For all the buzz that preceded round 1 of the NFL draft last night, it was a rather uneventful night. But that wasn’t for lack of trying from Chip Kelly and the Eagles. After offseason moves that left many in Philadelphia calling for Kelly’s head on a stake, and those across the nation thinking “WTF is this guy doing?” everyone was waiting for that last shoe to drop. For Kelly to trade up and draft his golden boy…Marcus Mariota. He denied it; we never believed him. Secretly we all sort of wanted it to happen. At least then he wouldn’t have any excuses if his “system” failed at the NFL level.
So after reports surfaced today about what Kelly offered to the Titans for the #2 pick, one can only be left thinking, “WTF was Tennessee thinking?” and “Wow, Ken Whisenhunt may have just saved Chip Kelly’s job“.
Now, let me start by disclosing my own personal bias. I don’t believe in Mariota as an NFL quarterback. I think he was a phenomenal collegiate athlete, is a tremendous young man and fantastic role model. Unfortunately, none of that will help him run a traditional NFL offense or identify the correct hot read when the defense is showing A-gap pressure. He’s a system quarterback who ran a gimmick offense; that works in the Pac-12, but ask Nick Foles and company how well that offense faired anytime they played a real NFL defense last season (spoiler – the answer is NOT VERY WELL). Their flaws were hugely masked in 2014 by big play TDs from special teams and defense; plays that are not sustainable, but I digress.
The point is, the Eagles may have been the only landing spot for Mariota that actually fit his strengths. So why then would the Titans turn down an offer that reportedly included:
Fletcher Cox (a 24-year old stud DE/DT), Mychal Kendricks (a solid starting ILB – also 24 years old), Brandon Boykin (a solid nickel/slot corner), Sam Bradford (former #1 overall pick with obvious injury history and upside), 2015 1st round pick, 2015 third round pick and 2016 1st round pick.
That’s a HUGE offer for a rookie QB coming out of a program that has zero history of QB success at the NFL-level. Tennessee could have walked away with 3 of Philly’s best defensive players to add to a defensive group that yielded the third most points in the league during 2014, and is in desperate need for more playmakers (only 39 sacks and 12 INTs as a team last season). A starting QB to compete with Zack Mettenberger AND 3 DRAFT PICKS!!! Hell, at 20 the Eagles took USC WR Nelson Agholor. You know who else could use a big-play WR with speed, size and return ability….
Promise you it’s not a trick question – answer: TENNESSEE TITANS
Maybe Marcus Mariota becomes a pro-bowl QB; a legit franchise signal-caller. Maybe he fails miserably in an offense that’s best suited for a pocket-passer (feel like we’re watching the RGIII/Redskins experiment all over again). Only time will tell. But for now it seems like the Titans had Chip Kelly caught with his pants down, bent over a barrel and decided “Nah, we’re good. Thanks anyway.” My guess is they’ll be playing the “what if” game in a few years while they’re on the clock ready to draft their next “Franchise Quarterback”.