Pro Football Focus analyst Bruce Gradkowski was hyper-critical of former Honolulu standout from St. Louis School and current Las Vegas Raider Marcus Mariota.
“Look, I think Jon Gruden was complimenting Mariota on what he brings to the team, and Colin, I don’t think Mariota holds Carr’s jock strap,” Gradkowski said in Wednesday’s edition of a podcast “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd.
“I think Carr, the way he is as a passer, the dude can sling it. He can make plays, and he has a top-10 passing grade. He’s been that two times in his career.”
Gradkowski continued to expound: “Mariota has never sniffed more than a 72 passing grade, but Carr’s had a 77 passing grade for three seasons. As a passer, Carr is above and beyond.”
Gradkowski is correct in his analysis of Mariota’s early career statistical metrics.
However distasteful his criticism of Mariota was, it is coming from a place of bitterness.
Gradkowski’s eye-popping numbers led his illustrious career as a journeyman backup to six teams in a 10-year NFL career (Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Cleveland, Oakland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh).
Kudos for making it through 10 grueling seasons in one of the most hyper-competitive sports at the highest level.
Surely no easy task.
The pure violent nature of professional football leaves both physical and emotional scars the average person can’t comprehend.
That is where some of this bitterness no doubt resonates from, and to analyze Mariota’s performance based purely on numbers is not only unfair, it’s irresponsible.
An organization selected Mariota No. 2 overall in the draft, and the 2015 NFL was a mess the year before.
The Titans were 2-14 during the final year of the Ken Whisenhunt regime.
In Mariota’s first season with the Titans, they improved slightly under Whisenhunt, with a record of 3-13.
How Whisenhunt was able to retain his job through two atrocious seasons is beyond comprehension.
During the 2016 season, the Titans improved significantly and compiled a 9-7 record, even though they didn’t make the playoffs.
Mariotta was also an alternate to the Pro Bowl that year, an outstanding accomplishment for a player at the end of his second year in the NFL.
2017 was a break out year for Mariotta, and he led the Titans to a 22-21 upset victory over the Chiefs before they were thumped 35-14 in the NFC Divisional Round by the New England Patriots. His then-coach Mike Mularkey was immediately fired after the loss.
In the following two years, Mariota struggled and was replaced by former Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannahill in Tennessee.
Now Mariotta has a new life. You can reference many players where new scenery has helped create opportunities where there weren’t any before.
The psychological dynamics of a team are as volatile as creating a recipe and taking out one ingredient. The complexion of things change. Add one player in and the team’s personality may be changed dramatically.
This explains why general managers and coaches get paid so much to balance out teams.
Mariota has overcome shoulder and ankle injuries and signed with the Raiders in the 2020 off-season to a two-year, $17.6 million deal that includes $7.5 million in the first year as a fully-guaranteed base salary.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s been liking what he sees in his team’s new investment.
“I’ve been impressed because the No. 1 thing with Marcus was get healthy,” Gruden said in a Zoom press conference.
“He had a shoulder problem and ankle problem, and it’s a real credit for him to get injury rehab done during all of this social distancing and distraction of finding a doctor. He’s done a great job of being safe, and did a great job of staying healthy and learning his system that will give him a great chance of being Marcus Mariota.”
It’s pretty easy to take Gruden’s word over Gradkowski’s. He’s more credible, and not as bitter.
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.