Is Marcus Mariota just Jake Locker 2.0?


 

Q. Marcus Mariota has yet to finish a full season as starter. Does he carry the same curse as Jake Locker?

Let me start off by saying that I respect and admire Marcus Mariota, but after 2 season he still hasn’t finished a full 16 games. Mariota missed 4 games in the 2015 season because of MCL sprains and missed the last game of the 2016 season due to a broken fibula. Are people giving him more of a break than Jake Locker got during his Titans time? That is the one thing I hope to settle in my research here.


After being drafted in 2011, Locker came in for an injured Matt Hasselbeck that season. Starting in 2012, his first 2 full years as starting QB he missed 5 games due to a left shoulder injury in 2012, and missed 9 games in 2013 on 2 different occasions due to a right foot injury and a right knee and hip injury. So, after 2 years here is the medical report:



Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

1st full season as starter

4 games missed

5 games missed

2nd full season as starter

1 game missed

9 games missed

TOTAL

5 games missed

14 games missed

*** Winner(?): Marcus Mariota


Although Mariota hasn’t finished a full season yet, he has not had the same number of injuries or severity of injuries as Locker. I’m not sure you would call him a “winner” here, but let’s just say he is not as fragile (unlucky?) as Locker.


Q. Doesn’t Mariota turn the ball over just as much as Locker did?

Mariota came into the NFL with a real issue of fumbling the football, but how does he compare in turnovers to the much-maligned Locker? In 2012, Locker had 11 interceptions and lost all 4 of his fumbles, and in 2013 he had 4 interceptions and lost only 1 fumble out of his 3 total. In comparison, Mariota in 2015 had 10 interceptions and lost 6 fumbles out of 10, and in 2016 had 9 interceptions and lost 5 fumbles out of 9. Not a great start of either QB, but let’s lay out the stats here:



Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

1st full season as starter

10 INT 10 Fumbles

11 INT 4 Fumbles

2nd full season as starter

9 INT 9 fumbles

4 INT 3 Fumbles

TOTAL

19 INT 19 Fumbles

15 INT 7 Fumbles

At first glance this would be very damning statistics for Mariota. However, let’s compare these on a per game basis since neither were able to complete a full season.



Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

1st full season as starter

1.67 per game

1.36 per game

2nd full season as starter

1.20 per game

1.0 per game

TOTAL

1.41 per game

1.22 per game

*** Winner(?): Jake Locker

 

Therefore, as you can see, the nod must go to Jake Locker on turnover ratio. However, both improved from season 1 to season 2, and although the edge does go to Locker, there isn’t much of a margin. I will say if you count the almost 0.2 differential and spread it out over a full 16 game season, then Mariota will have at least 3 more turnovers. This might be the difference in winning 3 more games. There is also a hidden stat here that has been mentioned by every sports outlet that discusses Mariota. He does not have a single turnover in the Red Zone. That is impressive and might just even the score here.


Q. How do the passing stats compare between the two?

Here is where I truly expect Mariota to separate himself from this “ludicrous” comparison. Mariota surely has numbers that tell a much bigger story than his presence alone.


(per game numbers)

Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

Comp

Att

Yards

TDs

INT

Rate

Comp

Att

Yards

TDs

INT

Rate

1st full season as starter

230

(19.2)

370

(30.8)

2,818

(234.8)

19

(1.6)

10

(0.8)

91.5

177

(16.1)

314

(28.5)

2,176

(197.8)

10

(0.9)

11

(1.0)

74.0

2nd full season as starter

276

(18.4)

451

(30.1)

3,426

(228.4)

26

(1.7)

9

(0.6)

95.6

111

(15.9)

183

(26.1)

1,256

(179.4)

8

(1.1)

4

(0.6)

86.7

TOTAL

506

(18.7)

821

(30.4)

6.244

(231.3)

45

(1.7)

19

(0.7)


288

(16.0)

497

(27.6)

3,432

(190.7)

18

(1.0)

15

(0.8)


*** Winner: Marcus Mariota


Sure enough, here is where you see Mariota showing that he truly should be considered among the NFL’s best young QBs. I’ve never been a true believer in the QB Rating as a statistic. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but if all you are doing is comparing the numbers then it is quite appropriate to consider this as a way to rank these two players. Therefore, Mariota is the clear winner here. Also, if you include the previously mentioned lack of turnovers in the Red Zone, then I say put it all on his shoulders when the Titans get close to scoring. This should increase the point production by at least a TD.


Q. Both QB’s ran the ball too, is this where Locker catches up with Mariota?


I do remember several games where Locker used his legs to keep drives alive, but how can he compare with Mariota’s “magic” legs? Locker ran out of desperation and lack of talented receivers, so that might just tilt the scale his way, but Mariota has so much speed he shocks defenses every time he takes off.

