I think it’s safe to say that no one, fan or media analyst, expected Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel to ever say during the regular season that he anticipates both Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert playing.
But that’s exactly what happened on Friday afternoon.
Mariota was injured in the Titans’ season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins, which meant Gabbert had to finish the game.
The health of Mariota moving forward has obviously been a hot topic this week. On Friday, Vrabel told reporters that he anticipates Mariota and Gabbert both playing on Sunday.
Vrabel said he anticipates both Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert both to play Sunday.
— Terry McCormick (@terrymc13) September 14, 2018
This is the first legit head scratching move Vrabel has made as the Titans’ head coach.
Either Mariota is healthy enough to play, or he’s not. There is absolutely no in between. If Vrabel doesn’t think Mariota is healthy enough to make it though the entire game, why in the world would you trot him out there?
The Titans are obviously going nowhere with Gabbert under center. I mean no disrespect to Gabbert, but he’s not a playoff quarterback. But if the Titans bring Mariota back too soon, they’re possibly risking his longterm health. Which means they’d have to rely on Gabbert the rest of the season. That doesn’t seem very smart.
On the flip side, if Mariota is healthy enough to play, why is Gabbert even being mentioned? There’s no benefit to playing Gabbert if Mariota is good to go.
And before you say this is just gamesmanship from Vrabel, it’s not. Gamesmanship would be Vrabel playing coy about whether or not Mariota will play at all on Sunday. That’s what the Green Bay Packers are currently doing with superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. I don’t see Mike McCarthy telling reporters that Rodgers and DeShone Kizer are both going to play this week.
This goes beyond Vrabel’s roots as a Patriots player who routinely saw Bill Belichick give purposefully vague answers to reporters in response to questions about injured players. This is just straight up silliness from Vrabel.
Maybe Vrabel is just bad with his words. Or maybe, and this is worst case scenario for Titans fans, he genuinely thinks playing both quarterbacks is the smartest move for the Titans.
Either way, I think it’s pretty obvious that Tennessee needs to make a firm decision on Mariota and stick with it. I know he’s starting to get the “injury prone” label, but you can’t worry about that when making this decision. If Mariota is the Titans’ franchise quarterback, then you have to protect his longterm health.
If there’s any question that he’s not ready to go, then he shouldn’t see the field on Sunday.
Vrabel needs to be the head coach and make a firm decision one way or the other.
Featured image via Houston Chronicle