Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota set to "let it ride" during pivotal season with the Tennessee Titans

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Marcus Mariota set to "let it ride" during pivotal season with the Tennessee Titans

Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has one year to prove his worth or his career in Tennessee could come to an end next offseason. 

It's as simple as that. His response to the situation: “I just try to be the best I can be for this team, and let it ride,” he told reporters during organized team activities this week. 

The gambling analogy fits. The Titans wagered $20.9 million on Mariota in 2019 that he could still develop into a franchise quarterback by picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract signed as the No. 2-overall selection in 2015. Tennessee also hedged that bet by trading for Ryan Tannehill, a 2012 first-round pick by Miami that didn't materialize into the franchise quarterback the Dolphins hoped they were getting. 

Nevertheless, Tannehill can play the position at a high level at times, as evidenced by his 126 career touchdown passes. In fact, he plays it well enough to push Mariota to the sideline should he falter this season.

For now, Tennessee has made it clear that Mariota is the starter.

“His job is not in jeopardy,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters. “I don’t think that’s something we’re even here to talk about."

Sure thing. But that stance could change in a nanosecond. See last year's situation in Tampa Bay between Jameis Winston, the No. 1-overall pick in 2015, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Winston, suspended to start the season, lost his job, then got it back, then lost it again, and now is once again the starter. In between, Fitzpatrick was both brilliant and dreadful. 

The same juggling act could happen in Tennessee if Mariota isn't careful. Should a juggling act transpire, Mariota could be looking for work next offseason. 

Mariota has had an up-and-down career. At times he has looked brilliant. Other times, very ordinary. Meanwhile, other young quarterbacks have passed him by. Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes II, Houston's Deshaun Watson, Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky, Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas' Dak Prescott and San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo would not be traded straight up for Mariota. All were drafted after 2015 with the exception of Garoppolo, taken by New England in 2014 before being traded to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season when he became a starter. 

If you're the Titans and your once promising franchise star has been surpassed by six younger quarterbacks, it doesn't make much sense to give him a $100 million contract extension. You would, instead, do what Miami did by moving on from the failed experiment and going down another path. 

The irony in all of this is that Mariota might be better off elsewhere. Vrabel is his third head coach in four years and he's working with his fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons. One must wonder if Mariota would be in a different place in his career had he landed on a team with more stability at the top and a better supporting cast. 

Mariota is smart, accurate, takes good care of the ball from a passing standpoint (just like at Oregon he can become careless with ball security while avoiding pressure) and he still has wide receiver speed to make things happen with his legs. 

Mariota had several outstanding games last season when not bothered by injuries that impacted his passing abilities. 

The Titans have plenty of reasons to gamble on Mariota. The Titans narrowly missed the playoffs last season with their starting quarterback battling injuries and producing just 11 touchdown passes. If he comes near the 26 touchdown passes he threw in 2016, Tennessee could very well make the postseason and extend Mariota.

That all said, Tennessee also has legitimate reasons to prepare for the worst-cased scenario that could see the two parties part ways less than a year from now. 

Tennessee Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota's NFL career is at a crossroads

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Tennessee Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota's NFL career is at a crossroads

Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota shouldn't be considered a bust four years into his NFL career with the Tennessee Titans. That designation would be patently unfair. 

However, it's clear that the 2014 Heisman Trophy recipient has yet to distinguish himself as a star in the NFL, of as even a legitimate building block at the most important position for a potential championship contender. 

A proper grade for Mariota's career to date would be: Incomplete. 

For that reason, and the realities of financial obligations surrounding the most important single position in any team sport, Tennessee was wise to acquire quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a sixth-round pick in 2019 for a fourth-round pick in 2020 and a seventh-round pick this year.

Mariota is due to make $21 million this season on the final year of his rookie deal. Tennessee has not indicated that it will seek to sign Mariota, 25, to an extension until after he proves himself this upcoming season. And why should they? Mariota has not demonstrated that he is worthy a team tying up $100 million with huge long-term cap hits to a quarterback that has not proven to be a franchise guy. 

