Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is entering a contract season, which means this off-season has been full of discussion about whether or not the former Oregon Duck will be back in Nashville in 2020.

Most of the debate about Mariota has centered around whether or not he’s a “franchise quarterback”.

At this point in Mariota’s career, we simply don’t know who he is as a quarterback, though that’s not entirely his fault. In fact, it’s mostly not his fault.

Mariota has dealt with continual change during his time with the Titans. He’s on his fifth offensive coordinator and third head coach since 2015. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

But for all the talk about who Mariota is — which is a question that may or may not be answered in 2019 — it’s important to remember that he know who Mariota isn’t.

Mariota isn’t someone who fails to elevate those around him. When Mariota isn’t on the field (which has been one of his issues), the play of the team suffers. Take last year’s season finale against the Indianapolis Colts for example. If Mariota is healthy and plays in that game, it’s probably a much different outcome than the 33-17 loss it turned out to be. But because he was out, the entire mood of the game shifted from expecting the Titans to win to fans hoping the Titans would win.

The Hawaii native also isn’t a loser on the field. Mariota wins. He hasn’t won in the NFL as much as he’d probably like, but there are a lot variables that have been out of his control in Tennessee. But despite those variables, the Titans are one of only six current NFL teams to post a winning record in three straight seasons (along with the Cowboys, Chiefs, Patriots, Seahawks and Steelers).

Sure, those three straight winning seasons have resulted in only one playoff appearance, but it’s still quite remarkable that Mariota has been able to navigate the difficult waters of change and continue to post a winning record.

Typically, it takes a year in a new system, under a new head coach, to really get things going. Mariota’s never truly had the luxury of entering a second season with a head coach/offensive coordinator combination. And he won’t have that luxury in 2019, either. Though the hope for the Titans is that new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will be able to provide enough continuity for Mariota and the rest of Tennessee’s offense that the team can take the next step in 2019.

While it still remains to be seen if Mariota will develop into a true franchise quarterback, Titans fans should find solace in knowing that he’s absolutely not a second rate, backup quarterback masquerading as a starter, a la Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tom Savage.

Featured image via Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

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