It’s been almost four years since the Tennessee Titans drafted Marcus Mariota. April 30, 2015 was the night Titans Nation were confident that they had found their quarterback of the future. It is safe to say that confidence in Mariota is one thing that the Titans and their fans do not currently have. In the past two seasons, Mariota has thrown for 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Sixteen quarterbacks threw for at least that number of touchdowns in the 2018 season alone. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the former Heisman winner’s game is his ability to stay on the field. Mariota missed considerable time in six of the Titans’ contests this past season while battling a nerve injury causing numbness in his throwing hand for part of the season. Worst of all, the Titans had a “win and in” game the last week of the season, and Mariota was in street clothes. His nerve injury had flared up against the Redskins the week before, and he was not able to play in their most important game of the season. So, this has led to speculation among the Titans faithful as to who should be at the helm of the offense in 2019. On one hand, Mariota has games where he looks special. In wins against the Patriots and Cowboys, MM8 was a combined 37/53 for 468 yards and four touchdowns. On the other hand, there are games he looks lost. He threw costly interceptions, no touchdown passes, and completed just over 50% of his passes in losses to the Dolphins and the Bills. So, there is a very important question to be asked this offseason in Nashville. And the question is not if Marcus Mariota can play. There are times he looks like a top ten quarterback. It is, however, if #8 is the best option to lead the Titans offense going forward. Will he ever be consistently healthy and successful?
I believe there are seven legitimate options for the Titans to look into this offseason at the quarterback position. Below, I have ranked these options.
1.) Sign Nick Foles
Nick Foles has done nothing but prove that he is a high level starting quarterback the past two seasons. When Carson Wentz’s season ended due to injury for the second year in a row, Foles, once again, rose to the occasion. In the last three games of the season, Foles threw for six touchdowns in wins against the NFC Champion Rams, the Texans, and the Redskins. Each win was necessary for the Eagles to squeak into the playoff field. Not only did he lead them to a playoff berth, but his two touchdown passes led them to a playoff win against the Chicago Bears. All of this, of course, on the heels of his Super Bowl Victory capping the 2017 season. Foles would provide maybe a lower ceiling, but he would be a much more consistent option than Mariota going forward.
2.) Trade up for Kyler Murray
Package Mariota and picks to move up into the top 10 to draft Kyler Murray. Murray is the real deal, and he is easily the best quarterback prospect in this year’s draft. There isn’t even a close second. He is the most athletic quarterback we have seen in the draft in a long time, but he is not a runner. He has pinpoint accuracy. He completed 69% of his passes this year while averaging almost 12 yards per attempt. The quarterback’s head coach, Lincoln Riley, claims that Murray threw the ball from the pocket around 85% of the time in college. Murray is a tad small, but he throws an excellent deep ball. He is accurate throwing to all areas of the field. If he fully commits to football as he says he will, he should be a successful NFL quarterback.
3.) Extend Marcus Mariota this Offseason
If the Titans are going to roll with Mariota, I believe that it is imperative the Titans extend him this offseason. Coming off of two subpar seasons, the Titans could extend him on a bit of a discount. If they wait until next offseason, there is a chance that Mariota finally reaches his full potential and warrants 5 years and 125 million dollars. There is also the chance that the 9-7 Titans with the 18th overall draft pick are looking for a quarterback as Mariota heads toward free agency next offseason. If they were to resign Mariota this offseason, they could do so for around 3 years/60 million dollars. Considering what quarterbacks are currently worth, this would be a team friendly deal. It would also allow Mariota to prove his worth while getting paid similarly to the likes of Phillip Rivers and Cam Newton.
4.) Tank for Tua
This is maybe the most complicated of all of the situations, but this could yield the best results. The Titans, in this scenario, would bench Mariota for their backup, and in a sense, throw this coming season. With #8 playing, the Titans are never going to be in a position to draft a quarterback. They will continually be drafting in the 17-23 range which is outside of quarterback territory. This is my fifth year to scout the draft, and there are not many quarterbacks that I have seen more potential in than Tua. If the Titans could 76ers style tank next season and end up with the Alabama product, this would be the most ideal situation for the Titans. With a roster that has a top 10 defense, a solid run game, and a respected coaching staff, this level of tanking would be a tough task.
5.) Sign Teddy Bridgewater
I am in the camp that still believes Teddy Bridgewater can play, but I have no idea what his risk of reinjury is. Leading up to the 2016 season, Bridgewater suffered a gruesome knee injury that left him sidelined for almost two seasons. If he can stay healthy, he is a more consistent option than Mariota. In his one game of extended action this past season, he did look a bit rusty completing 64% of his passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Everyone expected rust though considering he had not played any significant amount since 2015. Personally, I think at both of their bests, Mariota is better than Bridgewater. At their worst, Bridgewater would outperform Mariota. If the Titans want to build a team that runs the football and plays good defense, Bridgewater would make enough plays to win games. I just don’t know how interested the Titans are in moving from one man of glass to another QB who could be.
6.) Play out Marcus Mariota’s Contract
Let Mariota play out his contract. If he performs well, pay a premium to extend him. If he does not perform well, let him walk for free agency. If he has another mediocre season, we can have this same conversation again next offseason.
7.) Trade for Derek Carr
Perhaps this is unrealistic, but Jon Gruden is shown he is willing to trade anyone. Everyone is expendable. If the rumor is true that Gruden is eyeing Kyler Murray with the #4 draft pick, Nashville could be a logical landing spot for Derek Carr. Is Derek Carr really an upgrade over Marcus Mariota, though? I would argue that he is not. They are actually very similar. Both have shown flashes of excellence. However, both have been wildly inconsistent. Also, the Titans would have to give up a lot to bring Carr to Nashville. If I am the Titans, I take a hard pass on this option.