We've avoided this subject long enough. Time to dive in and give you everything you need to know about the swirling rumors considering Marcus Mariota and the San Diego Chargers....
Why are we talking about it?
Well, because the rumors won't die. The Chargers aren't helping matters by traveling up to Eugene, Oregon today to wine-and-dine Mariota before working him out tomorrow.
It should be noted that when these rumors first started, I did a little digging and heard more than one person say that this is a deal that would likely happen the week of the 2015 NFL Draft and no sooner, if it happens at all.
What if this is all a ruse?
Do the Chargers have any reason to publicly court Mariota if they're not actually interested in trading up for him? They actually have two!
One, if Mariota were to somehow fall to the #17 pick (crazier things have happened), they would want to have done their homework before selecting him to be the heir to Philip Rivers.
Two, Ken Whisenhunt and the Chargers coaching staff are still close friends. This could be the team doing him a favor, drumming up interest in the #2 overall pick to try and boost the return Whisenhunt could get from another team.
That being said, the team is likely interested in Mariota. Now they're just trying to figure out how interested.
Why would the Chargers want to trade Philip Rivers?
A number of reasons, actually.
For one, Philip Rivers is in the final year of his contract. Not only has he said he will play out the final year instead of negotiate an extension, Rivers has hinted that he has no interest in being a part of the potential "Los Angeles Chargers". Seeing as how unsure the Chargers are about their future plans at the moment, it doesn't exactly make sense for them to tie themselves to a franchise QB that seems ready to leave if it doesn't go his way.
Two, the recent injuries that Rivers has played through are not going away any time soon. He's only getting older. Any unbiased viewer would tell you there's a better chance of Rivers struggling with injuries for the rest of the career than not.
Three, and this one will suck. Take a deep breath. While it may not be his fault, Philip Rivers is not seen as a "winning QB" or a "championship QB". He was half-dead by time he made it to the AFC Championship Game and he's only been there once in eleven seasons. NFL front offices look in-depth at every team and every player, but they also know to not ignore the surface-level stuff they get from their gut. A lot of NFL guts around the league says that Rivers can't do what Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger can, simply because he hasn't.
Four, the Chargers are not likely to win the Super Bowl this year or next year. Not with Peyton Manning in the division. It may be time for some long-term, post-Manning type of planning.
Do they realize that the fanbase would riot?
The Chargers actually don't care. if they cared about how the fanbase felt, they probably wouldn't have unveiled plans to move to Carson and share a stadium with the Raiders.
Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy have one goal in mind: The Super Bowl. They likely don't think they're going to get there with Philip Rivers this year, and waiting to see what happens could be a crippling move to the franchise and everyone involved.
Imagine this: The Chargers keep Philip Rivers. No trade happens. The team goes 10-6, misses the playoffs, and upon the announcement that they're moving to Los Angeles....Philip Rivers threatens to retire if the team places the franchise tag on him.
Not only does that send a terrible message to the new L.A. fanbase that the Chargers are trying to turn, but it leaves the Chargers without a QB and without a decent draft pick to get one. They would have to 'tank" during their first year in Los Angeles (playing at the L.A. Coliseum), which wouldn't go over well, and hope that they could get a good pick to grab a rookie QB. Then they'd be opening a new stadium in a new city with an unproven commodity at QB, coming off a disastrous "tanking" season.
That is what the team is hoping to avoid, and Rivers is in no mood to help them avoid it (or he's just negotiating for more money).
Why would the Titans want Philip Rivers?
To put it bluntly, while the Chargers are trying to win a Super Bowl, the Titans are just trying to win some fans. They want some excitement around the team. A 10-6 season and a playoff loss would be a huge success for them at this point (their last playoff appearance was 2008).
A point that Kevin Clark brought up on Dan Sileo's show this morning, that I had not heard but is definitely important, is that the Tennessee Titans are for sale. Ownership is looking for a quick way to improve the value of the team, and bringing in a franchise QB is the best way to do that.
Ken Whisenhunt and Philip Rivers know each other, like each other, and work very well together. Rivers doesn't make them a Super Bowl contender, but he turns their 2-14 from last year into something closer to 7-9 or 8-8. It would be a great audition for free agency, and it would give him a chance to test out the waters in Tennessee for a year (a place he likely would've considered in free agency anyway) to see if it is to his liking.
What does "Marcus Mariota, Chargers QB" look like?
This is interesting, actually.
For the hundreds of tweets that I got when McCoy was hired, about how he would "fix" Philip Rivers (which he did!) because he was a "QB guru" that had gotten the most out of Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow, there has to be some crossover with the people that are tweeting me now about the massive dropoff from Rivers to Mariota. Right?
If Mike McCoy can win football games with Kyle Orton, he can win them with Marcus Mariota.
If Mike McCoy can win football games with Tim Tebow, he can win them with Marcus Mariota.
Guys like Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead are godsends to young QBs, and they would help Mariota to avoid a lot of mistakes. Guys like Keenan Allen don't need anything but an intelligent, accurate QB to put up big numbers.
Mariota isn't "just a guy", either. He has prototypical size, high intelligence, incredible athleticism, solid leadership, and he knows how to whip the ball around.
Control and Championships
Any belief that you need "experience" to be a championship-caliber QB should have been thrown out the door when Russell Wilson won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks, if it wasn't already thrown out the door when Ben Roethlisberger won a Super Bowl with the Steelers. There's no reason Mariota can't do the same thing those guys did.
The Chargers will be able to compete for a championship in the next few years if their offensive line and defense perform well, that's true regardless of if i's Rivers or Mariota at the helm. However, it's significantly easier to do with Mariota on the team instead of Rivers because of the cap savings the team will see over the next 4-5 years.
If the goal is to "compete" in the division and the playoffs for the next two years and "dominate" the division for a few years after Peyton Manning retires (which is, all in all, a solid plan), the choice is clear: Work out a reasonable deal to send Philip Rivers to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for the #2 overall pick (Marcus Mariota).