Though Bears GM Ryan Pace will never admit it publicly, there was talk the day of the 2015 draft that he was furiously trying to work a deal in which he would send Jay Cutler and the seventh overall pick to Tennessee for the chance to draft Marcus Mariota (if Tampa Bay chose Jameis Winston, which they did). But when you consider the offer then-Titans GM Ruston Webster rejected from Philadelphia and Chip Kelly, it was no wonder Pace's reported offer didn't get very far.
Kelly, suddenly in charge of basically everything with the Eagles, so badly wanted to pick his former quarterback at Oregon that CSNPhilly reported Kelly offered the Eagles' first- and second-round picks in 2015, their 2016 first-rounder, any quarterback that was then on Kelly's roster, and any defensive player(s). Just for Mariota. Webster stood pat and picked the Heisman Trophy winner.
Leap forward to this past spring, when Webster's replacement, former Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel and previous Patriots College Scouting Director Jon Robinson picked up the phone with the post-Kelly Eagles. Even though the Chipster was fired, DeMarco Murray was so miserable in his one season there he wanted out. So Robinson offered his fourth-rounder in exchange for Philly's fourth rounder, a 13-spot drop. And Murray.
Mariota's solid rookie season included missing four games, but also a 19-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 2,818 passing yards and a 62 percent completion rate. Through the team's 5-6 start this season, that TD-to-INT split is 23/8 while his accuracy's jumped a couple of percentage points. Entering Monday night's Oakland-Houston game, Mariota ranked sixth in passer rating (100.3) and passing yards (2,772). He's obviously picked up the pro-style offense well while still remaining a threat to run (his 264 rushing yards is third among quarterbacks).
As for Murray, his 1,100-yard drop in rushing yards from that sick 2014 in Dallas (on 212 fewer carries), has resulted in exactly 1,000 yards this year coming here Sunday (second only to his eventual Cowboys successor, rookie Ezekiel Elliott). He has eight rushing touchdowns and another three receiving (on 40 catches), limiting second-round bulldozer Derrick Henry to just 62 carries (252 yards).
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How about some more "M's" besides Mariota and Murray? Mike Mularkey. A lot of fans wanted a fresh, new head coach after Mularkey slid into that role following last year's firing of Ken Whisenhunt. And went 2-7. But Robinson decided to keep the man who'd gone 16-32 in three previous seasons as head coach in Buffalo and Jacksonville. The five wins now matches the Titans' win total over the previous two seasons. Long-term answer? We'll see. Mularkey brought in 33-year NFL coaching veteran Terry Robiskie as Offensive Coordinator.
One more "M." Mathews. As in Rishard, whom the Dolphins chose not to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The wideout had nine catches for 122 yards in Sunday's loss in Indianapolis to give him 45 receptions, one off the team lead held by under-the-radar tight end Delanie Walker, who erupted for a 94-catch season a year ago after seven years as a backup in San Francisco. Fifth-round rookie Tajae Sharpe has 34 catches, while 2012 first-rounder Kendall Wright's added 25 (three touchdowns) after a couple of injury-plagued seasons.
This is a team that has cut ties with each of its underwhelming second-round picks between 2013 and 2015, wideouts Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham, and running back Bishop Sankey. And while Robinson fleeced the Rams ahead of this spring's draft to stack several extra picks this year and next (including L.A.'s 2017 first-rounder), his move down this spring netted him right tackle Jack Conklin to bookend with 2014 top pick Taylor Lewan. The latter left Sunday's game with a left knee injury (replaced by Dennis Kelly), while 2013 first-round guard Chance Warmack was sidelined early in the season after finger surgery. But their claim on waived ex-Patriots guard Josh Kline (13 starts last season) has paid off, and center Ben Jones was signed away in free agency from division rival Houston, all in an effort to protect the one "M" behind center and spring the other "M" to 1,000 yards on the ground already.