While the return of the pure rushing quarterback is likely never going to happen, we are in the golden age of passers who use their mobility as a well-timed weapon.
"You know what? For myself, I kind of like the spy because it takes another guy out of coverage or another guy out of rushing," Mariota said this week, via The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Obviously, you're kind of limited outside the pocket but to have one less defender in coverage or one less defender rushing you, I think it's helpful."
The spy, which takes one lineman or linebacker away from rush or coverage specifically to track a mobile quarterback, would be a fascinating proposition for Mariota this weekend against defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme. With multiple cross-trained linebackers, the responsibility could be passed around quite easily, while forcing Mariota to lean on his arm more than he has all season. The Packers (4-4) currently have the seventh-best defense in football.
Over the last four weeks, Mariota has thrown for at least 270 yards in each game and topped 300 yards twice. Perhaps as a corollary, his rushing yards dipped from 64 in a Week 6 win over the Browns to 39 total yards over each of the last three weeks. Maybe the spy does have an effect, after all.
On the other sideline, Aaron Rodgers is second on the team in rushing with 199 yards, almost exclusively due to the fact that opposing teams can't really spy him thanks to his devastating arm talent.
Should Mariota continue to bolster his passing credentials, he could one day find himself in a similar situation -- too good a passer for other teams to sacrifice a defender as a spy, too good a rusher for them not to. Beating Capers at home Sunday would go a long way toward making that a reality.