The NFL draft is now 18 days away, and eyes around the league are now honing in on the Tennessee Titans…and their coveted number 2 pick. It seems like every other day a new team emerges with a new trade proposal to acquire the pick.
The coveted prize at stake? Oregon’s Heisman trophy winning qb Marcus Mariota.
Credit Ken Whisenhunt and the Titans organization for talking up Mariota all spring. After all, Tennessee needs a qb as well…among other things. We’ve already seen the Titans linked to trade rumors from the likes of Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. But the proposal that has drawn the most optimism from Titans fans is the one from San Diego.
The number 2 pick in the draft for the services of their franchise qb Philip Rivers (and their number 17 pick).
Philip Rivers in a Titans uniform? He would immediately become Tennessee’s most credible qb since the days of the late great Steve McNair. Jerseys would fly off the shelves, and the name Philip Rivers alone carries enough weight to maybe even sneak in a nationally televised game or two this season.
Reasonable minds would concur that the on field impact would be immediate as well. Rivers is not only a current top 10 qb in the league, but he also enjoyed great success with Ken Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator in 2013. A no brainer, right?
If the Titans are willing to trade away their number 2 pick for Philip Rivers, then they should just keep the pick and draft Mariota second overall.
Yes, when comparing the two, there is really no comparison at this point. Rivers is clearly a better option this season. No argument from me there. But when comparing their respective red flags from a panoramic view….Mariota is actually the safer pick.
And it ain’t even close.
Dec 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s first take a step back and assess why Rivers would want to be traded in the first place. Rumor has it that he has no interest in relocating to Los Angeles….as the Chargers are reportedly looking to do in the near future. On a side note, you can relax Titans fans…even if the team is sold it looks like we’re staying in Nashville.
But I digress.
Pundits across the country surmise that Rivers, a country boy from Alabama himself, would relish the opportunity to raise his 7 kids in Nashville…a bible belt city that shares his beliefs when it comes to faith, family, and football. But conspicuously absent from Rivers’ reasons are any talk of winning a championship before he retires.
In fact, that sounds like the kind of stuff that retiring athletes would say. Something a qb that is turning 34 years old this year would say.
Most great players that are up in age but have yet to win a title latch on to contenders at the end of their career. Even with the addition of Rivers, Tennessee would not qualify as that.
Something about this screams set up. San Diego gets to replace their retiring qb with the second best one in this year’s draft, and in return Tennessee gets a qb that’s willing to just “play out the string” as the sun sets on his career. And we haven’t even addressed his contract situation. Rivers is entering the last year of his deal, so he would also have to be re-signed. But at what price? I am sure not pennies on the dollar.
One last guaranteed bonus before chunking the deuces.
We could also delve into his fiery personality. As outspoken as he is, how long would Rivers remain silent if the Titans’ turn around gets stuck in the mud again?
Mariota, on the other hand, has no professional body of work to compare, so his major red flag is the fear of the unknown. And maybe even a little fear of the known after the Vince Young and Jake Locker debacles.
“But Mariota’s style is that of a spread option running qb, and that style doesn’t fit Ken Whisenhunt’s system.”
Jan 1, 2015; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) scores on a 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against the Florida State Seminoles in the 2015 Rose Bowl college football game at Rose Bowl. Oregoon defeated Florida State 59-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
True, but my counterpoint to that is…good play callers have systems….great play callers have offenses.
Plus, the Titans’ skill players as currently constructed are better suited for Mariota’s style than Rivers.
2014 first round pick Taylor Lewan, this year’s starting left tackle, protected running qb’s his entire collegiate career at Michigan….and flourished there. Kendall Wright, 2012 first round pick, flourished as a receiver in Baylor’s spread offense attack while in college. And 2014 free agent signee Dexter McCluster has the skillset that befit a qb with Mariota’s skillset. He struggled mightily to find his role in Whiz’s offense last season.
While Rivers could certainly have Tennessee over a barrel when it comes to signing him long term, Mariota’s deal would be team friendly under the new rookie contract structure. And you have a much better chance of getting four years of service (current length of rookie deals) out of your qb.
I’m not advocating for Tennessee to draft Mariota over trading down. I’m boycotting the San Diego trade. Teams with much better draft positions this season are also interested, and could be willing to trade an additional 1st round pick next year.
Cleveland is even reportedly willing to swap their two number 1 picks this year (12th, 19th). That sounds a lot more enticing.
Tennessee should either roll the dice on Mariota, and use their second and third round picks to bring in players that compliment his style of play, or trade down and acquire even more picks…with the sole purpose of surrounding Zach Mettenberger with as many weapons as possible.
This is not a knock on Rivers, but acquiring him at this stage of his career sounds more like saving the head coach and general manager’s job, than building for the future. A band aid for a bullet wound. Tennessee has drafted a wr, two offensive linemen, a running back, and qb Zach Mettenberger on offense the last three years.
Why halt the youth movement now?