Despite Marcus Mariota’s impressive play (17/28, 226 yards, 1 TD) in relief of Derek Carr on Thursday night, it became apparent as to why Carr has remained the starter for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Like Carr, Mariota can get the ball downfield with both his arm and his legs, but the combination of the two weighs in Carr’s favor. With Mariota’s nine rushes for 88 yards, he showed he is the better scrambler of the two quarterbacks. Not only does he run faster and more elusive than Carr, he also welcomes contact and fights through it to get every yard possible.
This is no knock on Carr, as he does what he can while protecting himself for the future, but what a change of pace it was to watch a quarterback for the Silver and Black run with such reckless abandon (yet impressive ball security).
Feel for Pressure
As seen Thursday, Mariota also has remarkable pocket presence, which he used to not only avoid a sack from Joey Bosa, but to scramble out and complete a pass for a first down. With Carr under center, that could very easily have been a strip-sack for the Chargers, yet it became a Raiders first down.
Fans also saw Mariota’s impressive arm accuracy and power on display, and many were quick to turn to social media to ask why Mariota has not been playing all season. And instead of stirring up a potential quarterback battle when Carr comes back, Mariota showed us why he has not been starting: his decision making.
Running ability, throwing power, and accuracy are all things that can be shown in practice, but one of the hardest things to test in practice is the mind. Throughout the game, Mariota attempted quite a few throws that Carr simply would not have. The interception at the end of the fourth quarter and a deep pass to a double-covered Darren Waller in overtime (that should have been intercepted) are two glaring examples of passes Carr would not have attempted.
Notice how very few blame this loss on the backup quarterback. Simply put, this is because Mariota is not a backup quarterback by design. He caught a tough break in Tennessee with injuries and surrounding talent, but still clearly has the talent to survive and potentially thrive as a starting quarterback.
By no means does this imply that Carr should lose his job to Mariota right now, but it does show Mariota in a new light, giving him some actual game film to add to his resume when vying for the starting spot in 2021.