The Titans have a young, potential franchise quarterback who has a high degree of mobility. But there’s a sense the Titans don’t want him to use those skills.
His new head coach anticipates that Mariota will use those abilities, to an extent.
“[M]y first time as a coordinator was in Pittsburgh with Kordell Stewart, and we were very good with him running the football,” coach Mike Mularkey said during a Monday visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN. “Designed runs for the quarterback, and my feelings are he can protect himself much better running the football than he can standing in the pocket, and you’ve seen it over time. We’re not going to run him like they run Cam Newton with some of these designed counter plays and things up the middle that are gonna expose him by any means, but I think he’s such a threat in the run game for defenses. It just gives you an advantage. The playing surface is evened; they don’t have an extra guy in the box. There is no extra guy when you have a quarterback like Marcus who can, and we saw it last year, go eighty yards if he has to, to be effective in the run game.”
Mariota’s on-field persona is complemented by an off-field demeanor that is quiet, almost shy. Mularkey said that, when it’s time to play, Mariota changes.
“Well, that’s the way he comes across, but I think you get a different impression when you watch him, when you’re there with him on the field and on the sideline even prior to drives,” Mularkey said. “He’s very competitive, he’s much more vocal. I really didn’t even know how vocal he was until I got a clip of him when he was mic’d for a game. I didn’t really realize how he was in the huddle. I mean, it was amazing to hear his leadership ability and the communication skills and what he’s trying to get out of the guys. Again, he doesn’t come across that way in an environment outside of football but in the huddle, on the sideline, and at practice he speaks his mind when he needs to. You know, he’s like a coach that doesn’t say a whole lot, but when he does say something you better be listening to it.”
If you listened to Mariota on the show during Super Bowl week, you heard him apply a letter grade of C to his performance as a rookie. Mularkey was a little more charitable.
“I would probably give him a B and a plus for going through a lot of things in a rookie season including the head coaching change right in the middle of it, he had to endure that,” Mularkey said. “Some injuries that he sustained early on in the season and just a bunch of things went on for him to have to overcome, and I thought he did an unbelievable job of handling all of it.”
He definitely did. If Mariota hopes to get an A, the challenge becomes finding a way to do even more in what should be a more stable and effective season.