The Tennessee Titans made an extremely wise move last week when they acquired Ryan Tannehill from the Miami Dolphins to serve as Marcus Mariota’s backup in 2019.
Mariota, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season, has yet to prove he’s a franchise quarterback. He’s been unable to stay on the field at key moments and his overall play could best be described as average (compared to the other quarterbacks in the NFL).
Tennessee didn’t trade for Tannehill to compete with Mariota for the starting quarterback job. General manager Jon Robinson made that much clear, telling Titans Online “I’ve talked to Marcus and told Marcus he is our starting quarterback”.
But the former Dolphin will give the Titans some much needed insurance in the event that Mariota is forced to miss a game (or even a half). Mariota has never played all 16 games in a season. Expecting that to change in his fifth season probably wouldn’t be a wise bet for the Titans to make.
At this point, it seems clear that Tennessee realizes they’re at a crossroads with Mariota. Are the Titans going to financially commit to Mariota being their franchise quarterback? Or are they going to start from scratch once again?
Obviously the Titans don’t want to start from scratch again. They want Mariota to prove in 2019 that he can help deliver (at some point) a championship to Nashville.
But the fact that Tennessee added Tannehill tells us they don’t trust Mariota to get through all 16 games this season. If the Titans are going to pay Mariota to be their franchise quarterback, don’t you think they’d enter each season with they expectation that he plays every game? If the Titans end up giving Mariota a longterm deal, they certainly wouldn’t enter each season expecting him to miss some action.
A team with potential prepares for the worst
Tannehill is instantly one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. In fact, he might be the best now that Nick Foles is going to be a starter in Jacksonville.
Now, of all the “franchise quarterbacks” in the NFL, how many of their backups can you name off the top of your head?
That average fan probably can’t name many.
And that’s because teams with true franchise quarterbacks don’t typically make off-season headlines by adding a 30 year old quarterback with 88 career starts.
The Titans have assembled a team capable of winning the AFC South and making a deep playoff run. But one of the big things holding them back is Mariota’s dependability. That’s why they added Tannehill. The Titans believe they have a team that can compete with anyone in the AFC, as long as they have a capable quarterback on the field. Whether that’s Mariota or Tannehill seems to be irrelevant to some degree.
How will the Titans proceed after 2019?
If a quarterback can’t stay on the field (the whole game), they don’t deserve a longterm deal.
I think the Titans recognize that.
That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if the Titans decide to move on from Mariota after this season if he’s forced to miss a couple of halfs of action and/or a game or two.
It’s unfortunate, because I think most fans want to see Mariota thrive in Nashville. But he wouldn’t be the first talented quarterback to have injury issues keep him from reaching his full potential.
That’s just how it goes in the NFL.
The Titans have chosen to face reality instead of foolishly banking on Mariota to stay healthy. That line of thinking might give us a hint to their future plans.
Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports