In Tennessee, is it Mettenberger or Mariota?
The other day, while driving in my car, I was listening to the radio, and the talk was about the Tennessee Titans. The two hosts were discussing who would be the starting quarterback in Tennessee this season, second year player Zach Mettenberger or rookie Marcus Mariota. In my opinion, there is no debate. It’s Mariota, hands down. Mettenberger shouldn’t even be in the discussion.
Why do I say that? Simply put, Mettenberger is no better than an average backup in the NFL.He has no “special” to him. Mariota, on the other hand, coming from the offense he came from at Oregon, needs some development; but he is loaded with “special”.
Mettenberger was a sixth round draft choice for a reason.He wasn’t considered a premium round prospect. The two things he had going for him were his height and his strong arm. It ends there. Mettenberger, who has had two ACL injuries, is a very average athlete. Before the second injury during his final season at LSU, he had virtually no mobility. Playing behind a very good LSU offensive line, he still took a number of sacks and hits. He never had a good feel for pass rushers and didn’t have the quick feet and lateral agility to avoid them when he saw them coming.
While he has a very strong arm and spins the ball well, his accuracy and ball placement were average, especially on longer throws. This was with two of the best receivers in college football in 2013, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., and playing in an NFL-style offense.
His overall football character was worrisome as well. He was not known as a top worker, and there were many who questioned if his passion for the game was what it should be. Does he really want to be a great player and do all it takes to become one? Leadership skills were also a question mark.
As a rookie in 2014, Mettenberger got to play in seven games. There are some who raved about his play. I wasn’t one of them. His numbers were not that impressive. He completed 107 of 179 passes for 1412 yards and eight touchdowns. He also threw seven interceptions and fumbled four times. As a runner, he got all of four yards on five carries. Put it all together, and you have what amounts to an average NFL backup who may be able to win a couple of games if he has to play. He is by no means a starting-caliber player that a team can win with in the NFL. Do you really think that Tennessee would have taken Mariota if they thought Mettenberger could win in the league?
Granted, Mariota is a work I progress, he played in a quick paced zone read option offense. He seldom played from under center, and a majority of his throws were quick read throws to his first or second option. He seldom had to read the whole field and has accuracy problems on downfield throws.
Mariota has an abundance of athleticism and football character. His athleticism and speed are rare for an NFL quarterback. He can extend and make plays with his feet, and because of that, it will make him a better passer as defenses have to prepare for his movement skills. As for character and football character, he is second to none. He will do whatever it takes to become a top player.
I am hoping that Tennessee does with Mariota what Minnesota did with Teddy Bridgewater. Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner kept the game simple for Bridgewater. He didn’t put too much on his plate. He let Bridgewater do what he did best and didn’t try to make him do things he wasn’t ready for. This led to Bridgewater having a very good rookie season.
Tennessee has to do the same thing. Don’t overload him, and let him do what he does well. If they do that, he will play with confidence, and his development will be quicker. I have no doubt that by year three, Marcus Mariota will be one of the better quarterbacks in the league.Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe