How Marcus Mariota Will Change This Titans Offense


Primary reports from Tennessee Titans camp have Marcus Mariota as the greatest quarterback who has ever graced the gridiron. Mariota hasn’t thrown an interception yet through several practices. Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Peyton Manning are almost synonymous with Marcus Mariota, though they pale in comparison when you look at the big picture from an unbiased perspective.

Despite my reservations about the meaning of Mariota’s interception-less streak, not many are more excited about the beginning of the Marcus Mariota era than me. I, and thousands of other dejected fans, have had to endure the likes of Charlie Whitehurst, Jake Locker and Rusty Smith. It was time for this franchise to be blessed with a course-changing quarterback, especially since we were quickly heading into football abyss.

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Mariota brings accuracy, poise and speed to Tennessee, with his only real knock being that he didn’t have any. The Titans have drafted two mobile quarterbacks in the last decade who were supposed to be franchise quarterbacks. But they both had red flags that didn’t become apparent until their NFL careers were already underway. Jake Locker was severely injury-prone. Vince Young couldn’t handle the pressures of being a professional quarterback. The biggest concern with Mariota is his transition from a shotgun-dominant offensive scheme to one that requires him to play from under center for a good chunk of plays.

The times may be changing for Ken Whisenhunt‘s offense, though, as he plans on using as much shotgun as possible to tailor to Mariota’s strengths. Shotgun is gradually becoming the base formation in the modern NFL. The highest-scoring offenses employ shotgun as their base formation because it allows their quarterbacks to read and react with more time. Incorporating aspects of Oregon’s college scheme not only increases the likelihood of success for Mariota, but also the chance to adapt to the modern NFL.

I watched some of Marcus Mariota’s games at Oregon to see if I found anything that stood out. I came across his game against Virginia in 2013 and two plays stood out; consecutive plays that begin at the :45 second mark.

The first play, a 71-yard touchdown scamper on a designed QB draw is awe-inspiring. He finds the hole opened by the right guard and tackle, then proceeds to burn the spying safety, completely dismantling his tackle angle. Just for fun, he outraces two cornerbacks and opens the scoring not even two minutes into the game.

The second play seems simple in nature. Granted, it is simple because the wide receiver is open with no defender near him. But I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a Titans quarterback miss an open receiver or throw it slightly off target. Mariota easily finds the open receiver and leads him upfield, allowing the receiver to merely run forward and find pay-dirt. That anticipation is essential for a quarterback to succeed and for an offense to be sustainable. How many times did we see VY throw a swing pass behind the running back causing him to lose all his forward momentum? How many times did we see Locker overthrow a streaking receiver on a fly route? I’m getting debilitating flashbacks just thinking about it.

It doesn’t really need to be said again, but this offense is going to look a lot different than it has in past years. I don’t have much trust in Whisenhunt, and for the right reasons. However, I am cautiously hopeful that he can create a friendly quarterback environment as he did for Kurt Warner in Arizona and Philip Rivers in San Diego.

Marcus Mariota is a special talent. He understands the nuances of being a quarterback and possesses incredible athleticism. He isn’t Vince Young. He isn’t Jake Locker. He’s very different from both of them, in all the positive ways that he should be. We didn’t draft a project. It may take a season or two before he truly comes into his own, but he is going to get the chance to improve this offense starting Week 1. And he is going to improve it greatly.

Next: Titans: 5 Things We Learned So Far In Training Camp