After losing five of its last six games, the Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) have been eliminated from playoff contention despite beginning the season 6-3.
Therefore with little to play for, Jon Gruden's approach to Week 17 was up in the air. Would he rest the starters or try starting Marcus Mariota to see what he can do with a specified gameplan?
“Derek will start and finish the season, just as we anticipated he would,” Gruden said via The Mercury News. “Whether Marcus has a role in this we’ll wait and see.”
The former Heisman winner performed well on Thursday Night Football against the Los Angeles Rams in relief of an injured Derek Carr, passing for 226 yards, one touchdown, and one interception to go with 88 rushing yards and another score on the ground.
There's been some speculation the Raiders could try using Mariota in select packages similar to how New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton uses Taysom Hill: a backup quarterback who has certain packages for him to run the ball himself or fake a running play for a large play down the field.
Gruden seemed hesitant at the idea as playing two quarterbacks doesn't seem his style.
“I think if we put Marcus in at quarterback I think most coaches are pretty sharp,” Gruden said. “They know plays can be different. He’s not the only dual-threat quarterback playing in the NFL.”
Las Vegas signed Mariota to a two-year, $17.6 million deal last offseason that has a first-year guarantee of $7.5 million with some incentives for playing time.
It's likely Mariota will be on Las Vegas as the backup to Carr again next season, but that deal seems quite tradable as well. Perhaps a team may want to trade for Mariota to try him out as a starter next season after watching him play well against the Chargers?
That would appear to be his best bet for playing time outside of an injury to Derek Carr.