Marcus Mariota keeps Eagles buzz alive

PHILADELPHIA – Just as it began to sink in that Chip Kelly probably was not angling toward a chance to draft Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, that Sam Bradford probably was the Eagles’ quarterback, who shows up in Atlantic City for the Maxwell Football Club banquet?

Mariota, of course. The Heisman Trophy winner will also receive the Maxwell Award for being the college football player of the year.

Restart the speculation machine. The Eagles did send quarterbacks coach Ryan Day to Oregon’s pro day Thursday. Day had breakfast with Mariota. Meanwhile, Mariota’s workout received tepid reviews, fueling speculation that he could slide down in the draft. If Kelly could get Mariota without “mortgaging the future,” he would almost have to do it, right?

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Mariota told reports Friday in Atlantic City. “But coach Kelly and the Eagles are going to do what’s best for that team. We’ll see what happens.”

Mariota said he took a look at draft projections and had an idea what the market for him might be. Tampa Bay and Tennessee hold the first two picks in the draft.

“I think in the process of this entire thing, you understand what teams need quarterbacks,” Mariota said. “But there’s always going to be a team that might jump up and take you. So, it’s one of the processes where you just got to wait. It’s out of your control and let everything else unfold and see where you fall.”

Kelly and the Eagles hold the 20th pick in the first round. Mariota said he met with Kelly at the NFL scouting combine last month, but that it was more of a friendly visit.

“It went well,” Mariota said. “He just asked me how I was doing and nothing more than that. … For the most part he just kind of checks in on me and sees how I’m doing.”

Mariota asked if it meant something to him to be the first overall pick in the draft. His answer was telling.

“Not at all,” Mariota said. “To me, it comes down to if you find the right place and you’re in the right place.”

Presumably, he would be most comfortable playing in Kelly’s offense. It is not exactly the same as it was at Oregon, but there have been critics who say Mariota might take time to adjust to more traditional NFL offenses.

“That’s people’s opinions,” Mariota said. “I can’t control that. I just focus on what I can do and ultimately make myself prepared for the NFL. I think any process, any transition into this game, going into the NFL, is going to be tough. I think for me, the biggest step for me is I’m going to learn whatever system I go into and find ways to be able to learn it as fast as I can and be able to execute.”

Mariota is smart not to sound overly enthusiastic about a possible reunion with Kelly. He has no control over that. No player in the draft really does. He doesn’t want to alienate other teams that could draft him higher, especially since that will mean being paid better.

He was asked if he would like being drafted by the New York Jets, who hold the sixth pick.

“I’d love to play for the Jets and I think meeting with their offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach was awesome,” Mariota said. “It was an opportunity for me to kind of introduce myself. It seems like a great organization.”

That’s how the game is played. Mariota is handling that part of it just like a franchise quarterback should.