Tennessee Titans: To run…or not to run Marcus Mariota


One of the biggest NFL debates over the last 20 years has been the value of the “running quarterback”. History has proven that traditional drop back qb’s like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees have been the most successful in that time span, but a new breed of athlete is flooding the league…giving qb’s with the ability to improvise on the move more value than ever.

Out of the seven teams to win a playoff game last year, four had qb’s that finished seventh or better in rushing at the position. (Russell Wilson – 1st, Cam Newton – 3rd, Aaron Rogers – 6th, Andrew Luck – 7th).

Which brings me to Marcus Mariota, and the Tennessee Titans.

Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) runs the ball against Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (2) during the second quarter in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Mariota was a prolific runner at Oregon, averaging over 700 yards rushing his three years there. He also amassed 29 total rushing tds…15 last year alone. His legs were instrumental in bringing home the Heisman trophy.

Veteran Titans like Kendall Wright and Zach Brown have already marveled at the rookie’s speed in the open field. But now that he’s the face of the franchise for Tennessee, he should curtail that trait.


If history is any indication, this year will be the best time to unleash Mariota’s legs on the league.

When you look at the Cam Newton’s, RGIII’s, and Colin Kaepernick’s of the world, they all did major damage with their legs when they first got under center. Their ability to take off from the pocket and extend plays was one thing to worry about. Designed qb running plays were a whole’nother headache for defenses.

With no professional film to scout, the Panthers, Redskins, and 49ers were all able to stay a step ahead of the opposing defenses they played each week. And as a result, all three teams immediately improved and made playoffs runs when said qb’s first entered the lineup.

But NFL coaches are savvy, and given enough time, they will eventually catch up with what you’re trying to do. The ability to evolve into a pocket threat is critical for these qb’s. Steve Young, Steve McNair, and Russell Wilson come to mind as qb’s that did.

“Air” McNair evolved into a league MVP. All three led their teams to Super Bowls.

Vince Young’s legs sparked the Titans turnaround in 2006 and 2007, but his inability to evolve (among other things), ultimately led to his demise. RGIII is heading down a similar road as well….not to mention the various other examples of failed attempts.

Thus…the debate rightfully continues.

With Mariota firmly entrenched as the franchise qb, the Titans must now walk a fine line. While you want to give your qb every opportunity to maximize his skillsets, you also don’t want to get him killed out there.

He will not be lining up against Oregon St this year.

For Tennessee, if they plan on letting Mariota run, they should do it this year…and this year only.

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