Let the speculation begin! NFL Networks Albert Breer reported this morning that a planned visit from Heisman Trophy winning QB Marcus Mariota at Redskins Park is not going to happen due to scheduling issues. The planned visit was first reported by Breer last month, along with several other visits/workouts Mariota had lined up. Here is what we wrote when that story broke:
Head Coach Jay Gruden also talked about the QB position this week, and said the possibility of drafting a QB at #5 has been discussed in house. The team would not have a problem "hitting the reset button" at the QB position if the player available was good enough to warrant the selection. Gruden named Robert Griffin III the starter going into the offseason at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, and reiterated this week that it is Griffin's job to lose. Gruden has a year of experience with Griffin, and didn't seem very happy with his progress last season.
Scot McCloughan is coming in fresh and has no ties to any of the players(or to most of the coaching staff) and made it clear that spots on the team need to be earned, not given. He made the point this week that Gruden felt obligated to name Griffin the starter so it was known that he would be getting the first team reps to start the offseason. He also said it was still a competition, and the QB that performs the best will come out on top and be named the starting QB.
It's lying season, and a lot of people predictably labeled this visit as a smokescreen coming from the Redskins. Now the Redskins can't work out a time to visit with one of the top 2 QBs in the draft. Pre-draft visits serve several purposes to teams. Additional medical information, another(or a first) interview, and of course smokescreens for other teams are all reasons to bring a prospect in. From NFL agent Mike McCartney:
Reasons NFL Teams bring in Draft Prospects: 1. Get to know better 2. Medical/Character/IQ Concern 3. Recruit if undrafted 4. Subterfuge— Mike McCartney (@MikeMcCartney7) April 6, 2015
Last year, the Redskins only drafted one player that was reportedly brought in for an interview, OT Morgan Moses. Teams have the opportunity to talk to prospects at All-Star games, the Combine, and/or Pro Days(McCloughan attended Mariota's in Oregon), and they have done extensive scouting and research for months/years on each player. McCloughan is playing poker, and keeping all of his options open here. Does the cancelled visit mean the Redskins have lost interest, or they are feigning disinterest to throw other teams off? Is Mariota's schedule, with only 3 weeks until the draft, that tight that he can't find the time for the Redskins? Breer previously noted that the Redskins had seen enough of Mariota's film that they didn't need to see visit Eugene, Oregon for a visit. Does that change now?
This is all a moot point if Mariota ends up going in the top 4, which could be what the Redskins really want to happen on draft day. There are many conflicting reports and predictions on when Mariota gets drafted. NFL Network's Mike Mayock just moved Mariota above Jameis Winston in his latest rankings. Then there are reports that Marcus Mariota could be in for an Aaron Rodgers-like tumble in the draft if he doesn't go early.
According to one NFL personnel man, the Jets' interest had better be high, for Mariota's sake.
"If [Mariota] doesn't go in the top six picks, he could do an Aaron Rodgers," the source told Yahoo Sports.
There are also the teams that are rumored to be interested in trading up for a QB, some specifically interested in Mariota. The list continues to get longer, but includes the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, and Philadelphia Eagles. A lot of smoke there, and some of them are a lot more believable and probable than others.
Here are a few interesting comments that followed Breer's original tweet discussing the Redskins actual level of interest in Mariota, and perception around the league.
The Redskins planned to bring Marcus Mariota to Virginia for a visit. I'm told they couldn't work out a time, so that trip is now off.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 9, 2015
@jasonrmcintyre I'd be careful assuming this means they won't take him. Remember how the Jags handled the Bortles thing last year?— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 9, 2015
@jasonrmcintyre @CharlesRobinson I've heard both. Some think smokescreen. And then, there are teams in Top 10 that think 5 is MM's "floor".— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 9, 2015
3 more weeks...