Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota?
The Las Vegas Raiders are going to be asking themselves that question a lot this season. While some want to see Mariota take on the role, Carr seems more like the solid pick. In fact, if Carr could just up his game a little bit, it could be the difference between missing the playoffs and making a run at the championship.
Think about it! Carr is much less injury-prone that Mariota and has only missed two season games as a result. If nothing else, that stat, mixed with the fact that Mariota has a problem with turnovers, should show who deserves the starting job. Now, that doesn't mean the former Titan can’t improve on those numbers, or that he won't get the chance to do so, it just shows how much Mariota is going to have to step up to get there.
Yes, Mariota might have had four seasons with a QBR rating of 90% or more, but he missed 17 games throughout his career. Again, that means that while Mariota might have been the better passer at times, he would have to stay healthy in order to thrive in the role. Otherwise, the position would just fall back to Carr and they would be stuck in the same rut they started in.
Then again, what if Mariota could go a whole season without getting injured? Would that make him a better starter for the Raiders than Carr?
Some might point to Carr and Mariota’s 2018 season, which are actually very similar in nature, but there are a few things that fans forget about that time. The first problem is that while both QB’s had similar QBR’s, average completion yards, and even touchdown to interception percentages, they were on two very different offenses.
For example, the Tennessee Titans had a much better running game with Derek Henry and didn’t need to focus as much on passing. When they did go to the air, however, Mariota had an 11-8 touchdown to interception ratio and struggled to stay healthy. Carr had a 19-10 touchdown to interception ratio that year as well. The difference however is the fact that the Raiders didn’t have as many go-to guys.
Mariota got injured last year, Ryan Tannehill stepped up and performed brilliantly under center for the Titans. Seriously though, in 12 games he completed 201 of 286 passes, averaged over 20 yards a throw, and yielded a touchdown to interception ratio of 22-6. That’s a lot better than what Mariota could do with the team and shows that he doesn't belong in a starting role.
Although this piece has been very hard on Mariota, especially regarding his inconsistencies and injuries, he might get a chance at the starting role as the weeks go on. Heck, some on the internet and even Twitter predict that Carr doesn't make it through the first eight games of the season, which include games against the Buccaneers, the Panthers, the Chiefs, the Saints, and the Bills.
Keep in mind that three of those five teams are ranked 15th or better defensively last year. That means Carr is going to be put through the wringer in these eight games and will need to not only provide better numbers than last year but stay healthy in the process. If not, the starting job would then move over to Marcus Mariota.
And that’s maybe when Mariota will show us where exactly his future in the NFL lies. If he can stand tall in the face of adversity and keep the Raiders on an even keel with Carr on the sideline, he will have himself a starting job next year. If he crumbles under pressure, however, or just doesn't perform up to the lofty standards set for him, it will most likely result in his eventual exit from the league.
In the end, there should be no doubt that Mariota can make a suitable backup if the opportunity presents itself, but he is not their franchise guy. He is not someone that can stay healthy for the duration of a season and can’t even be relied upon to get down the field at times. It’s just too much of a risk for the Raiders to take right now, which is why Carr needs to start over Mariota for now.