The NFL is a what have you done for me lately business.
And lately, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has been average in every sense of the word.
Mariota is 8-7 as a starting quarterback over his last 15 games (dating back to last season). He’s been the definition of a mediocre quarterback, which isn’t ideal considering Mariota’s contract expires after the 2019 season.
For now, no one knows if the Titans will decide to extend Mariota or franchise tag him (or move on from him).
It’s an incredibly difficult decision, that’s been made even more difficult because of Mariota’s propensity to lead the Titans to a big win one week, then look like a backup quarterback the next week.
This week, after a brutal 19-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, there are plenty of folks who are out on Mariota. That might change next week if the former Oregon Duck lights up the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football. With Mariota, there’s no telling which quarterback the Titans will get.
So I understand why everyone is back and forth on Mariota. And I understand that finding an adequate quarterback in the NFL is a tough process that can take years (just ask the Jets, or the Browns, or numerous other teams). If Mariota played most weeks like he played in week one, he would’ve been extended a long time ago. But unfortunately for the Titans, performances like the one on Sunday against the Colts haven’t worked their way out of Mariota’s repertoire.
What’s odd to me, however, is that I feel Mariota faces a higher level of scrutiny than former league MVP and current Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton.
Now, don’t get me wrong — Newton might be the most criticized football player in the league. But when it comes to being a starting quarterback, he tends to get the benefit of the doubt.
Newton has played terrible so far this season. And he’s 6-10 in his last 16 games. He hasn’t won a start since early last November. At this point, Newton can’t be relied on (because of his shoulder) to complete a pass over 15 yards. And even some of the passes less than 15 yards tend to sail over the reach of the intended receiver.
As of now, I’d trust Mariota to win a game over Newton. At least Mariota is healthy.
Yet no one seems to be calling for rookie backup quarterback Will Grier to start over Newton. Nor has anyone been calling for second year quarterback Kyle Allen to start.
But I can guarantee you if those young quarterbacks were on the Titans’ roster, there would be plenty of calls for them to get a shot over Mariota.
And that’s silly. Mariota is the best option the Titans have right now (yes, over Ryan Tannehill as well).
There’s no doubt Mariota’s been bad at times. But this isn’t a situation that’s unique to the Titans. There are teams with way more dire quarterback issues than the Titans. And the Panthers, despite having a player who is four years removed from being named the MVP of the league, are one of those teams.
Mariota needs to play better. Everyone in the Titans’ organization needs to be better after losing a game that should’ve been a win.
But the level of scrutiny Mariota is facing, compared to what’s happening in the rest of the NFL, just doesn’t add up.
The Titans are in situation where they have to either move forward with Mariota (because this team isn’t going to finish with a top five draft pick), or they’re going to have to gamble on a quarterback who may or may not be the next Patrick Mahomes.
And based on what I’ve seen in the NFL draft over the last 20 years, the Titans are way more likely to end up with a Blake Bortles than a Mahomes.
Featured image via Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports/Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports