After selecting quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second pick of the NFL draft, the Titans didn’t hesitate to say their plan is to start him in the season opener against the Buccaneers.
Immediately, Mariota is on the clock.
It’s safe to say the pick probably will determine the direction of the franchise for years to come. Coming off a 2-14 season, will the draft day decision jump-start the Titans into contention? Or will it prove to be a move fans and media forever will criticize?
Here’s a look at three reasons to be excited about the selection and three reasons to cross your fingers:
On the map
Let’s face it: Before the draft, the Titans were a blip on the NFL radar. If you disagree, check out the schedule — it includes 14 noon kickoffs. Even in Nashville, many fans had lost interest.
Picking Mariota changed that in an instant. Tickets and jerseys began selling. There’s a buzz in the city. Mariota is featured on the current edition of Sports Illustrated. Yes, the Titans are relevant again.
Training camp should be more interesting, the preseason should be worth watching, and if all goes well, the season will provide intrigue and excitement. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen fans so excited.
Home run potential
Mariota put up ridiculous numbers in college — 105 touchdowns to only 14 interceptions. He was a threat running the football, and his presence regularly put a strain on defenses. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt has his work cut out for him in trying to adjust his offense to fit Mariota’s strengths.
Some have compared Mariota to a bigger version of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who has had a great deal of success in the NFL. If Mariota develops like the Titans and other NFL minds think he can, he could change the look of the offense. And the results.
Jump-start those around him
Everyone loves to rally around a quarterback. The respect and admiration players had for Steve McNair back in the day was evident, and the Titans haven’t had a quarterback generate the same feeling in the locker room since then.
It was a divided locker room when Vince Young ran the show, and Jake Locker never stayed on the field long enough to inspire those around him.
Mariota has the qualities to jump-start an entire team. His former teammates and coaches at Oregon have said it, and if you look around the NFL, it’s easy to identify the teams that rally around their quarterback and the ones that don’t.
Mariota, in time, is capable of being a leader of men.
What if he flops?
Mariota comes with no guarantees. More than a few scouts have questioned whether he’ll be able to adjust to the NFL after playing in the spread offense in college. And plenty of college stars bombed in the pros. Robert Griffin III is at a crossroads with the Redskins, and everyone in Nashville remembers how Young flamed out.
Mariota has eye-opening athletic ability and skills. But adjusting to a pro-style offense and getting the footwork and timing down won’t be easy. It’s going to take some time. Mariota arrives with plenty of pressure on his shoulder pads. It appears the weight of the organization is now on him to change things for the better. If he’s not successful, uh-oh.
Whisenhunt did his best to head this one off the moment Mariota was picked. In fact, he began laying the groundwork even before the selection, saying if the team took a quarterback at No. 2, the expectation was that he would start right away.
Players in the NFL don’t like handouts, though. Judging from the reaction — and words — of some Titans in recent days, players have a healthy respect for Zach Mettenberger. On top of that, players don’t want a guy anointed a starter until he earns it. They expect to see Mariota and Mettenberger compete for the starting job.
What happens if Mettenberger outperforms Mariota in training camp and preseason games? It could set up an uncomfortable situation for a lot of folks.
Missed on other guys
If Mariota excels, this one will never come up. The pick will be universally applauded. If he doesn’t pan out, however, the questions will haunt the franchise forever, even when new decision-makers are in place.
The Titans passed on some trade offers in the draft to stick with Mariota. What if they instead had acquired a boatload of picks to try to rebuild the team? Had they stayed at No. 2 but not taken Mariota, the pick would’ve been Alabama receiver Amari Cooper. What if Cooper turns into another Marvin Harrison, and the receiver the Titans gambled on in the second round — Dorial Green-Beckham — turns into a bust? The answer here will reveal itself in time.
Reach Jim Wyatt at 615-259-8015 and on Twitter @jwyattsports.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.