In a year that was supposed to bring Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota to new heights, the third year signal caller has been brought to new lows.
Tennessee dropped to 8-5 after a disaster of a game against the Arizona Cardinals, scoring just seven points in the process. While that game was horrid, it was far from the only example we have of offensive ineptitude out of the Titans this season. It’s been a theme, dating back to the preseason.
The most shocking part of this entire season has been the steep regression of Mariota. After two seasons of outstanding play, Mariota has been one of the league’s worst quarterbacks in 2017. That hurts to write, but it’s the truth.
Why though? That’s where I get hung up.
How can a guy that showed so much promise be playing like he is right now? How can a guy that showed so much ability to read defenses, get through progressions and look off safeties stare a linebacker down and hit him in the stomach with an interception like he did on Sunday?
It defies logic for me. I watched every snap of Mariota’s first two seasons twice. You saw a guy that was already so advanced — a guy that was ascending to the top of the NFL’s quarterback totem pole. Mariota was even mentioned as a dark-horse MVP candidate by some.
I’m just not sure how a guy goes from throwing no-look touchdown passes to seemingly throwing two interceptions per game.
Marcus Mariota is broken. There is zero doubt about that. He’s not trusting what he’s seeing. His mechanics has been all over the place this year. He’s fundamentally broken.
However, I’d argue the offense is broken as well — and that doesn’t necessarily fall back on Mariota. The Titans are a run first team. They have been since Mariota arrived. The simple fact is that the Titans haven’t been able to consistently move the ball on the ground this season.
They’ve been able to hit some big plays to make the number look better than they are, but from a down to down basis — it’s not working. That has killed this offense even more than Mariota has, in my opinion.
It’s forced Mariota to press, which has forced mistakes. The most disappointing part of all this has been Mariota’s inability to carry this team offensively when the run game isn’t working. We’ve pleaded for Mariota to get more time in spread or no-huddle looks, but it seems like he’s been worse in those situations.
The clear miscommunications between he and the receivers have been downright maddening. I’m not sure what the deal is, but seemingly two or three times a game we see a throw to nobody. A lot of those have ended up being interceptions. We later find out in the press conference that a receiver ran the wrong route, or was in the wrong spot.
Everyone is tired of hearing that.
At what point as a staff do you clean that up? This isn’t new, it happened last year as well. Are the option routes too complex? Can the receivers not grasp the concepts? Is Mariota seeing the wrong things? If we see the same mistakes weekly, why aren’t things changing?
Just yesterday alone we saw Rishard Matthews admit to running the wrong route. We saw Taywan Taylor come free over the middle, but he didn’t even know the ball was coming his way. We saw multiple route mistakes from Corey Davis in Pittsburgh.
Any rational fan can see that the issues go deeper than Mariota. If you listen to the coaches, the turnovers have been largely on the receivers. That’s disheartening, considering the investment that has been made in that group over the past two seasons.
I’m rambling, but the bottomline is this. I refuse to believe that this is who Marcus Mariota is. Call me a homer, call me blind, but I can’t comprehend him being as bad as he’s been.
I’ve embraced and accepted this staff, but the offensive gameplan isn’t changing or adapting despite the struggles. That’s a problem. The same issues pop up weekly and at this point, it’s hard for me not to direct that blame back to Mularkey and Terry Robiskie.
Something has to give. Marcus Mariota didn’t forget how to play the position. Maybe teams just figured him out with an offseason of tape. Maybe teams figured this offense out with an offseason of tape.
Changes have to be made offensively and this organization can’t give up on Mariota yet. Would Mike Mularkey be willing to bring in a new face to replace Robiskie? Would that potential new guy have the freedom to run his own system? I don’t know.
The only thing I do know is this — I’m not giving up on Mariota. He can come out of this tailspin, but the Titans are going to have to commit to change for it to happen.