Despite only becoming a true college football contender in the last twenty years, Oregon has its fair share of great players; NFL Hall of Famers like Fouts, Zimmerman, Van Brocklin, and Renfro have donned the green and yellow, paving the way for the current batch of Duck standouts. We even chronicled the top 20 football Ducks of the last 20 years over the summer, with LaMichael James topping the list. Joey Harrington is a Duck. Haloti Ngata is a Duck. Bobby Moore is a Duck. All of them are illustrious and distinguished members of the Oregon football pantheon.
But when it's all said and done, when the robots rise up against us, take over, and drive us underground under penalty of enslavement and death by cyborgs hitting you with rocks for sport, we will sit huddled around a gas heater in a subterranean refugee camp somewhere near the Gobi Desert, and we will talk about the greatest player ever to play Oregon football. We will talk about Marcus Mariota.
Obviously, this hinges heavily on the next three months. If Mariota throws five picks in a loss to Utah, goes 1-2 against the Pacific Northwest, loses the New Mexico bowl to an out-for-revenge Wyoming team, or melts into a puddle of purple-brown goo during the third quarter of the Civil War, we might think a little differently. But Mariota's first two seasons as Oregon's starting quarterback were magnificent, and the first third of this season has been breathtaking. To expect any sort of implosion would be not only impractical, but downright sadistic. So let's assume Mariota won't come down with a case of Pac-12 mediocrity, or what I call "Locker's Syndrome". The other end of that spectrum is the best-case scenario; a Heisman trophy and/or a national championship. If either, or both, of those things happen, there will be a statue of Mariota outside the east gate at Autzen by March; before every home game, young children will climb onto their mother's shoulders, and gently place green and yellow leis around his neck. They'll say, "Mommy, what did President Mariota do when he was a football player?" "Everything," their mother will reply. "Everything."
Reality lies in the middle of those two dreamlands. And reality will still end with Marcus Mariota as the greatest of all time. Let me illuminate with some sentences, all of them completely unbelievable.
Marcus Mariota is, at present, 27-3 for his career. A one-loss season this year would put Mariota ahead of Joey Harrington for highest career winning percentage in Oregon history.
Marcus Mariota's career second half statistics: 200/290 (69%), 2601 yards, 30 touchdowns, three interceptions
Marcus Mariota has completed at least 70% of his passes in half of his career starts. HALF
By season's end, Mariota will own Oregon records for wins, offensive touchdowns, passing yards, rushing yards by a quarterback, career yards gained, career pass completions, career completion percentage, and career pass efficiency. I'm just naming a few of the big ones, of course, but you get the idea.
Chances are, you knew this already. You know that Marcus Mariota is a once-in-a-generation talent. You know that he's otherworldly efficient, supremely talented, and somehow, still capable of surprising. You know this so innately that you probably don't even think about how preposterous his skills are. You know this so familiarly, that you might forget. I'm here to remind you to do one thing with your fall this year.
Enjoy this. Savor every moment of this season. Because eligibility be damned, this is Marcus Mariota's final season in an Oregon uniform. You have, at most, eleven more times to watch Mariota play football in the green and yellow. And black. And white. And sliver. And anthrocite. And steel. And pink. And with a blue collar.
I think we have too many colors. That's not the point. Here's the point.
What we've been watching the past 2+ seasons has been something special. From his debut, a systematic and ruthless dismantling of Gus Malzhan's Arkansas State team, through a 20/23 piece of modern art in the Coliseum against USC 2012, a nonchalant 21/28 to blow out UCLA in 2013, breakaway runs against Virginia and Arizona State, and to a third-quarter undressing of Michigan State in 2014, he has done things that no quarterback in Oregon history could do. Not Fouts, Musgrave, or O'Neil. Not Joey. Not Akili at his apex, nor Dixon at his. Nobody.
Enjoy Marcus Mariota while you can. Because when you're hiding in a cave underneath the Ural Mountains, with intelligent killing machines bearing down on your location and imminent doom at your doorstep, you're going to want some happy memories to tell your grandchildren, happy memories about the greatest football player to ever play for the Oregon Ducks.