The Tennessee Titans made a bold move earlier this month by trading for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who started 88 games over the last seven years for the Miami Dolphins.
The acquisition of Tannehill was necessary because of incumbent starter Marcus Mariota’s injury history. The former Oregon Duck has missed eight games over the first four years of his career, and he’s been removed early from several others.
Titans second year head coach Mike Vrabel recently commented on Tennessee’s decision to deal for Tannehill, telling Titans Online at the NFL owner’s meetings “We felt like he’s a proven starter, a starter in this league for a lot of years”.
Vrabel acknowledged, however, that Mariota is still entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, saying “Obviously if Marcus is healthy, and he’s available, he’s our starter”. The former Patriot linebacker added “We just felt like, to be able to strengthen the position, to have a chance to add a player like Ryan, who could help us if Marcus isn’t available, then we were excited to do so”.
It’s pretty clear the Titans don’t trust Mariota to get through a whole season unscathed. Tennessee doesn’t want to waste a playoff caliber roster simply because the starting quarterback will inevitably miss some action.
Why else would a team deal for a quarterback who arguably has a better resumé than the current starter?
(Tannehill has two seasons with more than 4,000 passing yards under his belt. Otherwise, however, Tannehill and Mariota’s statistics are quite similar.)
Finding a way to keep Mariota healthy
The Titans aren’t going to allow Mariota to keep doing the same things he’s been doing and just hope for the best. Tennessee is going to try to implement new routines and training regiments in an attempt to keep Mariota healthy in his contract season.
Vrabel said he has regular conversations with Mariota and he believes the two have an open dialogue that allows them to be honest with each other. In an attempt to limit Mariota’s injuries, Vrabel said “there will be things that we’ll ask him to do, whether that be training regiment, strength, lifting”.
Future roster plans
There’s no guarantee Mariota will be on the Titans’ roster in 2020. It’s fully dependent on how he plays in 2019 and if he’s able to stay on the field.
But if the Titans don’t extend Mariota (or use the franchise tag on him), then Tennessee will need a contingency plan at the quarterback position for 2020 and beyond. It’s unlikely the Titans will find a future starting quarterback (if it’s not Mariota) through free agency.
That’s why Vrabel said the Titans expect to add a young quarterback this off-season, someone the team can “develop”.
In fact, Vrabel said the Titans don’t have a choice but to add another quarterback. He told Titans Online “We are going to have to add somebody to it. We are going to need a young guy that we can develop.”
That definitely sounds like the Titans are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst when it comes to Mariota.
Based on what’s transpired the last four years, that’s probably the best approach for the team to take.
Featured image via Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports