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Five things to know about Marcus Mariota

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The Washington Commanders have added a veteran to their quarterback room by signing Marcus Mariota. Here are five things to know about the Commanders' newest signal-caller.

1. He's one of the most decorated Oregon quarterbacks in school history.

Mariota arrived at Oregon after being a star athlete in Honolulu, winning state titles with Saint Louis School and being recognized as one of the best players in the state. After redshirting his first year, he was the first freshman to start for the Ducks in nearly two decades. Over the next three seasons, Mariota made his mark as one of the best players in school history.

Mariota's career started off strong, as he led the Ducks to a 12-record while throwing for 2,677 yards and winning the Fiesta Bowl over No. 5 Kansas State. With his dual-threat ability to hurt defenses with his arm as well as his legs, Mariota was a First Team All-Pac-12 selection and named the conference's Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.

Mariota continued to improve from there, throwing for 3,665 yards and 31 touchdowns with just four interceptions in the 2013 regular season, despite partially tearing his MCL. The Ducks collected another double-digit winning season and another bowl win, defeating Texas in the Alamo Bowl with 386 yards passing yards from Mariota.

The 2014 season was a masterclass by Mariota, as he took the Ducks to the College Football National Championship game after winning the Heisman Trophy for completing 68.3% of his passes for 4,454 yards and 42 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions.

Though the Ducks did not get the win over Ohio State, he left Oregon with dozens of accolades and a handful of school and conference records, including career touchdowns in the Pac-12 (135), career total offensive yards for Oregon (13,089) and career passing touchdowns for the Ducks (105).

2. He knows how to win games in the fourth quarter.

Mariota was drafted by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 2 overall pick in 2015 with high expectations to take a franchise that had struggled mightily in 2014 and turn it into a playoff contender. Mariota's first three seasons were marred with injuries, but he showed an aptitude for delivering in clutch moments. He has 11 fourth-quarter comebacks and 14 game-winning drives in his career, and there was no one better at either in 2017.

The 2017 season marked the start of the Titan emerging at one of the tougher teams in the AFC. They went 9-7 that year, and thanks to Mariota and his fourth-quarter heroics, they secured back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2008. He had three fourth-quarter comebacks and four game-winning drives, with some of his most impressive performances coming in wins over the Ravens, Jaguars and Seahawks.

One of his gutsiest performances came in 2018, when the Titans hosted the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4. Despite dealing with an ulnar nerve issue that bothered him for most of the season, Mariota threw for 344 yards, converted three fourth downs on the final drive and had the game-winning touchdown pass to Corey Davis.

Mariota has been brought in to compete as a backup, but if he needs to play, there's some confidence that he can deliver.

3. He's one of the best quarterbacks in Titans history.

Mariota's time in Tennessee was a mixed bag. There were some positives, like getting the team to three straight seasons -- a feat it had not accomplished since moving from Houston; there were also some negatives, like being benched in his final season in favor of Ryan Tannehill.

Despite all that, the facts are the facts, and they show that Mariota is one of the best quarterbacks in franchise history, from a statistical perspective.

For starters, Mariota is sixth in Titans history in passing yards (13,207), sixth in passing touchdowns (76) and second in completion rate (62.9%) among quarterbacks with at least 500 pass attempts. While he's not a perfect player, those numbers point to some of Mariota's strengths as a player, which include taking care of the football (more on that later) and elevating his offense when it mattered most (see above).

There's also his stats as a rusher. Steve McNair and Warren Moon are the standard when it comes to mobile quarterbacks in Tennessee, but Mariota is not far behind them. He ranks third among Titans quarterbacks with 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns. Mariota also has the fourth-longest run in team history, a feat he accomplished when he broke loose for an 87-yard score against the Jaguars in 2016, giving Tennessee a three-point lead.

4. He rarely turns over the ball in the red zone.

Washington should know the importance of capitalizing in the red zone, mostly because the team struggled at it in 2023 with an average of just 2.9 scoring attempts in that area of the field. Again, Mariota is a backup, but if he does need to play, he has a knack for scoring and taking care of the football.

Mariota was exceptional in the red zone as a rookie, completing 65% of his passes for 195 yards with 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions. That last part is key, because it's an area that he excels at. He didn't commit a red zone turnover until 2018, but in the previous three years, he had 39 red zone touchdowns without a since interception.

Mariota was mostly a backup after leaving Tennessee, so he didn't have many opportunities near the red zone. However, when he was named the Falcons' starter in 2022, he continued his success in that part of the field, throwing 11 touchdowns to just 1 pick.

In an ideal circumstance, Mariota won't need to play that much. However, passing on some tips about how to avoid turnovers at the end of drives should be valuable information to a young quarterback.

5. He brings knowledge and familiarity to Washington.

Mariota didn't play much as the Eagles' backup in 2023. He appeared in three games, completing 65% of his passes for 164 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

That would be the preferred scenario for Washington, which could possibly take a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. But Mariota can offer more than just throwing touchdowns on the field. He also has nearly a decade of NFL experience, most of which has come as a starter. He's also been charged with rejuvenating a franchise as a rookie, so he can relate to whoever Washington decides to take in the first round. Also, passing on some knowledge about how to be a successful NFL quarterback doesn't hurt, either.

And while he hasn't worked with most of the coaching staff, he did spend a year with Brian Johnson, who is now the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. The system will be different, but he does have a feel for what Johnson expects out of his players.

So, even though Mariota will have a backseat role, he can still positively impact the offense and help guide the Commanders' next signal-caller.

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