Marcus Mariota impressed once again in Saturday's win at Washington, leading NFL draftniks—even more than they already were—to gush over his pro potential and speculate about where he might go in the upcoming draft.
But according to Mariota, that's a conversation that he, himself, will not be ready to have until after this season.
According to John Canzano of Oregon Live, who had the Ducks quarterback on his radio show, Mariota said the following of his NFL future:
My family and I have decided to hold off on these conversations until after the season. We're obviously going to put the pros and cons together, and we're going to do what's best for the family.
At the same time, my education is important... I love Oregon. I love the community. We'll decide when the time is right.
That's exactly the answer all Ducks fans want to hear, though most would probably prefer that the question was never asked. The less Mariota thinks about the next chapter, the more he will think about this one; and the more he thinks about this one, the better Oregon's chances of winning a national title.
Still, it's unrealistic to say the thought of leaving has never crossed Mariota's mind, and so far it's done little to distract him.
Through six games this season, Mariota has a quarterback rating of 182.37 (fifth in the nation), 2,150 total yards, 25 total touchdowns and zero interceptions.
That efficiency has helped Oregon to a 6-0 record this year and a consensus No. 2 ranking in the country. So right now, he would like to focus on helping the Ducks reach their team goals instead of himself reach his personal ones.
For what it's worth—though he claims not to care at this moment—Mariota has earned rave reviews from NFL talent evaluators, who think he has the size (6'4'') and mobility to become a prototypical read-option quarterback in the suddenly progressive league.
Even in a draft stacked with (potential) quarterback prospects like Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd and AJ McCarron—among plenty of other sleepers, like Derek Carr or David Fales—Mariota has a chance to be the cream of the crop.
Said Peter King of MMQB.com:
But as I said on NBC Sunday night, what was once a virtual certainty—either Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or South Carolina pass rusher Jadaveon Clowney being the first pick in the draft next May—is now in doubt.
Mariota will be draft-eligible next May (as will many other attractive quarterbacks, including Johnny Manziel) because he’s in his third college season out of high school. And at least two teams love Mariota to the point that I believe if he comes out those teams would have him higher on their board than Bridgewater.
For Oregon fans, there is an obvious conflict of interest.
If Mariota continues at this pace, shredding through defenses with ease, it improves their odds of winning a title—but it also compounds his chances of returning in 2014.
In the end, it's probably best for fans to act in accordance with Mariota. They should probably decline to think about or discuss his NFL plans until after the season, lest they end up focusing their energy on the wrong thing.
The goal of this season is to win a championship, and the best way to get there is by tuning out all of the NFL chatter and gearing up for the rest of Pac-12 play.
If Mariota can ignore the distractions, so can his fans.