When the Las Vegas Raiders signed Marcus Mariota, it was made clear that he’s there to back up Derek Carr. He was once the number two overall pick in the draft, but he’s fallen on hard times and lost his starting jobs with the Tennessee Titans. The Raiders would be foolish to bring him in and have him start right away, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t see him take over the job eventually.
Based on Mariota’s contract, he makes a lot more money if he becomes the starter. The Raiders wouldn’t put those incentives in his contract if they didn’t think he could possibly take over eventually. According to Mike Sando of The Athletic, there are those around the NFL who think Mariota will be the starter at some point:
“I think Mariota starts 10-plus games for them and fits well with what Jon Gruden wants to do,” an evaluator who was high on Mariota coming out of Oregon said. “If Jon loved Derek Carr, why is Marcus Mariota there? If you’ve got all the confidence in the world with your quarterback, why was Mariota one of the very early signings in free agency, maybe even the first quarterback announcement?”
That statement is probably a little unfair to Derek Carr. If the Raiders didn’t like him, he wouldn’t be on the team anymore. Every team should have a good backup and it’s not like Carr has never been injured. Carr will head into training camp as the favorite to start, but Mariota isn’t completely out of the running.
Mariota Compares to Rich Gannon
Many have linked the Raiders to a number of quarterbacks who are in the 2020 draft. However, Jon Gruden has never shown willingness to draft a quarterback early. His M.O. has always been to take veterans and try to make them better. That’s why the Mariota addition is so interesting because he clearly has a lot of talent, he just hasn’t figured out how to use it properly. Plus, it’s hard to not see the parallels between Rich Gannon and Mariota, per Sando:
Mariota is the first quarterback Gruden has signed to a contract of any significance since returning to the sideline before the 2018 season. That doesn’t necessarily mean Carr is imperiled, but the evaluator quoted above did see comparisons between Mariota and Rich Gannon, the mobile quarterback Gruden developed into a league MVP and Super Bowl starter nearly two decades ago, after Gannon’s career started slowly in Kansas City.
“I do know the head coach loves Mariota,” an exec said. “It is probably a good mix for Mariota and Carr personality-wise. Marcus is not going to come in and cause problems. He will work and do his job. I do think there is a Gannon comparison and I think Jon has a knack for resurrecting those guys.”
If Gruden could roll back the clock and bring Gannon back, he would. The former Raiders MVP was an absolute star for the team towards the end of his career. Gruden has proven he has the ability to resurrect a quarterback’s career in the past and he’s definitely going to try and do it again.
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Carr Isn’t Done Yet
The Raiders are going to give Derek Carr a fair shot at keeping his job and it’s ridiculous to think otherwise. Yes, Gruden is going to see what he can get out of Mariota, but that does not mean he’s going favor him over Carr unless he clearly outperforms the longtime starter.
Carr put up some very strong stats in 2019 and if he’s given a true number one wide receiver, he could solidify himself as the starter for years to come. Mariota has never been better than Carr, so it’s definitely premature to think he’s going to beat him out. Carr will be facing the first real competition of his career, but that could bring out the best in him.