That's exactly the reason why Miami moved Tannehill, 30, after seven seasons with the Dolphins. In 2015, he signed a contract extension worth $96 million that tied him to Miami through 2020. But instead of continuing with that deal, Miami decided to move on from Tannehill and take a cap hit of about $13.4 million this season in order to free up money sooner and find another quarterback in the process. 

Miami took a chance on Tannehill and it didn't pay off. Tennessee is trying to avoid making the same mistake with Mariota and has signed Tannehill as insurance in case the former Duck is injured or simply does not perform well. The Titans will be in a position to either sign Mariota long-term should he elevate his play, or franchise tag him in 2020 and make him prove it again, or let him go with no cap ramifications and go with Tannehill in 2020, or completely start over at quarterback without a huge financial obligation at that position. 

Titans general manager Jon Robinson has stated that Mariota is the starter and that Tannehill is being brought in as the backup. But he is no ordinary backup. He is a former full-time starter that has had some success and would offer a much better option to turn to than Blaine Gabbert did last season. 

Robinson met with the media today and talked about Mariota's progress from his injury that slowed him last season. 

“He said he's feeling good, working out and moving around, throwing,” Robinson said told reporters. “I think he's going to come back here a little bit before the appointed time (April 15) and get some work in. I'm looking forward to getting back to work with him, excited to have him back on our football team. Look forward to it.”

Mariota has been brilliant at times. In his second season he passed fro 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions and appeared to be on the fast track to stardom. But his season ended late in the year when he fractured his fibula. The impacts of that injury appeared to linger the following season and he regressed, passing for just 13 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Tennessee used a potent running game and solid defense to overcome the lack of a quality passing game and reached the playoffs where Mariota orchestrated a second-half comeback at Kansas City that resulted in a playoff victory for the Titans. 

Last season, Mariota began slowly after an elbow injury cost him some time. But he was magnificent on several occasions.

  • Sept. 30 vs. Philadelphia: Mariota had arguably his best performance as a professional when he threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and had the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to defeat Philadelphia 26-23. He also rushed for a touchdown. 
  • Nov. 5 at Dallas: Mariota threw for 240 yards on 21-of-29 passing with two touchdowns and ran for another in a 28-14 Monday night win at the Cowboys.
  • Nov. 11 vs. New England: Mariota completed 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a 34-10 win over New England.
  • Nov. 26 at Houston: Mariota completed 22 of 23 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Texans. 

 

The problem was that Mariota had trouble staying healthy, twice going down with injuries. He also closed the season with zero touchdown passes over his final three appearances, all victories, to finish with 11 touchdown passes and eight interceptions on the season. 

In 29 starts over the past two years, Mariota has thrown just 24 touchdowns with 23 interceptions. Compare those numbers to Tannehill​​​​​​'s final two healthy seasons in Miami (he missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury) when over 24 starts he threw for 36 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. 

On paper, one would wonder why Tennessee is even bothering with allowing Mariota to be the presumptive starter in 2019. But there are plenty of reasons why one shouldn't give up on Mariota just yet. 

First, and maybe foremost, he has had three head coach in four seasons. Ken Whisenhunt was the man in 2015 when the Titans drafted Mariota but was let go after a 1-6 start and replaced by Mike Mularkey.  Mariota had his best season under Mularkey and won a playoff game the following season. But, the Titans let him go following the 2017 season to hired Mike Vrabel. He is now on his second offensive coordinator after Matt LaFleur left Tennessee after one season to take the same job in Green Bay. The Titans elevated former tight ends coach Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator. 

Needless to say, a revolving door of head coaches and offensive coordinators is not very quarterback friendly. 

Also, Tennessee has been very average at wide receiver during Mariota's career. Dorial Green-Beckham led team wide receivers in 2015 with 549 yards. Rishard Matthews led the team in 2016 with 945 yards and in 2017 with 795. Corey Davis, the fifth-overall pick in 2017, led Titans' wide receivers with 891 last year and appears to be on track to becoming a legit star. Maybe. 

The lack of a true No. 1 receiver over the years and then the season-ending injury to tight end Delanie Walker last season, have certainly worked against Mariota's progress as a quarterback. But blaming the receivers only goes so far. 

What we know about Mariota is that he still can move around at an elite level with his feet, he is extremely accurate on short and intermediate throws and he doesn't make a ton of mistakes, although he still suffers from some ball security issues in the pocket that popped up from time to time when he was at Oregon. 

