Marcus Mariota

Raiders' Marcus Mariota was 'killing' Titans defense as scout team QB

Raiders' Marcus Mariota was 'killing' Titans defense as scout team QB

When Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota lost his starting job to Ryan Tannehill last year, he took it in stride. He didn't complain or mope, instead, he set off to do what he could do to help his team win.

As scout team quarterback, that included dismantling the Titans' starting defense, according to former teammate Logan Ryan.

"He started killing us every single week," Ryan told "The Double Coverage" podcast. "Like, he started ripping us in practice. Marcus Mariota was the practice quarterback and he was destroying us. And it made us better."

Mariota's time in Tennessee was plagued with injuries, staff and system changes and inconsistent play followed. The 2015 No. 2 overall pick never had a coach that truly was behind him and believed in the abilities that saw him win the 2014 Heisman Trophy and open eyes during his first two seasons as a starter.

The Oregon product now has that in general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden. To be sure, the Raiders still are Derek Carr's team, but the Silver and Black believe in Mariota.

He wasn't fully healthy in 2019 and Mayock said it would take time to "rebuild" him. Mariota battled a nerve issue during the 2018 season after taking a helmet shot to his elbow during Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.

He's coming into Las Vegas a 1B not a 2. He'll push Carr to be better and make the quarterback room as strong as it has been.

As he showed last year, Mariota is a great leader, a fantastic teammate and the potential for him to be a good NFL quarterback still exists. The Titans were impressed by how well Mariota ran the Baltimore Ravens' offense when mimicking Lamar Jackson ahead of their playoff game.

That's no surprise. Mariota entered the NFL in a time when a host of Mike Mularkeys and Ken Whisenhunts were trying to force athletic, spread-style quarterbacks into old-school offensive systems. The "exotic smashmouth" the Titans ran under Mularkey was a detriment to his growth as an NFL signal-caller. Instead of doing as the Ravens did with Jackson and playing to Mariota's clear strengths, the Titans tried to force him to be a three-step drop pocket-passer.

Even when Mariota showed off what he could do, the Titans tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.

When healthy and confident, Mariota is capable of being a game-changing quarterback.

When he was coming out of college, both Gruden and Mayock -- who were television analysts -- raved about Mariota's ability. Gruden even likened him to Russell Wilson.

"I don't understand why he isn't the No. 1 player in this draft on Mel Kiper's Big Board," Gruden said. "I don't know anybody in this draft that can do for a football team what Mariota can do. He can read the field. That whole thing about Oregon being a no-huddle, dive-option team, that is just a narrative resulting from a lack of information. The Ducks run a lot of pro-style concepts. Mariota does a lot with the protections. I've seen him throw the ball with touch and timing in tight windows.

"Mariota is the same size as Jameis Winston. He runs 4.52 40, he is incredibly elusive, and man, is he a playmaker and a great competitor. I see him functioning in the pocket, out of the pocket, and if you want to run a zone-read, he'll rip the defense apart. He is like Russell Wilson, only he is 6-4."

Mariota also has done something Carr hasn't been able to do -- win in Kansas City. While that win didn't come against Patrick Mahomes, Mariota did lead the Titans to a come-from-behind playoff win at Arrowhead Stadium. In that game he caught his own deflected pass and ran it in for a touchdown and threw the game-sealing block on a Derrick Henry run.

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The Raiders have faith Carr will have a big season. He has the weapons to have a career year as he enters Year 3 in Gruden's system.

But the Raiders also have faith in who Mariota can be when healthy and confident. That rebuilding process might take some time, but the talent clearly still is there.

There's no doubt Gruden was grinning hearing Ryan talk about his weekly practice torchings.

Derek Carr addresses Raiders' Marcus Mariota addition, Tom Brady talk

Derek Carr addresses Raiders' Marcus Mariota addition, Tom Brady talk

Derek Carr knew Marcus Mariota was on the Raiders’ radar this offseason. The Silver and Black needed a quality backup capable of stepping in should Carr miss time, something the team’s starting quarterback obviously understands.

There was never any doubt who the alpha was when Mike Glennon or A.J. McCarron were here. Those guys largely are career backups. Mariota, however, is not. He was the starter for four and a half years with the Tennessee Titans before losing the title to Ryan Tannehill.

