According to a recent article from Bleacher Report, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is “already on the verge of busting”.
Regardless of the context, that’s an absolutely ridiculous statement.
The term “bust” is being used way too liberally these days.
JaMarcus Russell, the number one overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, was a bust. Russell was released by the Oakland Raiders with three years remaining on his rookie contract.
If the 2019 season is Mariota’s last with the Titans, he still won’t be a bust.
A player that didn’t live up to his draft potential?
Perhaps. But not a bust.
When the Titans selected Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft, the franchise hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2008. They hadn’t won a playoff game since 2003.
Since taking over as Tennessee’s starting quarterback as a rookie, Mariota has led the Titans to a playoff appearance (and a playoff win) and helped the team to three winning seasons.
“Busts” never accomplish those things in their careers. Let alone their first four years in the NFL.
It’s still early in Mariota’s career
At the conclusion of the 2019 season, Mariota will be 26 years old. That means he’s probably a third of the way through his NFL career (it’s reasonable to say that he could play another decade).
That seems way too soon to be passing judgement on a quarterback’s career.
By the same standards, the first four years of Steve McNair’s career could’ve led folks to label him as a “bust”.
McNair was the third overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft, but he didn’t become a regular starter until his third season. McNair’s stats during his first two years as a starter are comparable to stats from Mariota’s first four seasons (McNair was the superior rusher, while Mariota’s had the higher completion percentage).
It could be said that it’s unfair to judge McNair on his first four years in the league because he was only a starter for two of those seasons. That’s completely fair.
But the same could be said for Mariota, based on the numerous head coach and offensive coordinator changes he’s endured. It’s been anything but a “smooth” situation for Mariota since coming into the league. Mariota definitely hasn’t been set up for success.
Wins are all that matters
At the end of the day, winning is all that matters in the NFL.
And while Mariota has led the Titans to three straight winning seasons, he’s one game under .500 over the first four years of his career (27-28).
But guess who else was one game under .500 during the first four years of his career?
Cam Newton (30-31-1).
The Carolina Panthers quarterback put up some great stats over his first four years in the NFL, but the overall team results were nearly the same as the Titans’ results with Mariota.
And there was certainly no one calling Newton a bust after four seasons simply because he was one game under .500.
Newton’s fifth season, however, was one for the ages. He helped lead the Panthers to a 15-1 season and a Super Bowl appearance.
It’s absolutely possible that Mariota could lead the Titans to a Super Bowl appearance in 2019. Tennessee has the talent.
But even if that doesn’t happen, it’s still ridiculous to suggest that Mariota is on the verge of being a bust. If Mariota has another status quo season where the Titans finish 9-7 and he throws for 3,200 yards, he’s still not a bust. He’s giving his team a chance and that will mean he’s in the top half of quarterbacks in the NFL.
Considering how many quarterbacks are drafted every year, it’s quite an accomplishment to be one of the top 16 in the world at one of the toughest positions to play in sports.
Bust? Nah. Not even close.
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