Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota has all the leverage
By P. L. Colter
Training camp is now three weeks away for the Tennessee Titans, and for some reason, rookie qb Marcus Mariota is still unsigned. Well…actually…we do know the reason, we just don’t understand it.
At least I don’t.
As we’ve preciously discussed, the road block is offset language. In a nutshell, Mariota’s camp wants Tennessee to pay him the remainder of his contract should they release him and he’s signed by another team. But that’s not the way the Titans do business. In fact, Tennessee has never put that language in a player’s contract, and seem weary to set that precedence.
The only problem with that is, Mariota has all the leverage.
For starters, Tennessee has already backed themselves into a corner by marketing Mariota as the face of the franchise and day one starter…before he signed his deal. To delay the start of his career, and subsequent turnaround of your team over offset language makes the Titans look…well let’s just call it what it is….
It also looks like you’re not committed to winning. Not the perception you’re trying to project after losing ten straight games last season. If I’m Mariota’s agent, I’m leaking the following statement to the media.
“Marcus Mariota has been working out and studying film. He’s ready to lead Tennessee to the playoffs. The Titans expressed to my client that he is the face of their franchise…the face of their future. But to date, they have not backed that up with their actions.”
Mariota, no matter how long he holds out, comes out of this smelling like a rose. Tennessee? Not so much.
The team’s performance last year also hurts their stance. What are they saying?
“Well if you don’t cave on the offset language then…then…we’ll just go with Zach Mettenberger.”
To which Mariota’s response would be…
“How did that work out for you last year? Don’t worry…I’ll wait.”
May 1, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans first round draft pick Marcus Mariota (C) stands with executive vice president and general manager Ruston Webster (L) and head coach Ken Whisenhunt (R) during the press conference at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
The Titans have not reached the playoffs since General Manager Ruston Webster took over in 2012, and if he were to botch this, it’s highly unlikely that he returns next season. The same goes for head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
They are basically at the mercy of Mariota, whether they want to admit it or not.
Selecting a rookie qb, and starting him right away usually buys time for a struggling front office and coaching staff. Lets say this drags into the regular season, and the Titans struggle out of the gate. You know what that means.
What if Mariota says…
“I’ll just wait this out until you’re both gone, which would probably be by Halloween. The new regime will give me what I want, and they’ll look like saviors to the city of Nashville.”
The only leg that Tennessee has to stand on is the fact that Jameis Winston, the number 1 overall pick, caved on the offset language. To which Mariota’s camp would quickly rebuttal…
“True, but we all know that is insurance for Tampa Bay in the event that Winston gets released early for off the field issues….which is not out of the question. My client has a pristine reputation off the field, and you have a reputation of first round hold-outs.”
Then quickly point to Dante Fowler, Jacksonville’s third overall pick, who did not have to cave…even after being lost for the season before signing his deal.
Just like a division opponent…but I digress.
And did I mention how rare it is for offset language to come into play? Only once has a qb that was drafted in the first round been released, and signed by another team within a four year period…and he wasn’t a top 5 pick (Brandon Weeden 2012).
What’s the likelihood anyway?
I admit the above scenarios seem extreme given Mariota’s humble, kind, and polite persona. But we also have to remember that he is not negotiating this contract, savvy business men are….and it can be a cutthroat business.
If this drags into training camp, then questions about the front office’s future will loom over Nashville like a summer thunderstorm. Meanwhile, Mariota is still looking like the victim of a frugal front office.
Still smelling like a rose in the media.
So again I ask, what leverage do the Titans have…other than…that’s not how we do business?
A classic case of jeopardizing the war to win a battle.
Next: Tennessee Titans announce 2015 training camp schedule