Carr’s latest backup offers greater competition than most, even though the hierarchy remains as secure as ever. Carr, a seven-year veteran, is unfazed by that, even with unique incentives in Mariota’s contract that would pay him handsomely should he assume the starting spot.

“I gotta be honest with you, it doesn’t even bother me one bit,” Carr said in an interview with The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, in a Q&A posted Friday morning. “And that is being completely true to myself. No one outside of who I am is going to push me harder than me. Like, I always encourage guys to go ahead and wake up when I wake up, study how much I study, work hard like I work hard. I’m not the least bit looking to my left or to my right when I’m doing a rep, I’m focused on me.

“It’s just that when you’re the same face and you’re one of the last same faces that’s been around for seven years, people just look for things to point out.”

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

Carr’s mistakes are pointed out more often than his statistical superlatives achieved working with head coach Jon Gruden, mostly because the team has struggled to win consistently over the past three seasons.

The backup quarterback is always a fan favorite, someone who remains attractive with clean jersey while the starter’s gets dirty over the successes and failures of an NFL season. That surely will be the case with Mariota, though the Oregon product is known as an excellent teammate who has made it clear he’s here to support Carr as the starter.

“I knew ahead of time that Marcus was on the radar, but I didn’t know if Marcus would choose to come here,” Carr said. “But I’m glad that he did. I will say this, I’ve been around a lot of good dudes, but he’s one of the best people that I’ve ever been around. I’ve had a lot of great quarterbacks come into our room and a lot of guys that were excited — E.J. Manuel comes to mind — but Marcus was the first one out of all those guys that right when he signed, he texted me and said, “Derek, I am here to fully support you and help in any way that I can, and grow myself as a player and get healthy.

“And not one time has that ever happened. He’s just here to help … and obviously, he is here to compete — we all know that. This is football. That’s everybody’s job.”

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Carr understands that it’s general manager Mike Mayock’s job, along with Gruden, to evaluate all quarterback options in the draft and free agency. He told The Athletic that he never doubted he would return as Raiders starting quarterback, even as the team was casually flirting with Tom Brady.

“Yeah, let’s be honest, the dude has won six Super Bowls,” Carr said. “You have to be crazy to not watch his film and talk about it when he is a free agent. Right? You’re going to watch film of Tom Brady. Like, where’s he at?

“…Everybody wants to make it into a bad thing. Either way, whatever happened, Raiders fans were going to be in good hands. We’re going to be good. We’re going to be efficient either way, Raiders fans. At the end of the day, you know, you can have 32 GMs watch the film and 16 may say this and 16 may say that. Obviously, our GM and coach made their decision. I know we live in a world of hot takes, and we gotta make some controversy, but the guy won six Super Bowls and every team in the league popped in his film when he became a free agent. I will just say that I’m glad to be our quarterback and I was very, very confident that I would be the whole time.”

Derek Carr says he's united with Marcus Mariota in Raiders' QB room

Derek Carr says he's united with Marcus Mariota in Raiders' QB room

When the Raiders signed free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason, many expected him to at least push incumbent Derek Carr for the starting position.

But despite the likely upcoming battle between them for playing time, Carr says the two already are developing a kinship off the field.

"We've talked already," Carr told Will Compton and Taylor Lewan. "He is by far one of the coolest, nicest, professional people I've ever been around. I've got nothing but good things to say about him. He's amazing."

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Carr also hopes the relationship continues to build going into the franchise’s first season in Las Vegas.

"I think the most important thing is to have a united quarterback room," Carr said. "I've always thought that. When you have a strong united quarterback [room], we can all go lead the football team.”

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Despite much criticism at the tail end of the 2019 season, Carr did set career-highs in completion percentage (70.4), passing yards (4,054) and passer rating (100.8). But the team’s collapse down the back half of the season caused rumors to swirl throughout the offseason.

Mariota has a lot to prove after losing the starting job to Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee, although he had started 61 games for the Titans over five seasons.

While solidarity between the two definitely is in the best interest of the Raiders, a little friendly competition wouldn’t hurt anyone.