Why Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert could be teammates soon

Dylan Mickanen
NBC Sports Northwest

Many Duck fans are eagerly anticipating where former Oregon quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert will be playing next season.

What are the odds they play for the same team? It could be more likely than you'd think.

The Los Angeles Chargers have moved on from their quarterback of 16 seasons, Philip Rivers, and will be looking for a new starter.

Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn spoke with AM 570 LA Sports, per ESPN's Eric D. Williams, about the quarterback battle and if he'd be comfortable starting Tyrod Taylor, their lone quarterback on roster at the moment.

Tyrod Taylor is a heck of a quarterback. We couldn't have a better backup right now, and now he has an opportunity to maybe step up into a starting role. I've had Tyrod before [in Buffalo], and I know what this young man brings to the table, in the passing game and the running game.

However, I don't think it's likely that the Chargers will be starting Tyrod Taylor next season, at least not without an open competition in training camp. 

Los Angeles owns the sixth-overall pick in the upcoming draft, which many mock drafts predict will be used to select Justin Herbert.

[RELATED: The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?]

Meanwhile, Michael Moraitis of Titansized thinks the Chargers and Marcus Mariota should mutually target each other. 

Why not both?

With skilled receiving options such as Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry (free agent), the Chargers are built to compete right now.  Much of their 5-11 record can be attributed to bad luck because they had a positive point differential for most of the season before ending with a differential of -8, good for 16th in the NFL. 

Los Angeles may draft Herbert thinking he's the quarterback of the future, but why not pick up another capable quarterback like Mariota for cheap to come to compete on a prove-it deal. It could be the opposite of when the Seahawks gave Matt Flynn a large contract and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round as a flier. Wilson ended up winning the job in training camp and Pete Carroll didn't give into sunk cost fallacy by moving on from Flynn when Wilson was the better player. 

The Chargers can invest significant draft capital in Herbert, but let Mariota and Taylor compete for the starting role. If Herbert wins the job, then great, the Chargers probably have their quarterback of the future. If he isn't quite ready, then they have two experienced options to fill in until Herbert is ready and he can learn behind Mariota for a season.

Also if Mariota begins the season as the starter before being benched for Herbert, he will be a great teammate backing up Herbert as evidenced by his handling of the Titans benching him in favor of Ryan Tannehill this past season.

[RELATED: Marcus Mariota was a consummate professional until the end with Titans]

As the Tannehill-Mariota situation showed, there is no downside to bringing in a low-cost quarterback to compete for the starting job, and the Chargers should take that approach. The Titans were starting Tannehill in the AFC Championship while only paying him $2 million. 

Mariota spoke after the conclusion of the Titans' season has "no doubts at all" about being a starter next season.

I have no doubts at all, no doubts at all. I'm just hopeful and ready for whatever that next opportunity is.

Mariota has shown flashes of brillilance throughout his professional career. Before a broken leg ended his impressive sophomore campaign, Mariota threw 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions with a career-best 7.9 yards-per-attempt. His junior season saw massive regression as he threw 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions while playing through a hamstring injury. That regression would continue into his fourth season under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel. 

Before being benched, Mariota has a 29-32 record in 61 games as a starter with 13,207 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, and 44 interceptions. It's not entirely Mariota's fault, however; few young quarterbacks would succeed with four offensive coordinators and five different play-callers during their rookie contract. When he hits the open market in March, he can seek out a better opportunity to turn his career around, perhaps in Los Angeles? 

Meanwhile, Herbert just finished a four-year career at Oregon as the full-time starter, concluding in a Pac-12 and Rose Bowl Championships. The Eugene native ended his college playing career passing for  10,541 yards, 95 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions while going 29-13 as the starter. 

To get his draft process started, Herbert was named the MVP of both the Senior Bowl practices and the Senior Bowl itself after passing for 83 yards on 9-of-13 passing and a touchdown.

Why Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert could be teammates soon originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

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