As the Titans went into half time yesterday, with a big retirement ceremony looming, I was pleased overall with Marcus Mariota’s performance in the first half. He was 10-13 with a touchdown and no interceptions. He wasn’t playing Brady or Mahomes ball, but he seemed to be playing well to me. My perspective was different. I was in the stadium and wasn’t checking the opinions of others on my phone as I usually do, which admittedly helps shape my opinions of games on the fly, whether it should or not. I had the sense that the Titans had weathered the initial storm from the Colts and seemed like they were primed to take control, and they did. Early in the second half, the team had a beautiful drive that ended in a one yard Derrick Henry touchdown run and I was feeling even better about Mariota’s performance. Then things unraveled.
As the half played on, Mariota seemed to hold the ball longer and longer, which he had done earlier in the game some, but not to the magnitude of the moment in the second half of a close game. He missed more open guys than he did in the first half, and he was less accurate overall. All of which turned what could have been a decent performance into a bad one. The icing on the cake came in the last 8 minutes of the game where the offense completely fell apart. Bad Mariota play along with conservative play-calling was the perfect recipe for the Twitter outcry that followed. It was an emotional day at Nissan Stadium and those emotions poured out after the game.
Give him a chance in 2019 or don’t.
If you’ve been out on Mariota since the end of last year, keep scrolling, because this doesn’t pertain to you. However, if you were willing to give Mariota one more season because you think his subpar play over the past few years was due to outside factors such as injuries, coaching changes, or lack of weaponry, then bailing on him after his first subpar performance is being dishonest about your feelings for him. Marcus was going to have a bad game this year. Every quarterback in the league has them, and many of them have already had one. If you claim to be done with him after yesterday, you were already done with him. You were just waiting for one performance to justify your opinion. I understand the last straw argument, but every quarterback would have failed you with that mindset, because every quarterback has bad games in the NFL. Even the elite ones. His “last straw” was always going to come, and you probably knew that.
His refusal to be great or terrible is pushing us to choose sides that don’t exist.
The amount of folks that either said he’s trash or that it was entirely the coaches fault after the game yesterday is far too many. The unfortunate and frustrating part of Marcus Mariota is that he rarely takes over entire games, but he also rarely loses them. It creates a situation where the overreactive Twitter world chooses a side that doesn’t really exist. Mariota wasn’t great yesterday. The coaches weren’t great yesterday. If you support Mariota, it’s ok to admit that he was at fault. If you are ready to move on from him, it’s ok to say that he wasn’t the sole reason for the loss.
Stats matter or they don’t. It’s up to you, but pick one.
So far this season, Mariota has thrown for 402 yards with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions with a 63 percent completion percentage. Those stats don’t tell the whole story. He’s missed open guys and held the ball too long multiple times this year. He has to be better in that aspect. What’s frustrating is the cherry picking. If his touchdown to interception ratio mattered to you last year, then it should matter to you this year. Mariota supporters don’t get to claim dropped touchdowns as completed touchdowns last year. His numbers were what they were. This year so far, his numbers are what they are. Either you factor them into his evaluation, or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s fine and a fair opinion, but don’t site stats that he was bad at last year and say they don’t matter this year.
How much do QB wins really matter?
My ultimate argument for supporting Marcus Mariota is that I believe he can win a Super Bowl… with a good supporting cast. I’ve seen him win big games, and I’ve seen him beat good teams with good play. That opinion didn’t change yesterday, but it certainly could through the course of the season. QB wins isn’t a great indicator of how good a quarterback is playing. There are so many factors that go into a game that saying just because a team is winning means the quarterback is good is simply bad analysis.
Asking the question of whether you think a quarterback can win a Super Bowl is a very valid question, though. On the opposite side of my big games argument is that just decent quarterbacks don’t usually win THE big game. Although Nick Foles and Joe Flacco are exceptions to that rule over the past few years.
If we dissect every pass, every quarterback loses
I understand why we’re here. Mariota has put himself into the situation of being hyper-critiqued. Going into the last year on his contract all eyes are on him, and that’s understandable. When we dissect every single one of his plays, though, faults and confirmations will be found. They’d be found in any quarterback in the league outside of Brady, Brees, and Mahomes probably. Maybe even them. If Jacoby Brissett or Baker Mayfield was in the same situation, confirmation of their faults would be found in weeks one and two as well. It’s the nature of the game. Quarterbacks make bad decisions sometimes. If you’re looking for them, you’ll find them. In all 32 NFL cities.
He’s not elite. Very few are.
If you want Marcus Mariota to be Pat Mahomes, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees, you’re never going to see that. He’s not those guys and probably won’t ever be. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you should be out him, but don’t think you’re going to magically find the answer in the draft. It’s far more likely you’ll find the opposite.
It’s unfortunate that we’re in this position, but it’s the position of most NFL teams. Few find quarterbacks that can help win big ones, and even fewer find quarterbacks that put the team on their back and wins the big one themselves.
I’m not saying settle for mediocrity. Choose whether having a chance to win every year is good enough. If it’s not, then the risk in finding an elite guy is may be worth it. But the risk/reward is an honest assessment that fans must make.
You can critique his two-minute yesterday, but that’s rarely been the problem with his game
Marcus wasn’t good in the two-minute yesterday. He shouldn’t have spiked the ball with 15 seconds left, but his two minute has been one of the best aspects of the game for the better part of five years. Saying “he shouldn’t be making those mistakes in year five.” Is pointing to an anomaly and not the rule and is a dishonest assessment of his operation in the two minute drill.