Take a quick look back at the San Diego game. Marcus Mariota had a fumble on an ill-advised option play, and threw a pick six that seems to have something to do with the depth and quickness of Kendall Wright.
However, if you get past those two gaffes Marcus Mariota had an outstanding game. Now, you may say that you can’t take away those gaffes, but I would argue with you. You can easily fix that with smarter play calling.
The first solution is simple, if you are going to have Mariota run the ball don’t add any elements that make it harder for him to hold on to the ball. On option plays, you inherently have the ball more loose to try to either fake the pitch or to actually pitch the ball. Otherwise it is just a QB bootleg.
Which brings me to the second part of “how to run Marcus Mariota 101”, run him towards the boundaries. Give him the option to turn the corner and run, or just scamper out of bounds. If you run him inside or even in the C-gap, you run him into bigger bodies with worse intentions.
The interceptions sucks, but it was hardly indicative of the drive or Mariota’s day. The first change I would make is more read option out of the shotgun.
The key to the Titans passing game is the shotgun. Sunday Mariota looked like Tom Brady in the shogun, but the Titans need a running threat there. If defenses pin their ears back the Titans would be under more pressure and could lead to more turnovers.
So instead, you have the read option to force defenders on their heels. This keeps the pressure off, it keeps the defense honest, it gives you the chance to get some easy yards inside, and it gives you the chance at those package plays and RPOs that mobile QBs look so great doing.
Marcus Mariota has 4 TDs in 5 of his 21 career games, that is tied for the most in NFL history. He also is 5th in the NFL in passing TDs despite being 15th in pass attempts. That means that he is doing more with his chances that any (or almost any) QB in the NFL.
He is ready to lead this team and he can do that through the shotgun. Now, after this week when you go against teams that aren’t the best in the NFL vs the run, then maybe it is time to go under center more and keep defenses truly honest.
However, instead of playing into the hands of a better team why don’t the Titans take the smart route and pass on a team that is a middling pass defense at best? It is just common sense, and showing the fans that he has common sense would go a long way for Mike Mularkey in company as they try to show the fans that the team is in good hands.