DALLAS - NFL scouts visited Eugene, Ore., this season and asked Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost what system he would run with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota in the pros.
"Whatever the hell offense you want to run," Frost replied. "I think he can do anything."
Mariota has turned into college football's biggest star in the offense that Eagles coach Chip Kelly brought to Oregon. When Mariota was a freshman, Kelly predicted that he would win the Heisman. Before Mariota fulfilled Kelly's prediction in December, Kelly called him "the most talented kid I coached in college."
Mariota's storied college career might finish on Monday, when the Ducks play Ohio State for the national championship. If Mariota, a fourth-year junior, declares for the NFL draft, he could be the No. 1 pick.
Mariota has become a source of intrigue among Eagles fans because Kelly still has not settled on his long-term starting quarterback, and Mariota would seem the ideal fit.
It's a near impossibility for the Eagles to move from No. 20 to No. 1 in the first round, making it unlikely Kelly would reunite with Mariota, unless the quarterback's stock plunges. But Mariota plays, acts, and looks like the type of quarterback who would thrive under Kelly.
He is a dual threat who has 10,463 passing yards, 2,198 rushing yards, and 132 touchdowns in three college seasons. He also has a 66.8 career completion percentage and a 40-3 touchdown-interception ratio in 2014.
Mariota has the low-maintenance personality that would seamlessly integrate into the culture Kelly has tried to create at the NovaCare Complex. And at 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds with a 40-yard dash clocked at 4.48 seconds, Mariota has a size-speed combination difficult to find among quarterbacks.
Kelly needed to be convinced that Mariota should be his quarterback.
The Ducks initially secured an oral commitment from former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel and recruited UCLA standout Brett Hundley in the summer of 2010. Mariota was then a reserved Hawaiian with a modest prep pedigree discovered by current Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, and Frost remembered Kelly wondering whether Mariota was too quiet.
Kelly quickly became a Mariota believer.
"It took about two days on campus before we all knew how good he can be," said Frost, who was the wide-receivers coach under Kelly.
During a practice early in Mariota's first fall camp, a lineman missed a protection. Mariota dodged a rusher, stayed in the pocket, eluded another defender, and scanned all the way from the left side to the right, where he snapped a 55-yard pass over a defensive back's head to his wide receiver. There was not even a hint of panic on Mariota's face.
"We all kind of looked at each other and knew we had a good one," Frost said.
Others have their own stories.
Backup quarterback Jeff Lockie remembers September 2013, when the Ducks had a third and 5 on the opening drive and called a quarterback draw. Mariota rushed about 6 yards before the safeties collapsed. Mariota sprinted past them for a 71-yard score.
"We all realized, he's pretty fast," Lockie said. "Like, OK, this guy has some talent that other people don't."
When describing Mariota earlier this season, Helfrich told reporters that the quarterback "cares more about practice rep 13, period 12, than any guy I've been around."
That is a quality that Kelly savors in his players - in fact, it was Kelly who said that the fourth quarter of a September Eagles-Colts game was "no different than period 22 on a Wednesday or Thursday."
On Saturday, Helfrich explained how Mariota is "equal parts superstar and just almost like an offensive lineman" who simply goes about his business.
Mariota has needed to become more vocal, and teammates acknowledged his leadership. Helfrich said Mariota takes more notes in offensive meetings than "anybody else in the room combined."
"When a redshirt freshman corner sees the Heisman Trophy [winner] taking more notes than anybody else, that resonates," Helfrich said.
Those are intangibles that work in Mariota's favor, and there is no argument against his production. The knock on Mariota is that Oregon's offense is different from many NFL schemes, and that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is more pro-ready - a suggestion that makes Frost question the credentials of draft experts.
"I think Marcus is the ideal quarterback for any scheme," Frost said.
Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff, who played with Mariota at Oregon, insisted that Mariota's production is based on talent, not scheme. Huff theorized that if Mariota played for a different program in a different system, he still would have received the accolades that came his way.
Frost, who played for four NFL teams, said the only quarterback he's been around with an arm that can compete with Mariota's is Brett Favre. Frost added that Mariota is "as accurate" and "makes as quick of decisions" as any quarterback he has seen - attributes Kelly craves.
"He'll stand in the pocket and make every throw, get you in the right protection, he'll read coverages, and then he'll run and make plays with his feet," Frost said. "I don't think there's a scheme in football he couldn't run."
The bad news for Kelly and Eagles fans is that in a few months, Mariota likely will get the chance to prove it somewhere else.