If Marcus Mariota is going to be the Tennessee Titans’ franchise quarterback, he has to prove he can stay healthy in 2019.
Mariota has battled an array of injuries during his four seasons in Nashville. Those injuries haven’t always kept him off the field (he’s only missed four games over the last three years), but they’ve often forced him from games early, or altered his playing style.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson sounds like a man who wants to keep Mariota in Tennessee for a long time — provided he stays healthy. Robinson recently told Sports Illustrated that he hopes Mariota will be the longterm answer for the Titans.
With those comments, however, Robinson also made a suggestion that Mariota change his playing style a bit.
From Sports Illustrated:
“The thing I’ve stressed to him, and I know our coaches have stressed to him is, Let’s live to play another play,” Robinson said. “Don’t take that hit. If you feel the pocket coming down on you and you take off running, and the ‘backer is coming off of coverage and he’s coming screaming at you, throw the ball away. It’s OK to punt, we’ll get another crack at it. That’s the main thing, it’s stressing to him—to try as best as possible, like all quarterbacks do, to avoid getting hit.”
I’m all for quarterbacks playing smart and avoiding unnecessary hits. The Titans don’t need Mariota playing reckless.
But they do need Mariota using his legs as a weapon. There’s nothing more deflating for a defense than allowing a quarterback to scramble for eight yards on a 3rd-and-7. That’s instant momentum for the offense.
Failing to extend drives is how teams lose games. NFL teams don’t get many opportunities to put points on the board. The Titans have to take advantage of every scoring chance they get, or they won’t reach the playoffs in 2019.
Robinson is wise to tell Mariota to be careful (he doesn’t need to risk his body for a couple of yards in a hopeless situation), but he needs to make sure he doesn’t change his quarterback’s competitive mindset.
There’s a reason Mariota was the second pick in the 2015 NFL Draft — because he has the ability to alter games with his legs. If you take that ability away, Mariota’s not nearly as dangerous.
And the Titans certainly want Mariota to be dangerous.
Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports