What Donald Trump has in common with Marcus Mariota: Lessons for the Republican Party to learn

I had just been complimentary of the 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in spite of my concerns that they had picked the right quarterback in the draft, but trusted that Lovie Smith knew what he was doing. As the Tennessee Titans won a game epically 42 to 14 with the quarterback I wanted, Marcus Mariota being pulled in the third quarter so not to rub the nose of my favorite team in an opening day disaster—it was obvious Lovie Smith had not prepared his team. Smith was stuck in the past when the Bucs were successful, when the Tampa 2 defense was created, and an era that built several Hall of Fame players reigned supreme. Tennessee drafted Mariota and let him play virtually the same spread offense that he won with at Oregon. Mariota, who had been picked two in the draft, was clearly the better quarterback. The negatives on him were that he wasn’t NFL ready as a rookie, was not a pocket passer, and that his stunts would not work in the NFL. Well, Tennessee ignored all that, let the kid play his game, his way, and the Bucs weren’t even competitive. Mariota had a perfect QB rating for his first NFL start. Lovie got caught looking toward the past and adhering to the unspoken rules of NFL coaching—where Cover 2 defenses are still respected and pocket passers at quarterback are tickets to playoffs.

It was discussed all preseason that Mariota was not NFL ready, yet while playing a pretty good Tampa Bay defense, he was baiting defensive ends and line backers to jump off coverage and defend him leaving often three receivers in single coverage down field as the safeties pulled up to cover the linebackers. He looked pretty NFL ready, and the stats proved it to be. But as good as Mariota was that day, Lovie Smith made him look far better by preparing the Bucs incorrectly for the game. Obviously the Tampa Bay coaching staff assumed from the tape provided by Tennessee’s preseason games that Mariota was going to be forced to adhere to the unspoken NFL rules. But in reality, within 2 minutes of playing, it was obvious that the Tennessee Titans pulled the reigns off Mariota and let him play the way he won in college with the Ducks. Innovation gave way to tradition and the Titans won in a big way.

As I was thinking about that game and writing off another Buccaneers season before it ever got started, two Republican insiders contacted me for the first time in a long time. These were people who had been critical of my aggressive political approach on things and people I had relegated to ineffective wimps in the past. They assumed that my fight first strategy against political opponents was wrong, because the majority in the Republican Party wanted to play nice and expand the base through appeasement—to slowly win over Democrats and other moderates to the Party of Lincoln. I have always been against that strategy and have written much about how to win women voters, minorities, and the youth, and I have been at odds with the general strategies of orthodox political behavior. This has been going on for a number of years with pretty public spats involving Chairman of the Republican Party Carlos Todd, Commissioner Michael Fox, Trustee Bob Shelly, the Lakota School boards of 2004-2005, 2010 through 2015 and of course Judy Shelton and Patti Alderson. Generally the assumption was that my approach was reckless and unprofessional. Then Donald Trump became a political sensation in 2015 and the orthodox was beginning to understand what I’ve been talking about for two decades. If they had only listened instead of fighting me on every little thing they would have won more often and maintained a much more conservative Republican Party as a result, instead of curbing their party to the weakest links of political philosophy.

This article was published during the mighty CNN debate which was poised to change history as Donald Trump—who has always been an original, was essentially doing what I have said to do for years—and he’s winning—big. The presidential debate brought huge numbers to CNN, well beyond even their fantasy of beating Fox News for a change, and it’s essentially because Donald Trump has been a fighter and is offering that to the political landscape for the first time in most people’s lifetimes. And people are responding. As the debate started it was obvious all the other Republican candidates were gunning to put an end to Trump, but the New York billionaire staved off the threat in much the way that Marcus Mariota had avoided the Bucs defense and Lovie Smith’s game plan to dominate easily over a political establishment who had been following the wrong strategy for the past four sitting presidents. I couldn’t help but see a correlation between Donald Trump’s run for president in 2016 and the terrible defeat of my favorite team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their opening day by a creative and outside the box quarterback in Marcus Mariota. Lovie had picked the wrong guy in the draft and now the Republicans were trying their hardest to pick the wrong guy to run for president in 2016 by destroying their best option.

Currently the biggest issue on the table of the world is the lifestyle of America versus the rest of the world which is leaning heavily toward socialism and the sense of collectivism that fuels it. There isn’t a single policy or law which could be created under the next American president which could save the world from its ridiculous commitment to social collectivism. Nothing said on the debate stage for CNN will manifest into action by any of the candidates other than Trump, and here’s why, because he represents the pronoun I, and every other candidate represents the “we.” America needs to feel good about itself again starting with individual achievement, not through collective “team work.”

The Tennessee Titans without Marcus Mariota would have probably lost to Tampa Bay and Lovie Smith’s “team concept.” Tampa drafted a team leader who could elevate the other players through motivation. Mariota on the other hand easily beat that same quarterback in the college playoffs earlier in the year when Florida State had been undefeated at the time. Mariota beat that player with all different team members on the field in precisely the same basic way, with an unconventional spread offense that favored the intelligence and physical attributes of Mariota. The offense had been built to accommodate the individual who Mariota was.

On the other hand, Jamies Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was molded to an NFL style of play that is quickly becoming extinct but features “team play.” Obviously that approach was wrong and lost to the innovations of the Titans who catered their entire team toward the individual of Mariota. While Smith insisted all preseason stated that the young Winston would need time to acclimate to the NFL, the Titans turned their player loose, and expected immediate results. Time will tell if this approach will last, but for one game anyway, it worked marvelously well and the results were grossly obvious. Winston was picked to be a typical pocket passing quarterback in the style of Payton Manning and Tom Brady. But the game is changing, and Mariota is part of that innovation, and Smith just didn’t see the truck that hit him on opening day.

The Republicans are making the same mistake with Trump. The way to fix America is not through a leader, it is in making people leaders of their own lives, and to do that we need someone who won’t apologize for being proud of their efforts. The self-boasting and pride obvious by Trump in himself is exactly what America needs to feel about itself. That is the innovation of the future in politics, advocating the proper political philosophy, not just going after votes at the booth by appeasing pop culture into participating enough to get Party support for their candidates. It doesn’t matter if Trump was a Democrat, or was a typical New York progressive, or if he is the scum of the universe. What matters in Trump is that he loves himself and America needs to have that guilt removed from them so that they too can feel good about themselves once again. That is the only way to fix anything. I have said so for a long time, and now Trump is really the first to show how powerful such an approach can be. The key is in not allowing the other side to use guilt to paralyze us into inaction. That is the strategy of Democrats and it has worked. The way for Republicans to win is to stop feeling guilty and just let the truth do its job. If Republicans would do that, they’d win a lot more in the game of political theater. And like Trump, and Mariota, they make it look pretty easy because it is. Trust in the pronoun I, and let that “team” crap die with Lovie Smith’s approach to the game of football.

The game plan is now out and there is no going back. Now that Trump has done it, every liberal celebrity who thinks they can run for president will. Mark Cuban might very well be next, so if Republicans don’t seize a celebrity who is currently a conservative, they may very well lose the opportunity to take the White House for the next five decades. There is no going back to a Mitt Romney, or a George Bush. Politicians have abused the system so long that the public is done with them.   So Republican Party people who should have listened to me years ago better listen now. You better embrace Trump. If you do you can have the White House for probably the next 16 years and in 2024, you might just get someone like Ted Cruz. Learn from Lovie Smith of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and don’t get caught looking at what worked in the past. Embrace what will work in the future, and seize the opportunity when you get it. For Republicans, that opportunity is now.

Rich Hoffman


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