The Titans have undoubtedly had a rough start to the season. Many people pin the struggles of the Titans directly on QB Marcus Mariota. Mariota has totaled 4 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions through 3 games. Mariota has also totaled 704 yds and 56 completions on 92 attempts with an average completion percentage of 61%.
Currently, Mariota ranks 19th in NFL history in completion percentage (with a minimum of 500 attempts). While Mariota has not been as accurate as he can be in the first three weeks, he still has a great completion percentage. There have been many obvious occasions through the first three weeks where Mariota has just missed his target as a result of a poor throw.
Mariota is heading into his 5th year. Now is no time to make excuses, but Mariota has had a far from perfect scenario during his career in Tennessee. Mariota is now on his 5th play caller in 5 years. OC Arthur Smith does run a similar offense to last year’s OC Matt LaFluer but Smith is another play caller nonetheless. Additionally, Mariota has played through injuries his whole career. Despite missing the last game of the season due to a nerve injury, Mariota played through a broken rib among many other injuries. It is not like Mariota’s supporting cast has been great either. When he came into the league in 2015, his top targets where Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, and Bishop Sankey out of the backfield. In the following years, the Titans added players such as Rishard Matthews and Demarco Murray.
Many people are calling for the Titans to start QB, Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill was traded to the Titans this offseason to backup Marcus Mariota. It has been clear since the trade that Tannehill is the backup and he was brought in only as insurance in case of a Marcus Mariota injury. Tannehill also has a history of injuries, he did not finish either of the last two seasons due to injuries. Tannehill was drafted in 2012 by the Dolphins and he is 31 years old. Last season, Tannehill threw for 17 TD and 9 INT with a QBR of 31.0 (Mariota had 38.2). While Tannehill did not have amazing stats, he is a good backup.
Marcus Mariota has done a lot for the Titans in the last 5 seasons. In 2014, before Mariota, the Titans had a record of 2-14. They followed that up with a 3-13 season, and then they had 3 9-7 seasons in a row. Mariota has turned the Titans into a real, competitive team. There have been many changes throughout the organization but ever since Mariota was drafted 2nd overall in 2015, the team has been different.
Mariota lead the Titans to their first playoff berth since 2008. Not only did he take them to the playoffs, he lead the Titans to an 18 point second half comeback against the Chiefs in the wildcard game. Mariota did everything that game, including throwing a touchdown to himself.
Why should the Titans stay with Mariota right now?
The Titans should stay with Mariota because he has had no help. The main problem being the offensive line. The Titans have taken a league high 14 sacks through the first three weeks of the season. When it was announced Taylor Lewan will be suspended for the first four games of the season, I was worried but I thought the offensive line would be ok. This is not the case, the offensive line has been very hard to watch. RG Jamil Douglas was on the practice squad last season, it was clear that GM Jon Robinson’s intentions were not to have Jamil Douglas starting at RG. If it were not for the injury of starting RG Kevin Pamphile and Rookie RG Nate Davis, the Titans could be in a much better situation. If Tannehill was trying to play behind this offensive line, he would get hit too. Mariota has no time to throw the ball and always has constant pressure. People think putting Tannehill in would change any of this while it would not.
Over the last couple seasons, Marcus Mariota has been one of the best 4th quarter Quarterbacks in the league. Last season, Mariota lead 3 comeback wins in the 4th quarter and overtime. Not to mention, Mariota was the reason the Titans won many of their games last season. I do not think Tannehill has the big play ability Mariota has, while Tannehill is not slow, Mariota can extend plays with his legs and avoid pressure.
While Tannehill could be a better quarterback in a few select scenarios, Mariota is a significantly better option heading into Week 4 and beyond. Mariota knows the playbook and knows the players much better than Tannehill does.
If Mariota can execute against the Falcons, the Titans have a good chance in the game. The Falcons have not been as good as expected so far this season, but they have a lot of skill on both the offense and defense.
If the Titans lose against the Falcons, many people will say the season is over. You cannot declare the season over after a 1-3 start. Last season, the Titans started 3-1 while the Colts and Texans started 1-3, both teams made the playoffs while the Titans did not.
Mariota is a better option than Tannehill now, and in the future, he gives the Titans the best chance to win.