It is put or shut up time for Marcus Mariota in 2019. After four seasons, Mariota has yet to play in all 16 games once. Mariota has shown signs of brilliance as well as indicators that he will never live up to the number two overall pick in the 2015 draft. After a strong off-season for the Tennessee Titans, Mariota has no excuse to fail in taking the Titans to the promised land. All of this has Titans fans wondering, what will it take for Mariota to earn an extension beyond 2019.
Marcus Mariota, Future or Failure?
In order for Mariota to earn his huge payday, he must do three essential things.
1. Show the Ability to Stay Healthy
If nothing else, this is the primary issue that has plagued Mariota’s young career. He has missed a total of nine starts during the first four years of his career. In 2016, Mariota broke his leg in a must-win game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, effectively ending the postseason hopes of the Titans. In 2018, he again missed the season finale versus the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football with a playoff spot on the line. This was one of the biggest games in recent memory for the Titans. He seems to always miss the most important and season-making games.
In the 2019 off-season, Mariota has put on more weight and surely knows he cannot afford to get injured again. The addition of former Rams’ guard Rodger Saffold in free agency should also improve pass protection and keep Mariota off of the ground. If Mariota can prove he can play 16 games this season, he is already half-way to earning the trust of the Titans front office and the huge extension headed his way.
2. Develop More as a Passer
Over the last two seasons, Mariota has only tallied a mere 5,760 yards passing and 24 touchdowns to 23 interceptions. In this era of prolific offenses and absurd passing stats, these kinds of numbers will not get it done. In 2016, Mariota has an excellent 26 touchdowns to nine interception season but has only looked to regress since. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has been in the Titans organization since 2011 and held five different jobs prior to being promoted. Smith has worked with Mariota over the past four seasons and looks ready to tailor the perfect offense to get the most out or his talent. The Titans also added Adam Humphries in free agency, drafted Ole Miss standout A.J. Brown, and also get Delanie Walker back from season-ending ankle surgery. In addition, the Titans look to once again have a top-tier running game to create perfect play-action concepts for Mariota, in which he excels. In 2019, Mariota needs to show he can last in the modern NFL by producing over 4,000 yards and posting at very least a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio.
3. Compete for the Division and Make the Playoffs
Mariota has done a lot of good for the Titans organization. He has taken them out of the dreadful 2-14 or 3-13 wasteland. With that being said, three 9-7 seasons in a row has everyone around the organization losing patience quickly. Head coach Mike Vrabel has expressed that the Titans must go from good to great. Good is no longer going to be accepted. Mariota must lead this team to 10 or more wins and be a true contender for the Lombardi Trophy come December.
The excuses are out the window this season. Mariota must deliver or his future is in clear jeopardy. With a much improved offensive line, receiving corps, and a familiar face calling the plays, it is now or never for Mariota and the Titans.