The Tennessee Titans have chosen to start Ryan Tannehill in Week 7, signaling the end of Marcus Mariota’s tenure in Nashville.
After replacing Marcus Mariota in the second half of their Week 6 loss to the Denver Broncos, Ryan Tannehill is starting Week 7 for the Tennessee Titans, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
Tannehill was efficient in relief of Mariota, going 13-for-16, 144 yards with an interception at the end of the game. But, much like the quarterback he replaced, was constantly under pressure and sacked four times. Head coach Mike Vrabel stated after the game that, “They were trying to find a way to move the football and score some points.”
Despite the former Miami Dolphins quarterback not leading any scoring drives, Tannehill has apparently won the confidence of Vrabel and will lead the Titans against the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday. Tannehill is a former first-round pick, like Mariota, but had trouble staying healthy in Miami. When healthy, he went was 42-46 as their starter, but Miami isn’t actively trying to win games and traded him to Tennessee for a pair of day three draft picks this offseason.
Tannehill now gets his second chance in the NFL, and has the backing of Delanie Walker, arguably the leader of the entire team. The veteran tight end said,” Ryan was an elite quarterback in this league not longer than a year ago. He can take over a team. He can make plays.” The elite term is an interesting choice of words, but with so much receiver talent on this team and a pro-style vanilla offense in place, perhaps Tannehill is the right choice for the remainder of the season and deserves an audition to be the starter moving forward.
While Ryan Tannehill gets ready to start this weekend, Marcus Mariota’s future with the Titans seems all but over. The former No. 2 overall pick led Tennessee to a single playoff appearance, which included a wild comeback win in Arrowhead Stadium over the Kansas City Chiefs, but was 29-32 as a starter and threw only 76 touchdowns in his 61 starts.
Mariota’s lack of taking off in the NFL could be that he was overvalued coming out of college. Maybe the University of Oregon system and the gaudy numbers he put up in college had more to do with his surroundings than him. Maybe him being frequently hurt limited his practice reps to ever develop adequately. Who knows exactly why it hasn’t clicked in the NFL, and Mariota is to blame, but Tennessee deserves their own share of fault for this not working out.
Look around the NFL right now. You see teams incorporating spread concepts and read-pass-options (RPOs) left and right. Patrick Mahomes is barely under center and has the freedom and weapons to create as he did at Texas Tech. Kyler Murray is in an Air Raid offense with a coach that installed the perfect system for him to succeed. Lamar Jackson is in a unique offense that encourages him to run and plays to his strengths.
Can any of that be said about Mariota? Not in the slightest. His first head coach Mike Mularkey installed an exotic smashmouth system that saw Tennessee peak at 14 in terms of points scored in a season, and 31st, 26th and 30th in plays per drive. Focusing on slow, run-heavy schemes with Mariota under center did not play to his strengths, especially when you turn on the film and see what he was doing at Oregon.
After Mike Mularkey was fired, despite winning a playoff game, Tennessee hired Mike Vrabel as head coach with Matt LaFleur coming over to run the offense. LaFleur comes from the Mike Shannahan coaching tree and previously worked under Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams, and brought over plenty of excitement in regards to Mariota developing in a forward-thinking offense based off play action.
What happened under LaFleur? Well, Tennessee threw on only 51.49 percent of their plays and finished 27th in points per game while not seeing any development from Mariota. LaFleur is now the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, which opened the door for Tennessee to promote tight ends coach Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator this season.
The offense hasn’t changed much with Tennessee maintaining their reliance on Derrick Henry and the ground game. The Titans are 28th in the NFL in points per game at 16.3 and allow the second-most sacks per game at 4.8, trailing only the New York Jets.
As mentioned before, not all of this falls on the circumstances around Mariota. Despite being one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, he has a knack for being a statue in the pocket and holding on to the ball way too long. He doesn’t push the ball down the field and has yet to top 8.0 Air Yards per attempt in a season, and just doesn’t look comfortable for long stretches.
His play left Mike Vrabel and the coaching staff no choice but to bench him, and now he will enter the offseason as a free agent. Wherever he goes next, and there will be suitors for him whether as a backup or to compete for a starting spot on a short-term deal, all we can hope is we see him in a situation where the coaching staff and players around him are suited for his skill set.
In any sport, where you are drafted is vital to your development. Mariota was drafted to raise the Tennessee Titans franchise and be the best quarterback since the Steve McNair era, and Mariota did bring some excitement with a playoff victory. But they never unleashed him in a spread system like he was at Oregon, where he was one of the greatest college quarterbacks ever.
As the NFL evolves and opens its’ mind to spread and Air Raid concept, Mariota should get another chance somewhere in the league. He may not be the superstar, sure thing quarterback that most people thought, but judgment should be withheld until we see him in an environment that will fit his needs. Tennessee didn’t and now are back to square one themselves with Ryan Tannehill starting this weekend.