Marcus Mariota’s first NFL playoff experience was short-lived, but it was unforgettable in many ways.
Not only did he lead the Tennessee Titans to a Wild Card victory over the heavily-favored Kansas City Chiefs on the road, he did so in style - putting the team on his back and stepping into a leadership role, no matter how vocal he is with his teammates.
But after losing to the New England Patriots in the Divisional round, 35-14, the Titans -- Mariota included -- are going through a bit of a turnover.
Shortly after the Patriots beat down the Titans in Foxborough, the Titans head office relieved head coach Mike Mularkey of his coaching duties - a surprising move considering the Titans had gone further than anyone expected them to this season.
Furthermore, it was already being reported that Mularkey was being offered a contract extension due to the team's playoff run.
Sources: The #Titans have offered coach Mike Mularkey an extension in the wake of their playoff run. He’s staying.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 15, 2018
But head coaches come and go every season, regardless of how successful they might be. But what’s not common is for a young, talented quarterback like Mariota to have his third head coach within four seasons.
Despite his playoff success, Mariota struggled during the regular season, throwing for 3,232 yards, 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He took a step back after a promising start to his young career.
It looked like the Titans were finally given Mariota some allowance in the the team’s offense to make plays and break containment, which was evident with his 88.8 passer rating against the Chiefs and a 98.3 rating against the Patriots.
Just when it seemed as if Mariota was getting settled into the offense, the Titans pulled the plug on the coaching staff, meaning that Mariota might have to learn a whole new offense for the third time, which will surely hurt Mariota’s development as a quarterback despite what general manager Jon Robinson told the media this past Monday.
“Marcus is a pretty resilient guy. He’s a very mentally tough guy,” Robinson said per Tennessean.com. “He takes a lot from the standpoint of ownership in things. I have zero concern in Marcus being able to adapt and learn, and do what’s best to get the offense going.”
It sounds like no matter how much Mariota struggles under a new head coach next season, he will be given time to adapt to the new, undetermined offensive philosophy.
There is an upside to Mularkey’s firing, however, as Mariota may have say in who the next head coach will be. And hopefully for the former Heisman Trophy winner, the offense will be centered around his skill-set.
Positive on postseason was Mariota was good in both games. (Especially when you consider the line blocking tonight.) But Titans absolutely have to remake offense & hire a new staff for him this offseason. Play calling was boring, predictable & too conservative all season long.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) January 14, 2018
“I think whoever the head coach is, you want to maximize the abilities of all your players,” Robinson said per The Associated Press. “That’s the beauty of this game, it’s a team game. It takes 11 guys. Marcus (Mariota) is certainly an important part of that. The quarterback position is a very important, if not the most important position on the field.”
Could a spread-offense like the one Mariota thrived in during his time at Oregon and back during his high school days at St. Louis be exactly what the Titans need to utilize Mariota’s skill-set? It's anyone's guess at this point.
The only certainty is that change is coming to the Titans, whether it’s good or bad is yet to be determined.
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