The 2018 season did not go how Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota probably envisioned.
With Mike Mularkey’s exotic smashmouth offense officially exiled from Nashville, 2018 was suppose to be the season that Mariota became a star.
A new offense, new weapons and a new head coach that better fit Mariota’s skillset seemed like a surefire recipe for success.
Instead, things went south from the beginning for Mariota and the Titans.
Star tight end Delanie Walker was lost for the year in the season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins. And to make matters worse, Mariota suffered an ulnar nerve injury against the Dolphins. The injury plagued Mariota throughout the 2018 season.
Marcus Mariota injury video: He stated “he couldn’t feel his hand or grip the ball.” Here you see the med staff reach behind & inside the elbow. They are palpating the ulnar nerve which goes to the 4th & 5th finger. Also known as the “funny bone” pic.twitter.com/DPMg1B6DFe
— #ReiffReport (@ReiffReport) September 10, 2018
The crescendo of Mariota’s nightmarish season, which saw him pass for a career low 2,528 yards, was when the Hawaii native missed the Titans’ season finale against the Indianapolis Colts. The week 17 matchup between the Colts and the Titans was more or less a play-in game and Mariota’s absence was one of the driving factors behind Tennessee’s loss.
Reaction to Mariota’s decision to sit out the 2018 finale was mixed, with some fans supporting his decision and others feeling like he should’ve played.
Considering how bad the 2018 season played out, it’s understandable if Mariota was feeling a lot of pressure heading into the off-season. 2019 is basically a “prove it” year for Mariota. He has to convince the Titans that he’s their franchise quarterback and worth a contract extension (Mariota is a free agent after the 2019 season).
A different off-season
Once the season ended, Mariota took a different off-season approach than he normally does. He left Nashville, and the continental United States, to return to his home state of Hawaii. Essentially, Mariota got away from all the distractions, all the noise, and returned to his roots — where his family and friends are located.
Typically, Mariota spends the off-season in California with his agent and trainer. But that’s not truly “getting away”.
Going to Hawaii, however, is definitely “getting away”. There’s a certain serenity to being thousands of miles away. I can’t think of a better way for Mariota to get healthy and clear his head.
And it sounds like it worked, because Mariota certainly sounds rejuvenated as he’s now back in Nashville for Tennessee’s off-season program.
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) April 15, 2019
If Mariota can put last season behind him and focus only on the future, I think he’ll be in for a bounce back season.
We know Mariota has the ability to lead the Titans to the playoffs — he’s done it before. All he needs to prove now is that he can stay healthy. He doesn’t have to be Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. That’s not who the Titans need him to be for the team to be successful. He just needs to be Marcus Mariota.
And Mariota’s off-season approach should help him be the version of himself the Titans need the most.
Featured image via Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports