Raiders' Marcus Mariota was 'killing' Titans defense as scout team QB

Josh Schrock
NBC Sports BayArea

When Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota lost his starting job to Ryan Tannehill last year, he took it in stride. He didn't complain or mope, instead, he set off to do what he could do to help his team win.

As scout team quarterback, that included dismantling the Titans' starting defense, according to former teammate Logan Ryan.

"He started killing us every single week," Ryan told "The Double Coverage" podcast. "Like, he started ripping us in practice. Marcus Mariota was the practice quarterback and he was destroying us. And it made us better."

Mariota's time in Tennessee was plagued with injuries, staff and system changes and inconsistent play followed. The 2015 No. 2 overall pick never had a coach that truly was behind him and believed in the abilities that saw him win the 2014 Heisman Trophy and open eyes during his first two seasons as a starter.

The Oregon product now has that in general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden. To be sure, the Raiders still are Derek Carr's team, but the Silver and Black believe in Mariota.

He wasn't fully healthy in 2019 and Mayock said it would take time to "rebuild" him. Mariota battled a nerve issue during the 2018 season after taking a helmet shot to his elbow during Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.

He's coming into Las Vegas a 1B not a 2. He'll push Carr to be better and make the quarterback room as strong as it has been.

As he showed last year, Mariota is a great leader, a fantastic teammate and the potential for him to be a good NFL quarterback still exists. The Titans were impressed by how well Mariota ran the Baltimore Ravens' offense when mimicking Lamar Jackson ahead of their playoff game.

That's no surprise. Mariota entered the NFL in a time when a host of Mike Mularkeys and Ken Whisenhunts were trying to force athletic, spread-style quarterbacks into old-school offensive systems. The "exotic smashmouth" the Titans ran under Mularkey was a detriment to his growth as an NFL signal-caller. Instead of doing as the Ravens did with Jackson and playing to Mariota's clear strengths, the Titans tried to force him to be a three-step drop pocket-passer.

Even when Mariota showed off what he could do, the Titans tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.

When healthy and confident, Mariota is capable of being a game-changing quarterback.

When he was coming out of college, both Gruden and Mayock -- who were television analysts -- raved about Mariota's ability. Gruden even likened him to Russell Wilson.

"I don't understand why he isn't the No. 1 player in this draft on Mel Kiper's Big Board," Gruden said. "I don't know anybody in this draft that can do for a football team what Mariota can do. He can read the field. That whole thing about Oregon being a no-huddle, dive-option team, that is just a narrative resulting from a lack of information. The Ducks run a lot of pro-style concepts. Mariota does a lot with the protections. I've seen him throw the ball with touch and timing in tight windows.

"Mariota is the same size as Jameis Winston. He runs 4.52 40, he is incredibly elusive, and man, is he a playmaker and a great competitor. I see him functioning in the pocket, out of the pocket, and if you want to run a zone-read, he'll rip the defense apart. He is like Russell Wilson, only he is 6-4."

Mariota also has done something Carr hasn't been able to do -- win in Kansas City. While that win didn't come against Patrick Mahomes, Mariota did lead the Titans to a come-from-behind playoff win at Arrowhead Stadium. In that game he caught his own deflected pass and ran it in for a touchdown and threw the game-sealing block on a Derrick Henry run.

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The Raiders have faith Carr will have a big season. He has the weapons to have a career year as he enters Year 3 in Gruden's system.

But the Raiders also have faith in who Mariota can be when healthy and confident. That rebuilding process might take some time, but the talent clearly still is there.

There's no doubt Gruden was grinning hearing Ryan talk about his weekly practice torchings.

Raiders' Marcus Mariota was 'killing' Titans defense as scout team QB originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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