 


(per game numbers)

Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

Att

Yards

Avg

TDs

Att

Yards

Avg

TDs

1st full season as starter

34

(2.8)

252

(21.0)

7.4


2

(0.2)

41

(3.7)

291

(26.5)

7.1

1

(0.1)

2nd full season as starter

60

(4.0)

349

(23.3)

5.8

2

(0.1)

24

(3.4)

155

(22.1)

6.5

2

(0.3)

TOTAL

94

(3.5)

601

(22.3)

6.4

4

(0.1)

65

(3.6)

446

(24.8)

6.9

3

(0.2)

*** Winner (slightly): Jake Locker


Honestly, this was a little bit of a surprise for me. Locker’s per game numbers edged out the speedy Mariota in almost every area. However, this is also a large reason why Locker’s career was cut short. He took a pounding, and took too many unnecessary hits.


Q. How about the situational passing numbers?


Mariota can throw a very nice deep ball that is easy to catch, and from what I remember this is one place where Locker struggled with his consistency.


In plays 31+ yards:

(per game numbers)

Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

Comp

Att

Yards

TDs

INT

Rate

Comp

Att

Yards

TDs

INT

Rate

1st full season as starter

29

56

326

2

3

59.1

24

44

306

2

4

53.8

2nd full season as starter

29

48

270

3

1

88.0

11

18

193

3

0

137.3


In plays 21 - 30 yards:

(per game numbers)

Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

Comp

Att

Yards

TDs

INT

Rate

Comp

Att

Yards

TDs

INT

Rate

1st full season as starter

64

93

766

7

3

105.4

44

73

573

4

2

91.9

2nd full season as starter

70

103

807

8

2

109.2

21

36

273

1

1

80.0

*** Winner: Marcus Mariota

With the exception of the very deep passes last year (2016), this is where Mariota stands head and shoulders above Locker. Not only that, these numbers show that he could stand up against anyone else in the league. Mariota continues to grow as a QB and the numbers show that Locker was floundering (and even regressing) as teams figured out his style from one year to the next.


Q. It all comes down to the wins doesn’t it?


Neither Mariota nor Locker started out with much of a surrounding cast, but as Mariota grows in his confidence (and having the benefit of a highly skilled GM), he shows his ability to truly lead this team. Locker was never truly able to rally this team around him, and that is one thing where Mariota seems especially adept.


(per game numbers)

Marcus Mariota

Jake Locker

Wins

Losses

Pct

Wins

Losses

Pct

1st full season as starter

3

11

0.214

4

7

0.364

2nd full season as starter

8

7

0.533

4

3

0.571

*** Winner: Jake Locker


A real shocker here. The winning percentage of Locker actually shows that when he was in the game they had a better chance of winning than with Mariota’s teams. What may be more telling than winning percentage here is that Mariota improved by 5 wins over the previous season. However, Locker stayed at only 4 wins (with a better percentage).


To Locker’s credit, the 2012 Titans had 17 players end up on the injured reserved list at one point or another during the season and still ground out 4 wins. He also had Chris Johnson as his RB (although struggling) and an underrated Nate Washington at WR.


In 2013, the Titans did gain TE Delanie Walker, but Locker was still only able to get 4 wins. However, “CJ2K” was barely 1K at the time and the draft was quite possibly one of the worst in Titans’ history; with the likes of underperforming Justin Hunter, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and Brian Schwenke. Even the #1 pick, G Chance Warmack is no longer on the team after continuing to struggle to live up to his hype.


On the other hand, Mariota did fare much better in his rookie season (2015). With lackluster running backs and having only Delanie Walker as a true weapon, he spent most of the time trying to survive. He also had to struggle through the Ken Whisenhunt fiasco and the final season of a GM (Ruston Webster) that seemed out-matched by every other team.


In 2016, with the addition of GM Jon Robinson and Robinson’s knack for knowing when to make the right moves for this team, Mariota was joined by RB Demarco Murray, WR Rishard Matthews, and an offensive line that could actually protect him. Also, with the addition of player-friendly coaching like Mike Mularkey, the only thing that seemed to stop Mariota from leading this team to the playoffs was a defense that still needed major pieces in the secondary.


Overall, this comparison is far closer than I would have ever guessed. However, there is something you just can’t see in the stats between these two players. Call it “intangibles,” leadership where people want to follow, or just plain going with my gut here, but I have to go with Marcus Mariota as edging out Jake Locker. However, I will say that if the Jake Locker would have had a GM like Jon Robinson and better supporting players (like what Mariota appears to have for the 2017 season), I might be talking about how Locker was able to lead this team to a playoff victory or two. Unfortunately, all we can say is that he couldn’t survive the tough years so he was unable to prove he could thrive in the good ones.


Marcus Mariota, on the other hand, holds the reigns of this team and is racing full speed ahead. He has the right demeanor and football IQ we didn’t get in Vince Young, has the raw talent that we didn’t have in Jake Locker, the young fresh legs that we didn’t have in Matt Hasselbeck, has true on-the-field follow-through that we didn’t have in Zach Mettenberger, and the ability to play within his vast talents that we didn’t have in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I truly expect Mariota to lead this team to the playoffs in 2017, and if everything keeps going in this positive manner, quite possibly bringing a Super Bowl trophy to Nashville a couple of years down the road.