Since the first, main wave of free agency is over, the focus from the fans and media should mostly begin to shift over to the NFL draft. The Titans have an extremely important decision to make in about a month and a half. If they take one of the top Quarterbacks, it could completely alter the franchise, one way or the other. If they hit, you will likely see significant improvement from the team. Ruston Webster and Ken Whisenhunt’s seats would almost certainly cool off. If they draft one and he is a bust, it will set the franchise even further back, just like the Vince Young and Jake Locker picks did. However, if they opt not to take one and the team remains a bottom dweller, it certainly will not look good to have passed on franchise Quarterbacks such as Teddy Bridgewater and either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota in back to back years. With an owner expecting playoffs and a restless fanbase, it could lead to yet another rebuild. With all of that said, there are several reasons why the Titans should draft Marcus Mariota. By looking at some of the clues already out, it is safe to wonder if the Titans are thinking the same.
"To Be Safe"
Considering how often Ruston Webster has mentioned the importance of securing the Quarterback position, it’s only logical to assume that the Titans will take the safest route possible in doing so. Furthermore, Owner Tommy Smith said that the Titans need to add competition for Zach Mettenberger "to be safe." The added competition has not, and most likely will not come via free agency. This means that the Titans will look to the draft to add their Quarterback. While some may believe that drafting Marcus Mariota would be a big roll of the dice, this is the safest way to secure the position. The quarterback class after Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota is atrocious. Using a draft pick on a player like Bryce Petty or Sean Mannion and expecting them to make any sort of relevant contribution if Zach Mettenberger were to go down or regress is a significantly riskier road to take. By drafting Mariota, your top two options at Quarterback are Zach Mettenberger—a guy who has played in the system, showed flashes, and is comfortable with Ken Whisenhunt and the personnel—and Marcus Mariota, a Heisman winner, arguably the top quarterback in the class and quarterback for the next 10-15 years. Drafting Mariota increases your probability of finding a franchise quarterback, whether it is Mettenberger or Mariota, and to quote Ruston Webster, ""Until you get that quarterback situation settled, you're swimming upstream."
At the NFL Combine, Ruston Webster said that "For us to move forward the quarterback position has to be settled. You have to know that they can go for 16 games." Both Webster and Whisenhunt have been burned by this badly between Jake Locker and Kevin Kolb. To take it a step further, Zach Mettenberger suffered a torn ACL in 2013, had questions about a chronic back problem that knocked him down draft boards, and suffered 2 shoulder injuries in 6 starts in 2014—one that knocked him out for the remainder of the season. While some things may only be coincidental, it absolutely has to give Titans brass pause about whether or not they can count on him to go 16 or more games.
"Not a Whisenhunt Quarterback"
Since about October or November when we all realized the direction that the 2014 Titans were headed in, talk started about drafting one of the top Quarterback prospects. When this talk started, talk about Mariota not fitting Ken Whisenhunt’s offensive philosophy began to surface. People see that Mariota is athletic, and immediately assume that he does not fit. There is a common misconception that Ken Whisenhunt will only like a quarterback if he is a big, slow statue. The real kind of quarterback that Ken Whisenhunt likes is someone who can win from the pocket, and make plays downfield. Make no mistake that Marcus Mariota is very comfortable in the pocket. While he is athletic and can use his legs, a lot of the time he uses his legs to extend the play, much like the Quarterback he won a Super Bowl with, Ben Roethlisberger. He keeps his eyes up, and still makes plays downfield, which is what separates him from the typical "one read and run" Quarterback that people think of when they see Mariota making plays with his legs.
"We Like Zach"
I have no doubt in my mind that the Titans really do like Zach Mettenberger. Ken Whisenhunt, Ruston Webster, and Tommy Smith have all said so. By all accounts, Mettenberger and Whisenhunt have a good relationship. He also showed flashes on a team in which he had absolutely nothing around him. This should help with their decision to take Mariota. Ruston Webster also said at the combine that "You draft a guy in first round and people want to see him play. He may not be ready to play and they may not be ready to play around them." If this is the case with Mariota, they can easily sit him and give him time to develop. By liking Zach Mettenberger it is easy to go with him to start the season, if the team thinks that it is necessary.
"Can’t Be About One Year"
Back in January in an interview with Jim Wyatt, Ruston Webster answered a question about the risk of drafting a quarterback with the second pick. Webster replied by saying "If you feel like the player is the best player long-term for your franchise, then that is what you have to do. It can't be about one year; it has to be about the future as well. You take a good look at it and try and make the best decision you can." Webster put this to action last year by drafting Taylor Lewan, even though the Titans seemingly had two starting Offensive Tackles in Michael Roos and Michael Oher. While it was heavily questioned at the time, it appears that that Titans have yet another franchise Left Tackle in place. Since Mariota has so much room for growth, he very much fits as someone who could be "the best player long-term for your franchise." Again, since the Titans like Zach Mettenberger, they can easily make this a long-term decision.
As Ruston Webster has said, and as almost everyone knows at this point, your team is all but worthless until you have a franchise Quarterback. There are many reasons why drafting Marcus Mariota goes a long way when it comes to finding that guy. It is easy to be gun shy when the last two Quarterbacks that the franchise drafted turned out to be busts, but you have to keep trying until you find your guy. Drafting Mariota significantly increases the probability that you do just that.