What are the advantages and disadvantages of the New England Patriots adding Marcus Mariota at quarterback if Tom Brady leaves in free agency?
If Tom Brady decides to leave the New England Patriots in free agency this month, there’s a very real chance he’ll be doing so to sign with the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans are considered to be among the more-likely destinations for the G.O.A.T. — if he does decide to leave at all — thanks to their weapons on offense, talented defense, and the presence of Brady’s former teammate and good friend Mike Vrabel as head coach.
If indeed that scenario were to play out, how interesting would it be to see the Patriots find Brady’s replacement from the very same team that “stole” Brady out from under them?
Marcus Mariota was taken with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. A former Heisman Trophy winner who was absolutely electric in college with the Oregon Ducks, Mariota has been fairly streaky since entering the pros. Tennessee went just 3-13 his rookie season, though they improved to 9-7 in both 2016 and 2017.
In his third season (2017), Mariota guided the Titans to the postseason, where they eventually lost to the Patriots in the Divisional round. Mariota and the Titans once again finished 9-7 in 2018, though they missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons with that record then.
Last year, Mariota found himself benched in Week 6 by Vrabel, with the coach turning the reins over to Ryan Tannehill instead, the former Miami Dolphin. Tannehill caught lightning en route to leading Tennessee all the way to the AFC Championship Game, and he earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors while doing so.
Where does this leave Mariota now?
It’s an interesting three-way dance between him, Tannehill, and Brady this month. All three of them are jockeying for starting signal-caller duties in 2020, with oddsmakers favoring two of the three to be the starting QB for the Titans and Patriots when all is said and done. The only questions now are which two will it be, and in what order?
If Brady re-signs with the Patriots, expect the Titans to re-sign Tannehill and keep him tabbed as their starter. In that scenario, they’d probably also want to try and keep Mariota as one of the league’s best backup QBs — and truthfully, Mariota might not have much of a market elsewhere anyway.
If Brady signs with the Titans, it wouldn’t be shocking for the Patriots to make a run at Tannehill. The switch from Brady to Tannehill wouldn’t be popular with New England fans, but at the very least, it’d give the Pats the ability to stay relevant and compete within their division for another season until they figure out their long-term plans at QB.
But back to Mariota.
If Brady leaves — say for the Raiders, Chargers, or someone else — and Tannehill doesn’t sign with New England (and likely stays with the Titans), then there’s a decent chance the Pats might consider bringing Mariota in.
Similar to Tannehill, you’d be hard-pressed to find many New Englanders who’d be thrilled with their change at QB from 2019 to 2020, but Mariota still remains one of the higher-floor backup QBs in the league. He’s only 26 years old, and unlike the QB he’s constantly compared against (Jameis Winston, who was drafted one spot above him), Mariota isn’t quite as careless with the football.
Emphasis on the word “quite,” however. The sixth-year player does still have some of Winston’s recklessness when it comes to decision-making. Unfortunately, he’s also significantly less durable than Winston, as he’s never made it through a full 16-game regular season in the NFL as a starter to date.
Overall, we think the Pats could do a whole lot better than Mariota as a potential starting-caliber QB replacement if Brady leaves, but we also think they could do a whole lot worse than Mariota as a potential backup/No. 2 option behind someone like Jarrett Stidham or a rookie QB from this year’s draft class, too.