10 years ago, even though he has proven everyone wrong and become the best quarterback in the NFL since then.
Teams want someone like John Elway, who is so competitive that when he got beat at pool by a teammate at his own house, he sold the table the next day.
They want someone like Brett Favre, who would get into it with much bigger defensive linemen in a way that would fire up and galvanize his team around him.
Teams want someone like Johnny Unitas, who once broke his nose during a game and then stuck mud in it to stop the bleeding while in the huddle because he didn’t want to come out.
They want someone like Joe Montana, who was just as competitive as anyone despite not being a big talker. Although he apparently said some pretty great things to Cowboys players during the famous 1981 NFC Championship Game. He was so competitive he couldn’t help himself.
Don’t get us wrong. There are plenty of examples of quarterbacks who don’t have extremely fiery personalities but have had success. There are also plenty of teams who have drafted players because of their personalities before considering the fact that they couldn’t play the quarterback position very well. See Tim Tebow. Also see Mark Sanchez. The Jets claimed to have been enamored with Sanchez because of what they saw after a dinner meeting with him before the 2009 Draft. They thought he showed moxie by jumping on a motorcycle that didn’t belong to him in the parking lot of the restaurant where they were eating.
None of this is to say that Marcus Mariota will be a failure or that he doesn’t have the personality to be a leader at quarterback. For all we know, he could be just as much of a madman in the huddle as all of the quarterbacks mentioned above. However, when looking at some of these all-time greats, it does explain a little bit why some teams aren’t pleased that Mariota said he doesn’t care if he gets drafted 1st overall.