Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota avoids RGIII treatment


On the surface, Tennessee Titans rookie qb Marcus Mariota is strikingly similar to Washington Redskins qb Robert Griffin III.

Both led high powered spread option attacks in college. Both won the Heisman Trophy, and both were selected second overall in their respective drafts.

But it doesn’t end there…

Both led their teams to upset road wins in their first professional start, and both put up 40 or more points to do it. At the age of 22, Griffin III became the youngest qb in the history of the league to post a perfect qb rating. Mariota broke that record in this year’s season opener.

He’s 21.

Fast forward to today, and the similarities come to a screeching halt. Mariota is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback for the Titans, while RGIII is firmly entrenched in the Redskins’ doghouse…holding a clipboard for the foreseeable future.

But a series of events took place last Sunday at Nissan Stadium that had me fearing that the similarities would continue.

Marcus Mariota took a hit to the knee early in the loss to the Dolphins. And although the fans cheered when he strapped his helmet up and returned to the huddle, it was clear right away that he wasn’t right.

Like most fans, I assumed that adrenaline carried Mariota through the first half, and that backup qb Zack Mettenberger…the one Tennessee elected not to trade when he was a preseason commodity…would finish the game. Instead, it was Mariota who returned, and he continued to take a pounding from the Dolphins’ front seven.

After the game, thoughts of RGIII resurfaced.

In his rookie season, controversy arose when the Redskins’ team physician went public that he never cleared Griffin III to return to the game after spraining his knee a few weeks earlier. He also stated that he didn’t feel comfortable clearing him to play today.

It was Wildcard week and the Skins were hosting the Seahawks. RGIII started the game…and tore up his knee completely on a non-contact play.

Yep, you guessed it…more controversy ensued.

Looking back on it, RGIII was never the same after that. It’s like the Redskins sold his football career in DC for a division title…and playoff appearance.

So Titans fans should have breathed a collective sigh of relief when they heard that Mariota is ruled out for Sunday’s contest. He’s already proved on and off the field that he can handle being a starting NFL quarterback and face of the franchise.

Yes, the Titans desperately want to halt an eight game home losing streak this Sunday, but not at the expense of derailing the future of their golden goose.

This was not a playoffs or bust scenario for Tennessee heading into this season. No need to put your franchise qb in harm’s way. Besides, Mariota can learn while he heals and watches from the sideline for a week or two.

He can see the game from a different perspective, which can only make him better when he returns.

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