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VOL. 43 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 26, 2019

Titans face years of rebuilding if Mariota falters

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If Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is successful this year, he’ll be offered a big contract extension. If not, it could take years for the Titans to successfully replace him.

-- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey

Even before training camp starts this week, the question of whether Marcus Mariota is the Tennessee Titans’ long-term answer at quarterback has been examined ad nauseam on talk radio, internet blogs and social media.

But there is one very important aspect of the Mariota situation that is being vastly underplayed as this saga moves into the 2019 season.

The Titans see themselves in “win-now” mode in their second year under Mike Vrabel and coming off three consecutive 9-7 campaigns that have resulted in one playoff win.

The Titans are of the belief – at least outwardly – that their roster is solid enough for a deep playoff push. That would require Mariota to have a year successful enough to earn a contract extension that has not yet been offered.

If Mariota, 25 and heading into his fifth NFL season, can’t stay healthy or can’t perform to his 2016 level – before major injuries began to plague him – the Titans’ window of opportunity shrinks.

Another season of injuries or sub-par performance from Mariota would mean the Titans will be forced to start over with yet another young quarterback.

That would be the team’s fourth attempt at finding a franchise quarterback since Steve McNair left for Baltimore in 2006.

Sandwiched between McNair and Mariota were Vince Young (2006-2010) and Jake Locker (2011-2014).

If Mariota makes good, he gets a nice extension and pilots the offense for at least the next three to five seasons, barring injury.

If not, the Titans will be looking to another rookie quarterback in 2020 – Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, Justin Herbert or any other draft-eligible quarterback who has a breakout season.

Preseason schedule

Scheduled times (always subject to change) for the Titans’ nine practice sessions that will be open to fans.

Highlights include the Aug. 3 practice at Nissan Stadium, followed by a free concert featuring singer Jake Owen and a fireworks show, the two joint practices Aug. 14-15 with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Saturday, July 27: 9:50 a.m.-noon.

Sunday, July 28: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (likely the first practice in pads)

Wednesday, July 31: 9:50 a.m.-noon

Friday, Aug. 2: 9:50 a.m.-noon

Saturday, Aug. 3: 6-8 p.m. at Nissan Stadium, followed by Jake Owen concert and fireworks

Thursday, Aug. 8: Preseason game at Philadelphia, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 10: 1:50-3:45 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 11: 10 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 14: Joint practice with New England Patriots, 9:50 a.m.-noon

Thursday, Aug. 15: Joint practice with New England Patriots, 9:50 a.m.-noon

Saturday, Aug. 17: Preseason game vs. New England, Nissan Stadium, 6 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 25: Preseason game vs. Pittsburgh, Nissan Stadium (Sunday Night Football telecast), 7 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 29: Preseason game at Chicago, 7 p.m.

But no matter how polished any of those guys might look in the college game, they will need time to develop into a legitimate NFL quarterback.

Then, of course, there is the prospect of how much draft capital it would take to get in position to take a top quarterback. If the Titans finish middle of the pack or better, they won’t be in position for a top-five pick.

Another option? Re-sign backup Ryan Tannehill as a bridge to 2011 and a chance at a franchise quarterback like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

But then the rebuilding process is delayed another year. And bridge quarterbacks don’t often win championships.

Also, how many of the top players on Tennessee’s roster would be around by 2022?

Delanie Walker would be 37, Jurrell Casey 32 and Taylor Lewan 30. Derrick Henry and Kevin Byard, both of whom could be on the verge of stardom now, would be 28 with more mileage on their bodies.

Those five players are arguably the best and most productive players on the Titans roster. All five are either in the prime or at the end of their respective careers.

So, as training camp opens, Mariota’s progress and health will be closely monitored by the media, fans and ownership – anyone hoping that the window of opportunity doesn’t close after the 2019 season.

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