Can Jon Gruden revive Marcus Mariota’s career?

NFL Free Agency, Oakland Raiders

Former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will sign with the Las Vegas Raiders. Can a change of scenery working with head coach Jon Gruden lead to a revival?

Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has agreed to a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo.

Mariota has spent his career with the Titans after they selected him second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. During his five years with the team, Mariota has played under multiple different head coaches and offensive coordinators. Tennessee only made the playoffs once in his four years as the full starter.

This past season, Mariota was benched for backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill after a 2-4 start. Tannehill ended up taking the team on a 7-3 run and all the way to the AFC Championship game, which earned him a new four-year deal as the starter.

It seems as though Mariota will start as the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Derek Carr. Carr statistically had a career year in 2020, posting his best completion percentage and total yards. But the offense he led just wasn’t very good despite having quite a bit of young talent. The Raiders offense scored fewer than 20 points per game, which put them at 24th overall.

Mariota would be in a perfect position to do exactly what he watched Tannehill do to him last year: learn from past struggles, come in for an underperforming quarterback and seal a starting job for himself by playing well and not making mistakes while still making big plays.

Much was said about second-year Raiders head coach Jon Gruden helping Carr become a better passer and take more chances, but it seemed as the season went on that Carr couldn’t break out and continued to stay too conservative. On the surface, it might look like Las Vegas is bringing in another overly conservative passer who has also shown flashes of great play.

Raiders GM Mike Mayock rated Marcus Mariota as the top quarterback in the 2015 draft back when he was a draft analyst with NFL Media. Mayock admitted back then that Mariota may not have been as natural a passer as Jameis Winston (the first overall pick that same year), but he was athletic enough that wherever he played he would physically “be able to do all the things they ask of him.” He also mentioned that in the correct scheme he could be productive.

Jon Gruden’s offense isn’t exactly like the spread offense Mariota ran in college, but Gruden seems to lean towards a fast-paced offense with a quick passing that could be a great fit for Mariota.

Looking back at the Titans’ lone playoff win under Mariota, you can see that his accuracy on short-to-mid-range throws, his athleticism and awareness to escape the pocket and pick up chunk yardage plays, and his occasional ability to throw a beautiful deep shot all helped contribute to Tennessee’s improbable comeback victory. One play that highlighted Mariota’s athleticism and leadership on the field was his clutch block for running back Derrick Henry on 3rd and 10 to get a first down that would seal the win.

Mariota has been the butt of jokes for awhile about how boring the Titans offense has been, but he has shown flashes of being a really talented quarterback. Mike Mayock obviously liked him enough to give him a chance at a career restart in Vegas, and if Mariota can impress Gruden and they can make a scheme work with his talents, Super Mariota’s career could easily see a revival.

With him reportedly being a great locker room leader in Tennessee, he could find his fit quickly and find himself fighting for a starting job once again.

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