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GMs 'fearful' of taking the plunge on Mariota, Winston?

MOBILE, Ala. -- Scouts and coaches here at the 2015 Senior Bowl did not have the opportunity to personally instruct, interview or evaluate either of the consensus top two quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Marcus Mariota opted to skip the All-Star game and Jameis Winston was not eligible. And while it doesn't sound like an emergency for any of the quarterback-needy teams just yet -- there is the NFL Scouting Combine in less than a month, after all -- information has never been at more of a premium when it comes to signal-callers.

The reason, according to several coaches and executives who spoke to Around The NFL over the last two days, is that patience with rookie quarterbacks has never been thinner. The same goes for general managers, who, after years of surviving multiple mistakes, are becoming just as expendable as the players they draft.

Seventeen teams have had more than one general manager since 2011. Just 10 teams have the same general manager they did back in 2008.

Basically, self-preservation could start motivating coaches and executives to tread water instead of gambling the job away.

"Once you make the pick," said one NFC executive, "the clock starts ticking."

The tension surrounding quarterback selections has steadily increased over the years, but this past offseason has placed the situation in a new light. Jets general manager John Idzik was fired after just two seasons, largely because of his shortcomings in the draft. The most visible failure to date? Geno Smith.

This was not without precedent, of course. Mark Dominik's tenure mirrored that of Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay. Mike Tannenbaum made it only as far as Mark Sanchez in New York. Jeff Ireland barely survived Chad Henne in Miami.

But now the timeline has been compressed further, according to several polled for this story.

"Everyone is fearful," said one NFC coach. "When they draft one, what if they make a mistake? It's not going to work out too well. The GM, the coach and the quarterback are tied together."

The coach added that the process is much more painstaking than it was a few years ago. The science hasn't changed but the level of desperation has.

All of the hysteria compounding the way it has places an intense spotlight over the next month. First-time general manager Jason Licht has the No. 1 overall pick and a hole at quarterback. Ruston Webster, believed by some to be on shaky ground entering his fourth season as the Titans' general manager, also needs a passer and picks No. 2.

Neither Winston nor Mariota have drawn the type of praise from talent evaluators that is consistent with a sure thing. In his initial mock draft, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah noted the maturity issues plaguing one and the development time needed for another.

How will that parlay into the free-agent market this year? Do Michael Vick, Matt Flynn, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, Matt Moore, Brian Hoyer, Luke McCown, Ryan Mallett or Tarvaris Jackson get another look? Does taking a flier on Garrett Grayson in the third round or Bryce Petty in the fifth instead all-of-a-sudden seem like an idea one can sell to his bosses three years down the line?

"With all those picks, especially quarterback, it's Russian Roulette," said one AFC personnel executive. "You have to figure out what you don't know about the guy. The tape is what you know, the system, you'll know how it translates, but what don't you know about the guy?"

There are coaches and executives, many of them, who will scoff at the idea of fearing a pick. Confidence is paramount and the building block of an organization.

"I know coaches that are too competitive to just sustain their jobs," the NFC coach said. "I don't share that sentiment. If you do that, you're just trying to sustain your job."

But maybe that is the feeling of someone who hasn't been to the bottom before, saddled with a quarterback who is clearly not appropriate for the system.

That's when the fear, the regret, the back-tracking sinks in. What if there is no second chance?

The latest Around The NFL Podcast analyzes the Russell Wilson/Roger Staubach comparison and hands out the first Coach Carousel Awards. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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