Mariota, just like when he was at Oregon, has not proven to be a great downfield passer. He doesn't scare teams deep. Your best NFL quarterbacks - Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes II, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, etc,. - can all strike fear in the hearts of defenses with the threat of the long touchdown pass. With Mariota, so far, not so much. 

One thing that must be pointed out is that Mariota's overall efficiency last season was at a career high. His passer rating of 92.3 ranks behind his second season (95.6) only if we include the two interceptions he threw during the season-opening loss to Miami that occurred on two throws made after he injured his right elbow and still tried to play through the numbness in his passing hand. 

Take those passes out of the equation and Mariota's passer rating pops up a bit to a career-high of 96.6. But that would only rank 15th in the NFL during an era when a rating of 100 or better is the gold standard. 

Plus, with the season on the line, Mariota was unable to play against the Colts in the final regular season game. The Titans, who started Gabbert, lost 33-17. 

It's safe to say that the 2019 season is Mariota's final audition for the Titans in an attempt to convince them to give him a fat new contract. He must stay healthy. Put up 35-30 total touchdowns. Lead the team to the playoffs. And show that he is worthy of a long-term investment.

Should he fail, Mariota could be on the move next season and it might be to find a job similar to the one Tannehill has now. 

Marcus Mariota questionable for do-or-die Tennessee Titans game

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Marcus Mariota questionable for do-or-die Tennessee Titans game

The Tennessee Titans face a must-win game Sunday night at home against the Indianapolis Colts with a playoff berth on the line and they might be without the services of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The former Oregon star suffered a stinger during last week 25-16 win. Mariota missed practice on Wednesday but participated in limited capacity on Thursday and Friday. Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel told reporters that the tea would monitor Mariota's progress and make the best decision for team. That could mean starting backup Blaine Gabbert is Mariota isn't quite ready to go. 

"So we'll kind of just keep seeing where it goes, and figure out who gives us the best chance, and how he feels," Vrabel said. "We want to make sure he can go out there and do his job at a high level."

Mariota appeared confident that he could perform if called upon. 

“I am doing everything I can, day and night, to try and make sure that I can be ready,” Mariota told reporters on Wednesday. “This is for everything. There is no timetable. If I can go and it is Sunday at 5 o’clock, by all means. We’re just taking it one day at a time and I am going to do my best to be available.”

The winner of the Titans-Colts game is guaranteed to receive the second AFC wild card berth. The loser it out. The winner of this game would win the AFC South title if Houston loses to Jacksonville. 

 

Marcus Mariota goes down while Tennessee Titans keep playoff hopes alive

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Marcus Mariota goes down while Tennessee Titans keep playoff hopes alive

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota left today's critical home game against Washington in the second quarter after being sacked and falling on his previously injured right elbow resulting in a stinger.

The former Oregon star did not return to the game and backup Blaine Gabbert helped lead the Titans to a 25-16 win to keep the team's playoff hopes alive. Tennessee (9-6) could get into the playoffs with a win next week at home against Indianapolis (8-6) and a Baltimore (9-6) loss at home to Cleveland. The Ravens won 22-10 Saturday night at the Los Angeles Chargers (11-4). Or, the Titans would need to win and hope that Pittsburgh (8-5-1) loses one of its final two games at New Orleans (12-2) and home against Cincinnati (6-8). 

Mariota completed 10 of 13 passes for 110 yards and the Titans were at the Washington 14 while trailing 10-6 when he went down injuring the same elbow he banged up in the season opening loss to Miami. The injury suffered against Miami caused numbness in his right hand that prevented him from properly gripping and throwing a football. 

Gabbert completed 7 of 11 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the win. 

Titans' coach Mike Vrabel said he wasn't sure exactly what happened to Mariota or if he would speak about the injury tonight.

"When he does, he will be able to talk to you about what he felt," Vrabel said. "And I'll talk to the doctors here in a little bit."

