NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Marcus Mariota is the Titans starting quarterback.
He will be tonight in the team’s second preseason game against the Patriots and, barring injury, will be for the regular season opener Sept. 8th against the Browns in Cleveland.
Make no mistake, this is a make or break year for Mariota as he enters into the final year of his rookie contract. He’s either going to earn a long-term contract to be the team’s franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future or he will be playing elsewhere next season.
The Titans want this to work, and are going to give Mariota the chance to prove it on the field. He was the no. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He’s liked by his teammates. And general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel have both voiced their support for the fifth-year QB who’s led Tennessee to three consecutive 9-7 seasons after starting his career on a team that went a league worst 3-13.
So the ESPN reports this week that new backup Ryan Tannehill, who boasts a career quarterback record of 42-46, is charging hard and could be the Titans’ starter as soon as week one of the regular season doesn’t add up.
Sure, Tannehill had a nice preseason debut in Philadelphia going 12-16 with a pair of touchdown passes. But that was one night against players who, for the most part, are unlikely to make the Eagles’ roster.
Tannehill also had a 2-29 stretch of practice this week against the Patriots and threw a pair of interceptions, one a pick six, while Mariota was efficient and error-free while tossing two TDs. Overall, Mariota has been the better quarterback in training camp.
Tannehill is a considerable upgrade over Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel, who were the backups the past couple years. And given the fact that Mariota is yet to play all 16 games in a season during his NFL career, it’s likely Tannehill will start a game or two this year. But for the 2019 Titans to be their best, Mariota needs to be his best.
He may not be one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, but in the biggest moments the Titans have had over their three year resurgence Mariota has been at the center of it all. Whether it’s leading the NFL in fourth quarter and overtime game-winning drives as he did in 2017, throwing a touchdown pass to himself in a playoff win in Kansas City or showing the willingness to stick his shoulder in there to throw a block on a critical run as we’ve seen on numerous occasions, Mariota is at his best when the chips are down.
Well, the Titans are pushing their entire pot to the middle of the table this season. The card reads no. 8 and they’re hoping it ultimately turns into a diamond.
Mariota is in the best position he has ever been in to succeed. He enters the season healthy, and has by far the most talented offense of his career around him.
The Titans retooled their offensive line with the addition of Rodger Saffold in free agency and a healthy Jack Conklin and Kevin Pamphile on the right side, and Derrick Henry appears poised to have a big year running the football after finishing last season by rushing for 585 yards in December.
More importantly, there should be guys to get open and catch Mariota’s passes. Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker looks to be completely back after breaking his ankle in week one last season. Corey Davis looks to be on the verge of becoming a true no. 1 receiver in the NFL. And the team added prize free agent Adam Humphries in the slot and drafted prolific Ole Miss wide out A.J. Brown to join Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor in the receiver rotation.
There’s no more excuses. It’s time for Mariota to prove once and for all if he can be the quarterback that can elevate the Titans from good to contender.
But he can only do that on the field, so cancel all the quarterback competition talk.
Mariota is QB1 in Tennessee. Tannehill is the backup. And the Titans hope it stays that way.