First up in the grades for the 2016 season is the quarterback group.
The Tennessee Titans entertained an unexpectedly fun season that ended in disappointment. After a 3-13 season the year before, the Titans, under the guidance of new GM Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Mularkey, went 9-7 and narrowly missed out on the playoffs due to a defeat at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. That loss stung like a bee, but it didn’t affect the blossoming of a lot of young butterflies on the Titans squad. Chief among them was the franchise quarterback.
For the second year in a row, Mariota wasn’t able to finish the season. A fractured fibula was the destroyer of hopes in 2016, but his body of work throughout the season was a beacon of hope before the injury. Mariota’s first four weeks were rocky, to say the least. He was missing open receivers, forcing the ball into too-tight windows, and wasn’t taking care of the ball. Then he went bonkers, embarking on a mid-season streak that consisted of a 21: 4 touchdown to interception ratio while his team went 7-3 and put themselves in prime position to make the playoffs.
We know the choke job story, so I won’t delve into it again, but Mariota was arguably the best quarterback in the league during that span. The numbers speak for themselves, but his play transcended statistics. He was confident in his dropbacks, manipulated the pocket, went through every single one of his reads, and unleashed pinpoint fireballs into windows that didn’t even seem to exist. The only thing keeping his grade from an A+ is the careless fumbles that continue to haunt him. We can look past it, though, because he’s on the verge of superstardom.
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People really don’t like Cassel and I’m not sure why. He is the farthest thing from flashy, doesn’t have much of an arm left, and is cautious in his throws. Okay, maybe I’m starting to understand why. All of that is fair, but the Titans could do a lot worse at backup quarterback. In fact, they were a lot worse off at the position in 2015, when Ken Whisenhunt’s pet project Zach Mettenberger was flinging the ball around the field in hopes of telepathically finding a teammate of his. Cassel can move the offense, relatively take care of the ball, and get enough points on the board to give the defense a chance to win the game. That’s all you can ask for in a backup quarterback, and Cassel showed he can be the answer to that question in 2016.
Tanney didn’t appear in a single game and was only promoted from the practice squad for one game. After Mariota’s injury, Tanney took on the role of backup quarterback for Week 17, but didn’t appear in the game. Tanney has flashed accuracy and some moxie in preseason and in his lone game played in 2015. He’s worth carrying into next season as at least the third quarterback.