1. Data

Should Jameis Winston run like Marcus Mariota?

The Buccaneers almost never call a designed run for Winston. And for good reason.
Marcus Mariota gained 40 rushing yards on third down in the Titans' wild-card playoff win over the Chiefs on Saturday. [Getty Images]
Marcus Mariota gained 40 rushing yards on third down in the Titans' wild-card playoff win over the Chiefs on Saturday. [Getty Images]
Published Jan. 9, 2018
Updated Aug. 5, 2019

Marcus Mariota dropped to a knee three times Saturday and lost 6 yards.

They were the best yards he ever lost.

Those kneels bled the clock and closed out the first playoff win of his career.

On his other five carries, he gained 52 yards. Four of those carries resulted in first downs.

The Titans overcame a 21-3 deficit against the Chiefs in large part to Mariota’s legs.

In Tennessee, the comeback was cause for celebration. In Tampa Bay, it was cause for comparison.

What about the Bucs? Should they ask Jameis Winston to run more?

You know, to shake things up a bit. Make the offense less predictable. Keep the defense off balance.

No. They should not.

That would be a bad idea.

It’s not that Winston can’t escape tackles. He will fight to extend a broken play until he hears the whistle.

He’s a functional runner, not a mobile one.

In other words, he’s not fast.

There is video evidence that proves that very fact.

At the 2015 scouting combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds. Mariota ran the dash in 4.52 seconds.

Five-tenths of a second or so might seem insignificant to you and me, but on a professional football field that time can make all the difference.

Case in point: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt ran the dash in 4.84 seconds. In a race, he’s not catching Mariota, but he’s catching Winston. And Winston is 60 pounds lighter.

That’s gym class stuff, though, right? What happens on the field?

Which stats do you like? Yards per carry?

Winston in his career: 3.7 yards. Mariota: 5.9.

Yards per carry, though, is an imperfect way to measure a quarterback’s rushing efficiency. All we’re doing is adding up yards and averaging them. We’re not taking into account situation. A 10-yard run on third and 15 is different from a 10-yard run on third and 8, isn’t it?

Okay, so what about first down conversions?

Winston has gained a first down on 36.7 percent of his rushing attempts in his career (excluding kneel downs). Mariota: 42.7 percent.


Winston has eight in 45 games. Mariota: Nine in 42 games.

Simply put: Winston isn’t as productive a runner as Mariota.

RELATED STORY: Fennelly: After three seasons, it’s Advantage Mariota.

But the numbers show something else.

Winston actually hurts the Bucs when he runs.

Football Outsiders’ efficiency statistic — Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, or DVOA — takes every play and compares success on that play with the league average. It is adjusted for situation and opponent. It’s expressed as a percentage, where a positive percentage indicates an above-average performance and a negative percentage indicates a below-average performance.

Winston posted a -22.1 percent rushing DVOA this season, which ranked 33rd out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks. Only Carson Palmer and Derek Carr were worse.

Mariota posted a 43.9 percent rushing DVOA, which ranked fifth. Case Keenum led the NFL with a 57.9 percent DVOA.

ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, or QBR, shows a similar disparity. While it favors Winston as a passer, it ranks him among the worst runners and Mariota among the best. It’s not even close.

Winston’s fumbles only partly explain the difference. His runs just aren’t as impactful.

That’s the offense he plays in. You see Winston roll outside the pocket, but you almost never see the Bucs call a designed run.

There’s a good reason for that. It’s the same reason the Patriots don’t call designed runs for Tom Brady:

Winston isn’t Mariota.

As the numbers show, there’s no sense in asking him to be.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.


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