Let’s fast forward eight months into the future. The league MVP has been awarded. The Super Bowl has been played. Black Monday has left a quarter of the league looking for new head coaches. For the Tennessee Titans, the biggest question going into the offseason would be whether or not quarterback Marcus Mariota would suit up for the team again.
Let’s assume that the Titans finish the 2019 season with a winning record. And let’s assume that after a brief success in the postseason, the team is eliminated in the second round.
For Marcus Mariota, let’s assume that he had a relatively good season. He starts in all 16 of the regular season games and finishes with 3,500 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, along with 300 yards on the ground, three touchdowns, and two fumbles lost. He maintains his career passing completion percentage (63.2) and quarterback rating (89.4).
Do the Titans open their checkbook? You better believe it!
Even if Mariota falls short of this projection by five to 10 percent across the board in productivity, he’s coming back to Tennessee along with a hefty quarterback contract. The quarterback position is arguably the most important position in football. As such, quarterbacks are compensated in a manner reflecting their values to their respective teams.
Often, because of the scarcity of quality talents at the position, quarterbacks are overpaid with the hope that their productivities will catch up and surpass the sums of their paychecks.
Teams such as the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars all cling to such hope that their high-priced quarterbacks can help them realize their championship aspirations. The Tennessee Titans will undoubtedly join that group next offseason.
The question is always “if not Mariota, then who?”
While no one is drawing comparisons between Mariota and any of the future Hall of Fame signal-callers, Mariota still possesses qualities and traits that would theoretically make him a successful quarterback in today’s NFL. He has the size and arm strength coaches covet, and he has the mobility to extend plays and succeed on designed runs.
While his accuracy and consistency comes and goes, over the span of four seasons, Mariota has shown franchise quarterback abilities. Health is a concern for Mariota. To ensure his presence on the field, he has worked to gain mass this offseason in an attempt to better withstand the rigors of a 16-game schedule.
Looking at the projected free agent quarterbacks in the 2020 offseason—outside of the top-three free agents consisting of Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady, all of which will undoubtedly re-sign with their respective teams—there isn’t anyone that can be considered an upgrade to Mariota.
In addition, the Titans will be too good this season to be in a position to select a top quarterback from the 2020 draft class without trading away assets that will certainly stagger team growth.
Marcus Mariota has the tools that would allow him to be successful in Tennessee. His biggest concerns are inconsistencies in health and his play. While the team has shown some urgency at the quarterback position by trading for Ryan Tannehill as a high-priced insurance policy, Mariota is still the team’s quarterback of choice.
Much like Mariota, inconsistency has been a concern for Tannehill as well, in addition to a string of injuries that has plagued the former Miami Dolphins quarterback in the past three seasons. Barring major injuries and a lack of improvement in football acumen, Mariota will undoubtedly be brought back as the Titans’ franchise signer-caller for years to come.