Why Marcus Mariota is Ahead of the Hype

by Kolby SolinskyWhite Cover Magazine

He’s fast. Side to side and point to point. He can hurl it, place it, spike it, and thread it. He’s a freak athlete, a quarterback in the modern NFL’s ideal – with the feet of a receiver, the head of a coordinator, and the humility of a towel boy. At least, that’s how it seems.

There are many reasons for Marcus Mariota’s success. But what makes him so good? He’s the ultimate game manager.

When he came into the league, Mariota was miscast as ‘Russell Wilson-type’ of quarterback, for no reason other than NFL scouts and pundits probably wanted him to become that. But Mariota’s mobility has never been as improvised or as fluid as Wilson’s – and neither has it been as flat-out bullet-like as Michael Vick’s used to be. I never thought the Wilson comparison was fare to Mariota, or deserved. It was lazy. (And here’s Boomer Esiason, just in time…)

Pardon the hype-erbole (I just made that word up), but Mariota always reminded me more of Tom Brady than he did of Wilson. He’s tall, he’s good from the pocket, and he’s a system quarterback. That doesn’t mean he’s a one-system quarterback – if you want to see just how varied and chameleonic the young pivot’s skills and sophomore season are, read this four-quarter breakdown by Danny Kelly at The Ringer, a video-evidenced autopsy of Mariota’s four-touchdown trampling of the Green Bay Packers. (And here’s a season-long look at Mariota’s evolution – including some of his biggest faults and miscues – from Dom Cosentino at Deadspin.) It also doesn’t mean he’s a system quarterback in the way Brady is a system quarterback. And more importantly, I don’t mean Mariota will ever be as good as Tom Brady. (Throwing four TDs against the Pack is one thing, winning four Super Bowls is another.)

All I mean is, it’s Mariota’s intelligence that sets him apart. And like Brady, he can borrow freely from his natural and athletic gifts. But he’s not handicapped by them.

Through Week 11 of the 2016 NFL season, Mariota has thrown for 2,772 yards, rushed for 264 yards, and carries a QB Rating of 100.3. He has thrown 28 touchdowns and run for two more, to cover for eight interceptions. But since Week 5, Mariota’s TD-INT ratio is a otherworldly 19-3, highlighted by two weeks with a QB Rating over 148.

The Tennessee Titans currently sit at 5-6, and must win-out to beat the likes of Houston (6-3), Oakland (7-2), Kansas City (7-3) and Denver (7-3) for a playoff spot.

*Photo at the top of this article is from Wikimedia Commons, credit to author Kelvin Kuo.