NASHVILLE TN - OCTOBER 03: Marc Mariani #83 of the Tennessee Titans runs a kickoff back for a touchdown aganst the Denver Broncos at LP Field on October 3 2010 in Nashville Tennessee. Denver won 26-20. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
A few days ago, I made a post outlining the teams receivers and their best fit in this offense. In that thread, a new topic arose. Marc Mariani and the hate he's been receiving as of late. Why is a pro bowl returner and owner of various records getting so much flack from so many fans including myself?
Lets get this out of the way. I do not hate Marc Mariani. He has been nothing but a
ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day stud since his rookie season. Not one person expected the 7th round draft pick from Montana to play as well as he has. Especially when you consider he was widely believed to be a fluff pick by Jeff Fisher and nothing more than a camp body. After all, Damian Williams was the guy we drafted to be our return star, but Mariani had other plans. After a few nice returns, Mariani blazed through the Denver Broncos coverage unit and into our hearts. His ability to field returns on the run is a great weapon and his vision and ability to patiently follow blocks is exceptional.
This leads to the one fault Mariani has, lack of a wow factor. Not one of Mariani's touchdown returns have been eye catching. He's not the type of guy you see breaking tackles and making guys miss. He's just not that agile of a returner. Guys like Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester regularly make one or two defenders miss in route to the endzone. Mariani is a vision runner, you see him allow blocks to set up and then explode to the endzone. That is an amazing ability but with the new kickoff rule, it's gonna take a lot more than vision to make plays.
Another factor into his criticism is that Mariani offers zero offensive production. Pacman Jones was our starting cornerback and even made plays on offense, Chris Carr was a decent cornerback option, meanwhile Mariani has given us 5 receptions for 24 yards in two seasons. He simply is not a true option at receiver. He is not as crisp a route runner as say a Kendall Wright or Kenny Britt, he isn't as agile as a Lavelle Hawkins(Caw Caw!) or Nate Washington, and he isn't as physical as a Damian Williams. He is the low man on the totem pole in the receiver rotation.
Mariani is a valuable return man. He's solid, sure handed and consistent, but with the kickoff rule limiting his returns, it's tough not to explore other options. Wright, Hawkins, Williams and even Britt all have return ability. If the Titans traded or cut Mariani in favor of a more useful player, I would not hate it.