Highlight: Marcus Mariota leads Tennessee Titans on game winning drive

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Highlight: Marcus Mariota leads Tennessee Titans on game winning drive

There was some Mariota magic in Tennessee on Sunday: Trailing by three with 1:46 to go and the ball on their own 14 yardline, the former Oregon Duck led the Titans down the field for the go-ahead score on a pass to Corey Davis with just :36 left in the game.  The Titans would seal the victory on with an interception two plays into the Jets final drive. 

Despite having a statistically good month, including a near perfect game vs. Houston (22/23 for 303 yards and 3 TDs), the Titans were just 2-5 in October and November.

Leading the late fourth quarter drive and holding on for the win is a key step for Mariota and the Titans who's playoff hopes were on the brink coming into the game. 

The Titans have the easiest remaining schedule left on the season (tied with a few other teams), according to the NFL Network's Scott Hanson. 

 

Marcus Mariota efficient but not productive enough in loss at Houston

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Marcus Mariota efficient but not productive enough in loss at Houston

Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 22 of 23 passes (95.3 percent) for 303 yards and two touchdowns Monday night at Houston. 

However, his team lost 34-17 to fall to 5-6 on the season making reaching the playoffs a serious uphill climb. 

Mariota, who played despite the discomfort of a stinger injury he suffered last week in a loss at Indianapolis in which he left the game before the end of the first half, started Monday's game by completing his first 19 passes - breaking his own team record (15) - including a 61-yard touchdown to tight end Jonnu Smith to make the score 10-0, Titans in the first quarter. 

From that point on, however, Houston's defense stuffed the Titans despite Mariota's numerous completions. Part of the problem for Tennessee was that all but three of Mariota's 22 completions traveled more than 10 yards down the field. Even his scoring pass to Smith did not. That completion came after Mariota read a Texans' blitz and dumped the ball short over the middle to Smith and he raced down the field for the score. 

Mariota did throw deep down the right side line for a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Corey Davis in the quarter. But for the most part, Houston did a good job of limiting Mariota to short passes that resulted in little yardage, which is the reason why Tennessee scored just 17 points and converted on only four of 12 third-down attempts. 

Part of the problem was the relentless pressure Houston threw at Mariota. He was sacked six times a week after the Colts got him down four times in less than a half and then out of the game. 

"Stats are stats," Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters regarding Mariota's play.  "The loss is really what I'm going to try to focus on."

Mariota, as usual, placed the blame on himself. 

"I can do a better job, though," Mariota told reporters. "I didn't help our guys up front -- I was holding the ball too long. I got us in negative situations, taking some of these sacks. I'll look back at the film and get better from it, and improve."

Mariota has played quality football as of late. Since getting sacked 11 times by Baltimore during a 21-0 loss on Oct. 14, Mariota has thrown seven touchdowns with just two interceptions while completing 68.5 percent of his passes. For those reasons, Mariota and the Titans aren't quite done, yet. They are just one game out of the AFC wild card hunt behind Baltimore (6-5) and Indianapolis (6-5). But the Titans are tied with Miami, Denver and Cincinnati. 

Tennessee could get back over .500 in a hurry. The Titans' next three games are: home against the New York Jets (3-8) and Jacksonville (3-8) and then at the New York Giants (3-8).  For that to happen, Tennessee must protect Mariota better and he needs to find a way to complete more passes down the field for big gains. 

Mariota expected to start tonight vs. Texans

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Mariota expected to start tonight vs. Texans

Nothing better than a Monday Night Football showdown under the lights in Texas featuring two elite young quarterbacks. For awhile there, it was looking like the Titans would be without their starting quarterback after Mariota left last Sunday’s game vs. the Colts with an apparent arm injury. But as the week progressed so did Mariota’s status.

According to Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, Mariota “was limited the first two days of practice and today [Friday, Nov. 23rd] he was out there throwing. To be honest with you, I could not tell that anything was wrong. He looked good to me. … He was full-go, took all the reps, and he is ready to roll.”

Great news for the Titans and fans can breathe a bit easier as Tennessee travels tonight to face Deshaun Watson and the Texans in Houston, Texas. 

AFC South Division

This AFC South inner-division battle is of the utmost importance to both squads. Tennessee (5-5) is sitting third in the division and needing this win to keep any sort of playoff hopes alive. Houston (7-3) sits at the top of the pack but needs this win to keep the momentum moving forward heading into the last stretch of its schedule. 

