Titans pull Mariota, give Tannehill a try

David Boclair

Typically, when Marcus Mariota fails to finish a game it is because of an injury.

Sunday, it was a painful performance that earned the Tennessee Titans quarterback a spot on the sideline during the second half against the Denver Broncos. Ryan Tannehill replaced Mariota with 4:56 to play in the third quarter and did not fare much better as the Titans (2-4) lost 16-0.

“I was inaccurate. I didn’t give our guys a chance to make plays,” Mariota said following the contest. “Obviously, that’s some of the reasons why I got pulled.”

The benching was a first for the second overall pick in the 2015 draft who won the Heisman Trophy in his final season at Oregon. It also further clouded Mariota’s professional future, both in the short term and the long term. Coach Mike Vrabel declined to name a starter for next Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, and Mariota said he had “no idea” who it would be. Then there is the fact that he is in the fifth-year option of his rookie contract and is unsigned beyond this season and has completed 59.1 percent of his passes, on pace for the lowest connection rate of his career.

Tannehill, acquired in an offseason trade with the Miami Dolphins, is also a first-round pick (eighth overall, 2012) whose contract expires at the end of this season.

“For me as a competitor, I would love to be out there with my guys,” Mariota said. “It’s going to come down to the coaches, what they decide.”

Vrabel felt he had no choice other than to make a change with 4:56 to play in the third quarter and his team trailing 13-0. The Broncos had just converted Mariota’s second interception of the contest (his second of the season) into the game’s only touchdown. The offense had mustered a mere 100 yards and six first downs (three as a result of Denver penalties) in nine possessions.

Mariota was 7-for-18 passing for 63 yards with two interceptions. He also had been sacked three times.

“At that point in time we were really just trying to find a way to move the football, score some points,” Vrabel said. “… I felt like we were in the game and we needed to find a way to score.”

In the first five weeks of the season Mariota had taken every snap and had not thrown an interception in 141 pass attempts. The Broncos picked him off for the first time with 37 seconds to play in the first half. The second came on Tennessee’s second series of the second half.

A starter since the first game of his rookie season, he has missed nine games and failed to finish six others – all because of injury.

Likewise, the situation was something new for Tannehill, who started all 88 games he played in seven seasons with Miami. In his first career relief performance he completed 13 of 16 passes for 144 yards. He was sacked four times and his final throw was a fourth-down interception at the goal line that ensured the shutout, the first against the Titans since Week 6 of last season.

“It is tough, especially for me, this being the first time,” Mariota said. “… Things happen for a reason. I truly believe that. I can learn from this. I’m going to grow from this and I’ll become a better player from it.”

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