Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota will be an MVP candidate in 2017

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 24: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans in action during the first half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 24, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 24: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans in action during the first half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 24, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) /

The Tennessee Titans have added all of the tools to help the improving Marcus Mariota not only take the next step, but potentially win NFL MVP in 2017.

An MVP for Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is more likely than you think.

Mariota shares a striking amount of features with recent MVP winners and candidates. Several of these players do not show the statistical dominance that one might expect for such an award. Rather, these players have the pieces around them to win a significant number of games and make the stats come easy.

Upon looking where Mariota and the Titans stand heading into 2017, the third-year quarterback has all the tools to win games. Lots of games. The offensive line is one of the league’s best. The running game finished top five in the league in total yards last season. Much-needed upgrades at receiver are secured. And Mariota has shown solid improvement across the board from his first to second season.

Breaking down the characteristics of recent MVP winners and candidates, the opportunity in front of Mariota and the Titans can be quite lucrative in many ways.

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Team Wins

Derek Carr placed 14th in total yards, 15th in completion percentage, and 16th in the NFL in QBR last season. Carr also finished tied for third-place in NFL MVP voting. By just considering the key stats, Carr wouldn’t come close to an MVP vote.

But of course, Carr led the Oakland Raiders to a 12-4 record and into the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. This is one of the biggest factors in MVP voting, especially considering what team you win with. The Raiders were losers for a decade, and Carr, with the right tools around him, brought them all the way back.

This is why Carr tripled the votes of Aaron Rodgers, despite Rodgers being better — far better — in about every stat category. But Rodgers has been there. As a Super Bowl champion and two-time NFL MVP, Rodgers gets compared to his past seasons moreso than comparisons to the other MVP candidates.

On the other hand, newcomers like Carr get the benefit of their team’s breakthrough success to make the case for them over the stats. Mariota can find himself in a similar position at the end of this season. While he won’t have Brady and Rodgers-type numbers, he can lead the Titans to one of the best records in the league.

Offensive Line

The last four NFL MVPs had the luxury of superior offensive lines. No surprise there. Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive lines for the last four MVPs at sixth, second, fourth, and third, from 2016 to 2013 respectively.

To make another Carr comparison, the Raiders O-line ranked fourth-best last season. Carr was only sacked a shockingly low 16 times. Jay Cutler was sacked more times and he only played five games in 2016.

Mariota shares the luxury of an elite offensive line. The Titans front five ranked best in the league last year by PFF. This was a tremendous improvement from being ranked 26th in 2015 and allowing 15 fewer sacks to their quarterback. Coming into 2017, PFF ranks them as fourth best.

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Running Game

Matt Ryan and Cam Newton were aided by superior run games in their MVP winning seasons. The Falcons finished fifth in total rushing yards last season and the Panthers had the second-most in 2015. Derek Carr’s third place MVP finish last year was assisted by the Raider’s sixth-highest rushing total. Outside of the Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Mannings of the world, quarterbacks need effective running games to take pressure off of the passing game and keep the offense on the field.

The Titans ran for the third-highest rushing total in 2016. Demarco Murray may be 30 years of age, but didn’t show any signs of slowing last season by gaining 1,287 yards on the ground. Derrick Henry is hungrier than ever entering his second season.

The Titans had the third-highest run-play percentage in the league last season. They will pass much more this season with Corey Davis and Eric Decker in town, which can benefit the ground game even more. The bottom line is behind this offensive line, the Titan rushing attack will continue to be one of the best in the business.


Mariota’s improvement from his rookie to sophomore seasons was notable both on the stat sheet and in the win column.

Mariota 2015 vs. 2016 (NFL rank)
2015122818 (24th)19 (T-22nd)10 (13th)91.5 (17th)51.6 (26th)38 (T-23rd)
2016153426 (23rd)26 (12th)9 (21st)95.6 (10th)64.9 (12th)23 (25th)

Most notably, Mariota’s passer rating and QBR improved into the top half of the league. What also stands out is the decline in sacks. The much-improved Titan offensive line kept Mariota on his feet 15 more times, which undoubtedly helped Mariota become a much more efficient passer.

Another stat that jumps out comes from this tweet by PFF:

There are a handful of different reasons behind this stat, but the leading factor is probably explained by the receivers. The 2016 receiving corps lacked the separation and elusiveness to garner many yards after catch. That changes this season with Davis, Decker, and Taylor.

Next: NFL QB Power Rankings 2017: Post-OTAs edition

The Titans have all of the weapons. Mariota is in position to lead the Titans to their first playoff appearance in nearly a decade. They can go as far as Mariota takes them, and an MVP could be along that route.