As the Tennessee Titans move to sign surprise success Ryan Tannehill to a long-term contract, the quarterback he replaced, Marcus Mariota, might be the perfect choice to back-up Raiders starter Derek Carr.
As the Derek Carr debate rages on for some who follow the Las Vegas Raiders, the real job of building a complete football roster, and finding a good backup quarterback continues. Marcus Mariota might be the best opportunity for the Raiders to fill the void behind Carr and give themselves a quality backup.
While many want to see Carr elsewhere in 2020, as I have been steadfast in saying since Day 1, Carr will be under center when the newly minted Las Vegas Raiders hit the field at Allegiant Stadium Las Vegas sometime early this fall.
Who will be behind Carr on the depth chart in 2020 is a key question that must be answered. After not finding an answer with Mike Glennon, Deshon Kizer & Nathan Peterman in 2019, the Raiders are clearly in the market for a few quarterbacks.
No matter how Carr fairs over the next few seasons in Las Vegas, every NFL team must continually look to develop young arms.
First, they need a true and qualified No. 2 behind Carr and perhaps a draft pick to try and capture lightning in a bottle with a young player who could eventually be Carr’s replacement down the road. No matter how Carr fairs over the next few seasons in Las Vegas, every NFL team must continually look to develop young arms.
It’s a true No. 2 quarterback the Raiders must also spend time, and money, focusing on as we roll into the new NFL year next week. With sources telling us Peterman is all but gone after losing the 2019 season to injury, and Glennon and Kizer also on the outs, the Raiders must target a veteran to come in and back up Carr.
Among free-agent quarterbacks on the market as of Monday, former first-round draft pick Marcus Mariota of the Titans is the perfect candidate, in my view.
Outside of the need I’ve already established, the Raiders need someone who can adequately run and succeed in Jon Gruden’s offense. If Carr were to be injured, the Raiders offense will need a qualified game manager who could win games for them until Carr returns. Mariota, despite petering out in Nashville, could be that guy. He’s got something to prove and if he doesn’t sign somewhere as a starter, a fresh start with a team in a new market, new stadium, and a glitzy new city could be just what the doctor ordered for the talented former Oregon Duck.
But why would the Raiders take a chance, and probably pay a premium, for Mariota as a backup? Here are three reasons why they should:
To Push Derek Carr
If Mariota were to become a Las Vegas Raiders QB, I wouldn’t expect him to compete for the starting job – or would I? As I said on our CBS Sports Radio 1140 show and wrote in this space months ago, Carr would benefit from a backup that actually pushes him.
That’s not a knock against Carr but I believe everyone does better when there’s some competition. Carr hasn’t had true competition on his team in years and this might be the year to light the fire. Mariota’s pedigree and ability would push Carr to be his best which benefits the Raiders and both players. I am sure, if asked, Carr would welcome being pushed while also being reassured heading into camp he’s the Raiders’ starting QB.
This is all contingent on Mariota not signing somewhere where he is the bonafide starting QB heading into camp. There’s a good chance, depending what happens with other teams in free agency and the draft, Mariota may be looking for a spot as a backup if the role of starter isn’t offered. If he’s open to it, him and Carr in the quarterback room in Las Vegas would be a great scenario for the team and both players.
Conversely, in the event Carr doesn’t respond well to the increased competition, you have a viable option as a replacement starter. Again, I don’t think that would happen but you can never be too careful at the position as an NFL general manager.
Stability Would Allow Mariota to Flourish
I know. It’s hard to read “Raiders” and “stability” in the same sentence without laughing. Yet with Gruden’s monster 10-year contract and Mayock’s approach to building the roster the right way, Mariota would be in a place with stability and long-term vision he didn’t have as the starter in Nashville.
The bottom line for young quarterbacks to succeed or fail in the NFL is their coach. In Mariota’s case, Ken Wisenhunt was the coach that drafted him was fired just seven games into his rookie campaign. That’s practically blowing up the development of your young QB. Wisenhunt was replaced by Mike Mularkey who lasted through 2017 before he was fired and replaced by current Titans HC Mike Vrabel.
Top it off with a very Carr-esque four offensive coordinators in five years for the young Mariota and you can be sure part of his struggles are because of this instability. It’s not the only reason but it is a major factor to why the talented QB has struggled.
The traits and experiences he’s endured in Tennessee correlate nicely with Carr and I believe the two would find a kinship even while competing. This would mean getting the best out of both players which only benefits the Raiders.
The stability means you would get the best out of Mariota which benefits him but also gives the Raiders a great option at QB2.
The Future of QB Position More Secure
As mentioned, a healthy, happy, flourishing Mariota is a great insurance policy behind Derek Carr at a time when the Raiders may make a push to be a playoff team for the foreseeable future. They could seemingly “forge on” even if Carr was injured and having the capable backup is important, as we saw in Kansas City and elsewhere last year.
A resurgent Mariota also becomes an option at starter if Carr doesn’t pan out in 2020. This gives you a veteran quarterback with a year in the offense set to take over if Carr is traded or let go. With the possibility of a young quarterback on the roster from the 2020 draft too, Mariota gives you the perfect bridge QB veteran teams wish to have.
Lastly, if Mariota does well, and Carr keeps his starting role long term in the Silver and Black, Mariota could be valuable trade capital heading into the 2021 season. With Carr, Mariota, and a promising young QB, the Raiders could trade the backup for draft capital to continue their championship rebuild.
Yes, there are lots of “ifs” and “maybes” in these scenarios related to the Raiders making a run at Mariota, but none of them have significant downsides – at the right price.
If Marcus Mariota is unable to get an NFL team to believe he should be the hands-down starter for their team, and thus the QB can’t get starting QB contract somewhere, bringing him to Las Vegas might be a shrewd and intelligent move for a team looking for depth at all positions.
Especially the most important on the field.
What do you think? Would Marcus Mariota be a great signing as a backup to Derek Carr in Las Vegas?