GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Marcus Mariota was fuming, short and beyond frustrated. The Tennessee Titans' 12-7 disastrous defeat at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals wasn't just another loss. It had been two years since a Mariota-led Titans squad failed to score double digits.
"I'm just pissed off. That's all," the typically even-tempered Mariota said.
There's no more sugarcoating the Titans' woes or sheltering the franchise quarterback. Mariota has to play better, and he knows it. Mike Mularkey and his coaching staff need to make Mariota feel more comfortable. The offensive supporting cast has to step up and help out its struggling quarterback.
It's Year 3 for Mariota. The team had expected a season where he went from a solid starter to superstar. In reality, Mariota is in the midst of a regression. His career-high 14 interceptions, including 10 over the last six games, paint a story that the eye test confirms: He's having his worst NFL season. But why?
Mariota's humility and leadership won't allow him to shift blame to the coaches or his supporting players -- even when it's apparent that they're playing a significant role in his downturn. Flexibility is important, particularly when trying to get a quarterback out of a funk.
But does Mariota think that offensive change is needed? Typically he defers to whatever the coaching staff plans, and Delanie Walker took that route Sunday, but Mariota gave a raw answer that gave us a little glimpse into his mindset.
"I think that's something that we'll have to look at," Mariota said.
So I'll take it where Mariota won't quite go: The Titans need to make some adjustments in their offensive scheme and playcalling to salvage the 2017 season.
It's 14 weeks into the season, so the weekly failure-to-execute excuse, although it's often accurate, really doesn't fly with the playoffs looming. The Titans shouldn't be scoring seven points against the Cardinals. That's a problem with the offense. That's a Mariota problem. That's a Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie problem.
On a fourth-and-10 during the Titans' potential game-winning touchdown drive Sunday, Mularkey and Robiskie curiously decided cornerback Adoree' Jackson was their best option to run a play he said he had never practiced before. The ball went in his direction. That speaks to the team's mistrust of its receiving corps and shows just how much it needs to improve its chemistry before the Titans can be considered a legitimate contender in the AFC.
Mariota is often better when he is comfortable and confident. There has been too much miscommunication and too many route-running mistakes, so maybe there's a benefit to simplifying the route combinations. Mariota is at his best when he's throwing on play-action. He sees the field better and has been more successful when there are more than two receiving options running downfield.
The Titans' coaching staff doesn't deserve a pass as we watch Mariota's development stagnate. Mariota doesn't, either, as he falls back into bad habits like not stepping into throws and sailing passes. There will be a full offseason to work on that, but with three crucial weeks left in the regular season, there is a need for changes now.