How Tennessee can win

Well for starters, a healthy Mariota is a happy football team. Mariota continues to shine on the big stage. The last time the Titans played a Monday Night Football game was at the Dallas Cowboys where Mariota went 21-for-29 for 240 yards and two touchdowns, one on the ground with his feet where he is so dangerous in their 28-14 win. The following week, Mariota and the Titans took down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 34-10, again with Mariota’s impressive stat line.

Two keys for the Titans in this one: containing wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas and the Texans pass rush lead by J.J. Watt.

How Houston can win

Contain the mustache that is Mariota and stop the run. Mariota has proven the past two weeks that he can get the job done in the air, on the ground, and even as a receiver. It will be vitally important to always keep in check where QB1 is on the field. The other part is J.J. Watt will need to have a stellar performance against Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.

 

Game time set for 5:20 PM (PT).

Mariota working to overcome another setback

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Mariota working to overcome another setback

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota's status for Monday Night's important AFC South matchup at Houston is uncertain. 

Mariota suffered a stinger in Sunday's 38-10 loss at Indianapolis. Early reports indicated that Mariota had re-injured his right elbow, which held him out of action earlier this season. But the injury was later changed to a neck stinger. 

“I am feeling good,” Maritoa told reporters on Wednesday. “I was able to go through individuals, and I am taking it one day at a time, but it felt pretty good today.”

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said that Mariota, sacked four times in the first half at Indianapolis before exiting the game late in the second quarter, was limited in practice on Wednesday.

"But we are hopeful that he’ll progress as the week goes on,” Vrabel told reporters. 

The team won't issue an injury report until following Friday's practice.  

Mariota said that although the injury differs from his previous setback that the impact to his ability to grip and throw the football is the same. Once again he lost some feeling in his right arm and that impacts his ability to grip and throw a football. 

“So it is one of those deals where you just have to kind of wait for the nerve to calm down and things should be good,” Mariota told reporters. 

Tennessee (5-5) appeared to have turned the corner before getting trounced at Indianapolis (5-5). The Titans must win on Monday in order to maintain any hopes of winning their division. Houston (7-3) has won seven consecutive games and would take a three-game lead over Tennessee with a win. The Titans won the first matchup 20-17 in a game Mariota sat out with the elbow injury. 

The AFC wild card field is crowded. The Los Angeles Chargers (7-3) are the current leader with five teams trailing them at 5-5, including the Titans. 

Mustache Mariota runs out of Luck

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Mustache Mariota runs out of Luck

The day turned from bad to worse for the Tennessee Titans visiting division rival the Indianapolis Colts. The Titans got of to a slow start scoring just a field goal heading into halftime, but unfortunately, that was not the worse of it. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is coming off back-to-back impressive games against the Cowboys and Patriots, left the game late in the first half with an apparent elbow injury. Mariota has been battling this injury throughout this season.

Mariota couldn't get much done against the red hot Colts who entered this game on a three-game win streak. Andrew Luck put up a 24-3 lead heading into halftime.

Titans backup QB Blaine Gabbert took over in the second half, and finished 11-for-16 for 118 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

The Titans (5-4) next head to the Houston Texans (6-3) on Monday Night Football.

Mariota gets swarmed by a flock of Ravens

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Mariota gets swarmed by a flock of Ravens

Marcus Mariota was sacked 11 times. Yes, you read that correctly. Once you pick your jaw up off the ground, read this stat: Mariota was saked 11 times for a loss of 66 total yards. Yikes. It's a tough day at the office when you can't get away from the pass rush and throw completions. 

It doesn't happen often when the defense records more sacks than the quarterback throws completions. But hand it to the Ravens front seven for applying the pressure near instantly and a secondary keeping the receivers covered. The Titans (3-3) fall to the Ravens (4-2) 21-0 at home. 

Baltimore is now tied for the lead record-wise in the AFC North, however, still sit behind the Cincinnati Bengals because of a week two loss to the Bengals. Tennessee still sits on top of the AFC South division, but only barely. The Titans have the same overall record of 3-3 with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans, but have a 2-0 conferene record putting them at the top. 

The Titans are headed across the pond next Sunday to face the Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) in London, UK.