Forgive Marcus Mariota if he happened to glance across the field on Sunday, see Rams coach Sean McVay and feel some sideline envy. While Mariota's quarterback counterpart Jared Goff found open receivers all over the field, Mariota searched for clarity in an offensive system that has been muddled since Week 1. Goff's coach helped to provide clearly defined reads and easy yards on screen passes as he has all season long; Mariota continued to make a living throwing into tight windows.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey has struggled to blend his 1990's smash-mouth approach to football with Mariota's obvious comfort running spread and hurry-up concepts. Here's another concept: Build the entire offense around your franchise quarterback's significant strengths.
Goff's rapid development under McVay should ring alarm bells in Nashville. It's a coach's job to transform a scheme around the team's best players, not the other way around. These early seasons with a franchise quarterback on a rookie contract are too precious to waste. Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who arrived in town after Mularkey, has watched the Titans get out-coached on a weekly basis during their three-game losing streak.
First, it was Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and ... quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Then, it was San Francisco's Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo, who lit up Tennessee's defense for 381 passing yards before McVay and Goff came to town. If the Jaguars' underrated offense coordinator Nathaniel Hackett helps to accentuate Blake Bortles' strengths one more time and knocks the Titans out of the playoffs Sunday, perhaps Robinson will have seen enough. (One call Robinson could make is to his former co-worker, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.)
Mariota tops my list below of quarterbacks who could use a new coach to fulfill their potential. Unfortunately for Mariota, the Titans will likely have to lose one more time Sunday to make that happen.
(Just want to mainline the 2017 season rankings at quarterback? Head to the bottom of the page.)
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: Carr hasn't been the same since returning from a broken bone in his back in Week 6. It feels inevitable that we'll hear more details in the offseason about the role the injury has played in Carr's struggles. Still, the Raiders' passing game was tough to watch this season before Carr's injury, and his decision making has been lacking.
The Raiders have been criticized by analysts smarter than myself for their lack of creativity in route concepts, making the offense predictable and easy to defend. Carr's clock management in late-game situations is easier for a novice to question. Too often he's taken dump off passes when the situation demands for pushing the ball down the field, limiting Oakland to an offense that constantly plays short of the sticks.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio chose to let 2016 offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave leave last offseason to promote quarterbacks coach Al Downing, a move that was reportedly popular with Carr. Now, Downing could be one-and-down running the offense. Del Rio isn't even guaranteed to return, a reminder that Carr is the most important person in the franchise. If Del Rio doesn't have a cogent plan to turn Carr around, owner Mark Davis could look for his own McVay in preparation for the team's move to Las Vegas.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The "Jon Gruden is coming back" rumors have never been this strong, with this much smoke behind them. Just weeks after announcing the game in which he went in the Bucaneers' Ring of Honor, Gruden could be back running the franchise. I don't blame Tampa coach Dirk Koetter for calling the speculation about his job a distraction, his three years as Jameis Winston's tutor seemingly nearing its end.
Winston is making the kind of young mistakes he might very well make with any coach, but his erratic play begs for a new voice. Gruden has not hidden his appreciation for Winston's potential, one that would likely be shared by many prospective coaches. The weapons around Winston, including rookie receiver Chris Godwin, give the next Bucs coach a chance at a fast turnaround.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Despite Bengals coach Marvin Lewis' bizarre refusal to admit he's on the way out, a change is coming in Cincinnati. Two of the possible replacements for Lewis, former Bengals coordinators Hue Jackson and Jay Gruden, coached up Dalton during his best days. But it's an open question whether Jackson or Gruden will be among the potentially enormous list of coaches who lose their jobs.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears:Eagles coach Doug Pederson compared Trubisky to Carson Wentz, believing that Trubisky can experience a similar second-year leap in 2018. That depends on whether the Bears can find their Pederson. With John Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains almost certainly gone, general manager Ryan Pace should receive a second chance to get his head coaching hire right. Pace aggressively moved up one spot in the 2017 NFL Draft to pick Trubisky, and now he'll look for a coach who can maximize the young QB's accuracy on the move.
It's tempting to call Trubisky's rookie season a lost year with a new coach coming in, but perhaps the struggles will pay off. Goff and Alex Smith are two examples of high draft picks who had dramatic second-year leaps after a coaching reboot. Trubisky has shown enough as a rookie to believe it's possible.
The Cowboys' passing game failings aren't all on Linehan. I'd point the finger more to the roster construction with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley representing a stale group of pass catchers that rarely creates separation early in the down. But Jones isn't going to replace the general manager because he is the general manager, so the organization needs to find a coach who can bring out the best in Prescott. As Tony Romo said on a recent CBS broadcast, Garrett isn't too involved in the X's and O's of building the offense despite his background as a quarterback. (It's worth wondering if Garrett would even get to pick his own coordinator.) With three All-Pro linemen and running back Ezekiel Elliott in place, there is a lot to work with for any incoming play-caller.
Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks: I write these two names knowing that it's unlikely any change is made in either city. But isn't there a part of Packers general manager Ted Thompson that is curious to see if Rodgers would benefit from a different offensive system after playing his entire career under coach Mike McCarthy?
It often feels like Rodgers is succeeding despite the structure of McCarthy's scheme, which is undeniably true when it comes to Wilson and the only offensive coordinator he's played for, Darrell Bevell. Both quarterbacks make their coaches look better, yet both experience similar shortcomings each year: For Rodgers, it's a stale offense; for Wilson, a bankrupt offensive line.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming, the updated 2017 quarterback rankings. These are based on this season's play only. There will be a complete ranking of 32 starters after Week 17.
UPDATED 2017 QB RANKINGS
*And now back to our regularly scheduled programming, the updated 2017 quarterback rankings. These are based on this season's play onlly. There will be a complete ranking of 32 starters after Week 17. *
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 67.5 pct | 4,387 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 30 pass TD | 8 INT </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 64.2 pct | 4,251 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 28 pass TD | 14 INT </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 71.9 pct | 4,089 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 22 pass TD | 8 INT | 2 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 61.3 pct | 3,762 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 32 pass TD | 11 INT | 550 rush yds | 3 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 5 games | 69.0 pct | 1,268 pass yds | 8.7 ypa | 5 pass TD | 3 INT </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 61.7 pct | 4,128 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 25 pass TD | 10 INT </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 65.5 pct | 4,123 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 26 pass TD | 10 INT </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 64.9 pct | 3,778 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 19 pass TD | 12 INT </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 67.5 pct | 4,042 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 26 pass TD | 5 INT | 355 rush yds | 1 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 60.5 pct | 3,122 pass yds | 6.8 ypa | 21 pass TD | 13 INT | 695 rush yds | 6 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 65.0 pct | 3,935 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 27 pass TD | 10 INT | 167 rush yds | 3 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 15 games | 62.1 pct | 3,804 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 28 pass TD | 7 INT | 1 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 14 games | 67.3 pct | 3,358 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 21 pass TD | 7 INT | 160 rush yds | 1 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 14 games | 62.1 pct | 2,595 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 13 pass TD | 4 INT | 392 rush yds | 4 rush TD </content:power-ranking>
**2017 stats:** 12 games | 65.0 pct | 3,141 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 18 pass TD | 8 INT </content:power-ranking>
Check the Air Index each week to see which quarterbacks are delivering at the top of their game, just like FedEx Ground delivers with fast and affordable shipping.