Jameis Winston has thrown more interceptions than any other quarterback since he entered the NFL in 2015. Marcus Mariota has produced three of the league's most feeble starts, by completion percentage, in that span. Both of them should be nearing their end as starters for the teams that made them the top two picks of the 2015 draft.
Winston threw five interceptions (and lost a fumble) on Sunday in the Buccaneers' 37-26 loss to the Panthers, bringing his career total to 68 interceptions in 59 starts. Mariota was benched in the Titans' 16-0 loss to the Broncos after completing seven of his 18 passes (38.9%). Since the start of the 2015 season, the NFL has had 15 games with a quarterback completing 40% of his passes or less. Mariota has three of them, per the database at Pro Football Reference.
Mariota and Winston are playing out the fifth-year options on their contracts, making them eligible for free agency after this season. Nothing we saw Sunday provided reason to believe they should return in 2020.
Let's start there for ESPN's Week 6 QB Awards, our Tuesday assessment of highs and lows using data culled from ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats.
Sealed Future Award: Jameis Winston, Buccaneers/Marcus Mariota, Titans
On their own, one turnover-filled game and one benching wouldn't spur any team to find a new quarterback. But the performances of Winston and Mariota were microcosms of careerlong issues. The pattern has continued into Week 6 of their fifth seasons.
Winston actually entered Sunday's game with the NFL's second-best Total QBR (94.8) against the blitz. We touted him for his newfound calm against the pressure just two weeks ago in the QB Awards column. But he didn't just slip against the Panthers' blitz. He crumbled in a way that gave his team no chance to win. Blitzed on a season-high 22 dropbacks Sunday, he threw three interceptions, took three sacks, lost a fumble and completed eight of his 18 attempts.
At times against the Panthers, Winston showed the kind of strong and accurate arm that NFL teams covet. But he has committed at least four turnovers in five games in his career, a completely unacceptable total for a fifth-year starter. No other quarterback has more than two such games IN that span.
Mariota, on the other hand, has wilted in coach Mike Vrabel's run-first philosophy. He ranks 16th in the NFL in total dropbacks (192), but he has the second most (46) in third-and-6 or longer. That's hardly a recipe for success in the passing game, but it's more than fair to expect a better performance in such conditions.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mariota compiled 20.6% fewer passes than would have been expected considering down, distance, defensive pressure and other factors in Week 6. That's the worst mark by a quarterback this season and the seventh lowest since the start of 2016, with a minimum of 15 attempts.
To be clear, the Buccaneers and Titans share some blame for their current predicaments. Winston and Mariota have played under seven offensive coordinators between them, including new hires for both in 2019, and that lack of continuity would stunt the development of most players. But it's clear that both players are well short of the standard that would prompt smart decision-makers to extend their contracts.
You Like That, Seifert?! Award: Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins has been on a tear in the two weeks since I awarded him the title of "least consequential" NFL quarterback. In that span, he has completed 44 of 56 passes for 639 yards, six touchdowns and one interception (and it bounced off his intended receiver). On Sunday, Cousins led the NFL with a 91.4 Total QBR en route to a 38-20 victory over the Eagles.
The passes he completed against the Eagles, including two touchdowns to receiver Stefon Diggs that traveled at least 40 yards past the line of scrimmage, were far from inconsequential. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he led the league by completing 14.5% of his passes above expectation. In other words, he was connecting on relatively high-difficulty throws for much of the game.
The Vikings have found a working formula for Cousins by getting him outside of the pocket on play-action passes. He has thrown for at least 150 yards on play-action in each of his past two games.
Does this mean Cousins has broken through? Or has he simply taken advantage of two defenses -- the Eagles' and Giants' in Week 5 -- that rank among the NFL's bottom half in defensive QBR? It might be a while before we find out. The Vikings don't play a defense currently ranked in the top half of the league in defensive QBR until Week 10 against the Cowboys.
Barely Trying Award: Josh Rosen, Dolphins
From an effort standpoint, I have no doubt that Rosen tried his hardest in a 17-16 loss to the Redskins. But he appeared to have been swallowed up by a losing environment in short order, much as he was last season with the Cardinals, before he was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
There is no shortage of data to back that up, but here's one element that pops: Rosen's average pass arrived at its target 8.9 yards short of the line to gain a first down, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Based on research from ESPN's Seth Walder, that's the worst such mark since the stat was first tracked during the 2016 season.
To no one's surprise, the Dolphins gained only three first downs in Rosen's 30 dropbacks Sunday. Fitzpatrick, by comparison, led the Dolphins to seven passing first downs in 18 dropbacks.
Welcome Back Award: Sam Darnold, Jets
Darnold let it rip in his return from mononucleosis. He threw nine passes that traveled at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage in a 24-22 victory over the Cowboys and completed seven of them for 240 yards. His 92-yard touchdown pass to receiver Robby Anderson traveled 40 yards in the air, a career high.
The longest TD from scrimmage this season.— NFL (@NFL) October 13, 2019
Sam Darnold & @youngamazing9 #TakeFlight for 92 yards! 🛩 #DALvsNYJ
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Overall, Darnold was in exceptional command for a player who just recovered from a prolonged illness. His success was hardly the result of breakdowns in the Cowboys' defense.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Darnold threw into tight windows -- less than 1 yard between the target receiver and the nearest defender -- on 31.3% of his attempts, the second-highest rate by a quarterback in Week 6. His receivers were classified as "wide open" -- with a defender no closer than 3 yards from the target -- on 6.3% of his attempts. Only three quarterbacks benefited in Week 6 from fewer wide-open receivers, and all three lost.