Quarterback play will always be looked at when an offense struggled
Starter Marcus Mariota
The former second overall pick has not been lighting up the stats sheet over the last few seasons. He has just 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in the last two seasons. Mariota had a stretch in 2016 where he looked like an MVP-caliber player. However, injuries and scheme seem to have limited him lately. Mariota hasn’t done enough in the past two seasons to earn an extension this offseason, but he is still the franchise quarterback in Tennessee. He has led the Titans to three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history and seems to always come through when the team needs him most. Mariota will be given every opportunity to earn his extension next season.
The two issues that seem to have hampered Mariota are his injuries and lack of weapons. In 2017, he had a hamstring injury that seemed to linger throughout the entire season. Then, last season, he struggled with nerve damage in his throwing arm. Mariota will need a healthy season in 2019 to gain the trust of the front office and get back to form. Another way for him to improve will be if the front office can add some other options on offense. Corey Davis was the only real threat Mariota had to work with last season. Getting Delanie Walker back from injury will help, but adding a wide receiver through free agency or the draft could elevate his game.
Backup Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert had an up and down season with the Titans. He led the Titans to wins against the Texans and Redskins. However, in his two apperances against the Colts, he made crucial mistakes and couldn’t perform in the Titans’ gameplan. Gabbert is much better than this predecessor, Matt Cassell, but with Mariota’s injury problems, the Titans need someone they can trust at this position. Gabbert is not that. He may be back because he is cheaper than good free agent options and more advance than rookies, but he shouldn’t be. The Eagles have proved that having a good back-up can be the difference between making the playoffs and not, or winning a Super Bowl or not. The Titans should look for someone to replace Gabbert in the next few months.
Options to Replace Gabbert:
1. Tyrod Taylor, Free Agent
Taylor was a starter for a playoff team just two seasons ago. He will be leaving the Browns this offseason and would be a great transition for the Titans if Mariota can’t play. Taylor is mobile and can make throws downfield. He may be one of the more expensive options, but he would be the perfect option for Tennessee to bring in to backup Mariota. Taylor may be looking for a starting position, but he most likely won’t find an opportunity. Tennessee should go after Taylor aggressively when free agency opens.
2. Jarrett Stidham, Middle Round Draft Pick
Stidham could slip to day three of the draft in which case the Titans should scoop him up. Stidham was highly recruited out of high school and still has a lot of potential in the NFL. He is somewhat mobile and could run a similar offense as to what Mariota will run. He also could be developed as a starter if Mariota ends up not being ‘the guy’ for Tennessee. It isn’t time yet for the Titans to spend a top pick on a quarterback, but a middle round flyer could work out as a long-term project for Tennessee.
3. Gardner Minshew, Late Round Draft Pick
The Titans picked a Washington State quarterback last year in Luke Falk and it didn’t work out. However, Minshew had a great season in his one year as a starter. He would probably only be drafted if the Titans had another backup already lined up. However, he could be ready to backup Mariota after his rookie season. Minshew would be another project, but he has potential to be a good backup in the NFL. If he is still around in the sixth or seventh round, Tennessee should consider taking a flyer on him.