What happened to Marcus Mariota? How NFL Draft ‘bust’ found a fit in Raiders’ offense

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From No. 2 overall to No. 2 on the depth chart, Marcus Mariota has carved out an interesting career for himself.

Once a highly touted prospect coming out of Oregon, the former Tennessee Titan has settled into a backup role with the Raiders, and he has settled in nicely. After some up-and-down years with the Titans, Mariota latched on with the Raiders in 2020.

While the “draft bust” label will follow Mariota the rest of his career, his Raiders tenure has resulted in some surprising usage within the offense in 2021 after spending the entirety of the 2020 season on the bench backing up Derek Carr. Mariota could find himself as a high-quality backup, or in a Taysom Hill-type role after the 2021 season if 

Here’s how Mariota’s career went from draft bust to dual-threat backup:

What happened to Marcus Mariota?

Mariota was something of a victim of circumstances in Tennessee: He had two head coaches in his first three seasons and four offensive coordinators in his first five seasons. That’s a tough situation for any rookie quarterback to navigate.

Through it all, he was fairly inconsistent and had turnover issues, something that didn’t really show itself in college. 

Aside from Mariota’s surroundings, he has been something of an injury magnet since entering the league, suffering an injury every year except 2019, ironically, the year he was benched for Ryan Tannehill. 

  • In 2021, he suffered a quad injury in the season opener for the Raiders. He would be placed on IR. The injury was an aggravation of a prior quad injury in preseason.
  • In 2020, Mariota had a pectoral injury that sidelined him for five games.
  • In 2018, he dealt with an elbow injury and a neck stinger that forced him to sit out two games.
  • In 2017, he dealt with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a game.
  • In 2016, Mariota broke his fibula in Week 16 vs. the Jaguars.
  • In 2015, he dealt with a sprain MCL in his right knee on two different occasions, with the second sprain ending his season prematurely.

Mariota finished his Titans career on the fifth-year option. He played in 63 games in five seasons, throwing 76 touchdowns to 45 interceptions over five seasons in Tennesseee. Tannehill’s career renaissance in Tennessee played a big part in Mariota’s release.

He wouldn’t be unemployed for long, though: Mariota was signed to a two-year, $17.6 million contract with the Raiders prior the 2020 season, seemingly signaling a challenge to incumbent starter Derek Carr. 

With the Raiders, Mariota found himself a niche: In 2020, he was purely the Raiders’ backup quarterback, taking his only snaps of the season in Week 15 in relief of an injured Derek Carr.

In 2021, Mariota’s role evolved, becoming something of a gadget player for the Vegas offense. Mariota notched three snaps through the first 11 weeks of the season (most of which was missed time due to injury), but his role expanded entering Week 12. 

The Raiders have used Mariota primarily as an option quarterback: He has just 24 snaps on the season, with just three of those snaps coming as passes. Most of his snaps came as a runner (13) and the remaining eight snaps came on hand-offs.

Marcus Mariota contract

Prior to 2020, Mariota signed a two-year deal worth up to $17.6 million with the Raiders. The contract included $7.5 million in guarantees.

Mariota and the Raiders restructured his contract heading into 2021: Mariota signed a one-year deal with $3.5 million guaranteed. He can earn more with incentives, up to $8 million, per Spotrac.



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