The Tennessee Titans don’t want to be forced to make a major decision on Marcus Mariota after the 2019 season.
They want the decision to extend Mariota, who will be a free agent after next season, to essentially make itself.
But in order for that to happen, the 2019 season either has to go really good or really bad for Mariota.
The Titans, unsurprisingly, are hoping for the former.
And that’s completely understandable.
Finding a serviceable quarterback in the NFL is a difficult proposition. Just ask the Buffalo Bills, who were forced to start Nate Peterman at times in 2018. Or the Washington Redskins, who turned to Mark Sanchez and Colt McCoy after a gruesome injury ended Alex Smith’s season.
That’s why the Titans are hoping they don’t have to embark on a search for a new signal caller.
And that’s also why Tennessee is doing all they can to ensure that Mariota has everything he needs to have success in 2019.
Making an in-house offensive coordinator hire is part of that process. Promoting Arthur Smith allows Mariota, and the rest of the Titans offense, to keep their focus on getting better during the off-season. Learning a completely new offense can be a burden. That’s not a burden that Mariota needs to deal with this off-season as he enters his contract year.
This is something that Titans head coach Mike Vrabel pointed out after Smith was promoted, saying “The terminology is going to remain consistent, and in order for players to improve and develop, they can’t spend a whole bunch of time learning”.
General manager Jon Robinson added “He (Mariota) can focus on getting healthy, focus on immersing himself even more in the offense, and just going out there and playing quarterback”.
Giving Mariota some continuity on offense, something that’s been missing during the young quarterback’s entire NFL career, is extremely important. But it’s only half the battle.
The Titans need to give Mariota another weapon at wide receiver. Corey Davis is developing into a solid top option in the passing game, but Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe, while good options, are proving to be complementary pieces in the offense.
Moving forward, Mariota needs a true number two wide receiver. The return of tight end Delanie Walker will be helpful, but I don’t think the Titans should assume the 34 year old (who will turn 35 before the start of the 2019 season) will return to his pre-injury form.
Drafting another wide receiver is certainly a possibility. But the Titans are unlikely to take a wide receiver with their first round pick (which I think they’d be correct not to), and you can’t count on a mid-round pick to be productive in 2019.
So the Titans might want to sign a free agent wide receiver in the off-season. Randall Cobb, Golden Tate, John Brown and Jermaine Kearse, among others, are possibilities.
Tennessee’s off-season plan will begin to take shape in the coming weeks and months.
As that plan unfolds, I think it’s clear that Robinson is going to do everything in his power to make sure Mariota has every resource possible to be successful in 2019.
After all, Robinson’s made enough tough decisions during his time as the Titans’ general manager. I’m sure he’d like the decision on Mariota to not be a decision at all.
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports