It's weird to think that given the preseason expectations for the Tennessee Titans, losing in the AFC Championship game would constitute a bad season but it was that for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The only Heisman winner in Oregon Ducks history was benched following a 2-4 start to the season in favor of former-Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Quite a fall from grace for Mariota who Tennessee drafted second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and threw, ran and rushed for a touchdown in the 2017 Wild Card round at Kansas City.
The Titans would go on to earn a wild card playoff berth, ultimately advancing to the AFC Championship, while Mariota held a clipboard.
I have no doubts at all, no doubts at all. I'm just hopeful and ready for whatever that next opportunity is.
Mariota has shown flashes throughout his professional career, including an impressive sophomore campaign when he threw 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions with a career-best 7.9 yards-per-attempt until a broken leg ended his season. His junior season saw massive regression as he threw 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions while playing through a hamstring injury. That regression would continue into his fourth season under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel.
Before being benched, Mariota has a 29-32 record in 61 games as a starter with 13,207 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, and 44 interceptions. After being benched Mariota was a consummate professional until the end. Head coach Mike Vrabel praised Mariota's professionalism throughout the season.
Vrabel on Mariota: Talked to him this morning and told him how proud he is with how he handled everything this season. Said he's a great leader, and he improved.@Titans— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) January 20, 2020
It's not entirely Mariota's fault, however; few young quarterbacks would succeed with four offensive coordinators and five different play-callers during their rookie contract. When he hits the open market in March, he can seek out a better opportunity to turn his career around.
NBC Sports Northwest's Seahawks Insider Joe Fann speculated that five teams could bring in Mariota to compete for the starting job: Dolphins, Chargers (if Rivers leaves), Colts, Bears and Panthers. Additionally, if all of those teams don't want Mariota as a stopgap solution as they groom a rookie or stay put with their current starters than perhaps Mariota could return to the pacific northwest to back up Russell Wilson.