Can Marcus Mariota break the Spread QB mold?


The biggest question on everyone’s mind before the NFL Draft, especially Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt‘s, was could Marcus Mariota break out of the read option mold and become an NFL pocket quarterback? Not many have been able to make the transition.

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College coaches are paid to win national championships and not necessarily develop quarterbacks for the NFL, so far too many young quarterbacks are coming to the NFL without the skill to succeed at the next level.

Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III is a blueprint for the disaster that typically happens. The Baylor grad is big, athletic and always knew that if he didn’t quite understand the play or the play broke down, he could pull the ball down and outrun everyone.

That works, until they get hurt, and aren’t as quick as they were before, and find out the hard way they can’t outrun the guys in the NFL because they are as big, and as fast.

RGIII is not the first to follow this blueprint. There was Daunte Culpepper, who came out of Central Florida and enjoyed success in Minnesota until he got hurt. After the rehab, he wasn’t as quick and had never learned the game from the pocket.

There were others who came out of read option systems, and there are only a few who were able to convert their game to the pocket and become top NFL quarterbacks. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger comes to mind as well as San Diego Chargers qb, Philip Rivers.

If you are a Tennessee Titans fan, you have to be excited with what you’ve seen from Marcus Mariota during the preseason. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner appears to have put in the work to develop as a pocket quarterback and it has shown in his progress.

The first sign was his big third down play in the Georgia Dome against the Atlanta Falcons. He hung in the pocket, went through his reads properly and found Harry Douglass for a big gain and a first down.

Coach Whisenhunt has curbed his excitement, continuing to point out that Mariota has done some good things, but refuses to validate him, saying he needs to do it in a regular season game.

But you can tell by his tone and body language during the pressers that he is excited by what he has. In fact, he brought up the third down play in Atlanta again in his press conference just yesterday.

When asked if Mariota was more advanced than a typical rookie, he had this to say:

"“I thought the third-down play in Atlanta, after the way it started, when he moved in the pocket and made the throw to Harry (Douglas), I was very impressed with that. To me, that’s something that usually you don’t get that quickly, or it takes a little bit of time”"

The other indication that his rookie quarterback has spent the required time in the playbook and has the ability to overcome the urge to pull the ball down in pressure situations came on Sunday night against the St. Louis Rams.

On a third down play in the Red Zone, the Rams showed blitz and dropped eight into pass coverage daring the rookie to run. Mariota recognized the trap and went through all of his reads while moving around in the pocket.

He eventually found Dexter McCluster, who dropped the pass.

"And then I thought the red zone play, when it threw it to Dexter (McCluster) last week, where he stayed in the pocket, moved to his left, scanned the field and found Dexter, was a pretty good indication of an understanding of what we’re trying to do at that position."

There are more failures out there than stories about success, but it looks like Marcus Mariota has been able to put his success at Oregon in a compartment and move on.

He has spent his time since losing to Ohio State in the National Championship game last January preparing to move to the next level.

I like what I’ve seen out this rookie to this point and feel like the Tennessee Titans got the best quarterback deal in this draft.

I think Marcus Mariota can, and will break the mold and has the talent to succeed at this level.  I’m also glad he is a Tennessee Titan!

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