Titans Must Draft Marcus Mariota

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 12: Ryan Succop #8 of the Tennessee Titans on the sidelines during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field on October 12, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Jaguars 16-14. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 29: Running back Kenjon Barner #24, and quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks, watch from the sidelines near the end of the game against the Washington State Cougars on September 29, 2012 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Photo Illustration/FOXSports.com Getty Images North America

The Tennessee Titans are flat out awful. Anyone who had to sit through yesterday’s toilet bowl against the New York Jets knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not just that the Titans are awful it’s that they’re hopeless. NFL parity typically dictates that even the worst teams have at least one star on them. The Titans have no stars. Other than Jake Locker — whom they only know because of his injuries — can an average NFL fan even name a single Titans player? It’s disgraceful. 

There hasn’t been a face of the franchise since Cortland Finnegan. 

Which reminds us. 

CORTLAND FINNEGAN WAS THE FACE OF THE FRANCHISE. 

In the past eight years the Titans have had eight different quarterbacks lead them in yards passing. From Billy Volek to Kerry Collins to Vince Young to oh, god, please make it stop… 

In the past five years the greatest quarterback in the history of the franchise has been murdered, Vince Young has gone bankrupt, and Jake Locker has been knocked out of games with injuries 4,156 times. Talk about a rough stretch. This year the three-headed quarterbacking tandem of Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst, and Zach Mettenberger have all been knocked out of games with injuries. Let me repeat that, the Titans are so bad that they’ve seen three different quarterbacks knocked from the game with injuries. The only team in the country with worse quarterback play is the Vanderbilt Commodores. (Fun fact, how bad has quarterbacking been with the Titans, the Commodores and the University of Tennessee this year? The three teams combined to start ten quarterbacks this year. Ten!)

How bad is it for Titans fans? Nashville is a football crazy market that has no interest in the Titans. No one is watching their games on television. You can’t even give away tickets. I know, I’m a season ticket holder. No one wanted my Jets tickets this weekend. Tickets to the season finale against the Indianapolis Colts are going to become the most regifted item in Nashville history. “Oh, look, Titans tickets! Wait a minute, these are the same tickets I gave to my uncle two weeks ago!” 

Helmed up by an owner, Tommy Smith, who looks like the star of a Saturday Night Live skit about what a bad owner would look and sound like, the franchise is not in good hands. Seriously, I’m not sure Tommy Smith can read. If Smith owned a team in a larger market he’d be famous for his ineptitude. He looks like he’s playing the role of Chris Farley in every press conference. Worst of all, the franchise is the most boring in the league. If the Senate investigated watching Titans games, I’m pretty sure they’d classify them as torture. The NFL is designed so no team can be this bad and this boring. The Titans are this bad and this boring. They’ve even managed to kill the NFL’s golden goose — there is no hope that things are going to get better.

Which brings me to this.

If the Titans lose out, they will get the number one pick. (You guys know how bad I am at math, but I’ve projected the Titans final record at 124-133-1. That would very narrowly edge out the Tampa Bay Bucs for the worst opponent record and notch the first overall pick. This projection is based on the Jags beating the Titans and finishing 3-13 while the Colts finish 11-5. I’ve projected the final two opponents of the Tampa Bay Bucs, the Packers and the Saints to go 12-4 and 6-10, respectively. The Titans would nab the first pick in this scenario, which seems fairly likely.) Of course, the Titans have made a habit of winning games that their fans don’t want them to win before. This is the franchise’s speciality, snagging a 7-9 season out of what should have been a 4-12 collapse. But they’re not beating the Colts. This means the game against Jacksonville on Thursday night — this game is really happening for a national television audience — will probably decide the overall number one pick. 

And if the Titans have the number one pick, they absolutely, positively have to draft Marcus Mariota. I’ll write on this more later in the week, but Mariota isn’t a “scrambling quarterback,” he’s a quarterback who occasionally scrambles. He’s 6’4″ and 230 pounds too, a prototypical pocket passer’s size. He’s Colin Kaepernick with better mechanics, a bigger Russell Wilson. He’s much more akin to Steve Young than he is to Vince Young. And unlike Jake Locker, he’s accurate. Mariota’s thrown 101 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career at Oregon. That’s the greatest touchdown to interception ratio among quarterbacks with at least 25 touchdown passes in the history of modern college football. He’s also completed 68 percent of his passes and he’s throwing the ball down the field, not just throwing within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Oh, and he’s a saint off the field, the perfect face of a franchise for a city that desperately needs a decent guy to represent the team in public. (You want to see a fan revolt, draft Jameis Winston.)

But about Ken Whisenhunt? I don’t give a damn what Ken Whisenhunt thinks. He’s 2-24 in his last 26 games as an NFL head coach. Whiz has been a good coach when he’s had a good quarterback and a bad coach the rest of the time. Why should you let him dictate anything at this point? In his first year as coach he’s taken a bad team and made them awful.  

Plus, it’s a sad truth, but the only position that really matters in today’s NFL is the quarterback. There are 12-14 guys who can play quarterback at a high level in the NFL. If you’ve got one of these guys, you’re going to make a decade’s worth of playoffs. If you don’t, you won’t. All that matters in today’s NFL is finding the right quarterback. No other first overall pick can make the difference that Mariota can. No one is even close. Once you find the right quarterback you can build around him and take care of other positions of need.  But the difference between a playoff team and a non-playoff team is the quarterback. The difference between a playoff team and a Super Bowl team is often the rest of the roster. The Titans are not close to a playoff team because they don’t have a quarterback. So while the team has other needs, the quarterback position is so paramount that you have to take Mariota and see if he’s your guy. 

If he’s not a stud, so what, you draft another quarterback in three or four years and try again. But if he is your guy — as I think he will be — well, your franchise is set for the next decade or more. What’s more, quarterbacks don’t cost very much if you miss on them now.The Titans have drafted two quarterbacks in the top eight over the past eight years, Vince Young at third in 2006 and Jake Locker at eighth in 2011. Both bombed. But here’s the deal, Vince Young cost over fifty million, hamstringing the franchise’s ability to surround him with talent. But Jake Locker? Thanks to the new salary cap he’s only going to cost the team $12 million over four years. That’s nothing. Jake Locker bombing cost the team forty million less than Vince Young bombing. That’s a financial reality that most fans haven’t grasped yet. You can afford to draft more quarterbacks until you find one who works. For those who believe in Zach Mettenberger, fine, let he and Mariota compete for the top job. It makes no sense to me that you let quarterbacks compete in college and then treat them like delicate orchids once they reach the NFL. Let Mariota and Mettenberger duel to see who is the best. I think Mariota will win out. And the Titans franchise will finally have hope. 

You already suck, now it’s time to nab the Duck. 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

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