Marcus Mariota came into 2017 as one of, if not the most, promising quarterback prospects in the entire NFL. Coming off a second season that saw him improve across the board from his rookie totals, Mariota has completely fallen apart through 14 weeks this season. With a career-high 14 interceptions to go with just ten touchdown passes, it’s clear something isn’t quite right with the Titans and Mariota — but what exactly is causing such a dynamic talent to play so poorly?
It all starts with the coaching staff and offensive game plans the Titans have put together this season. With DeMarco Murray not playing nearly as well as he did last season, the entire offense has faltered, and the Titans coaching staff has failed to make the proper adjustments.
Mariota is at his best when throwing off play action, unfortunately, the opposing defense needs to be scared of the running game for the play action to work, and Murray isn’t scaring anybody right now. A solution does exist, however, in the form of second-year man Derrick Henry. Henry has been explosive in his limited touches this season, displaying the power, speed, and vision of a top running back. If head coach Mike Mularkey wants to get his offense back on track, the first step is to hand the reins of the rushing attack to Henry.
With that said, Mariota’s struggles aren’t entirely on the coaching staff. Too often this season Mariota has panicked when the pocket begins to break down, and as a result, he has developed a habit of not setting his feet when he throws, leading to inaccurate passes. This is a correctable issue, but with the Titans looking to make a playoff push, there’s very little time to spend breaking his new habits.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the season for Mariota is his win-loss splits. In wins, he has thrown for nine touchdowns and six interceptions; not great numbers, but not terrible either. In losses, however, Mariota has thrown just one touchdown pass against eight interceptions. This goes to show that when the Titans struggle as a team, Mariota has been unable to offer the same spark we saw last season.
It’s obvious that Marcus Mariota is struggling in his third season, and though there are plenty of factors contributing to his down year, the fact is, he needs to play better if the Titans hope to do anything noteworthy. This is still one of the league’s bright young stars, but until the Titans make the adjustments necessary to their offense and Mariota breaks the bad habits he has developed, this team will ultimately fall short.