Jon Gruden: 'Dazzling playmaker' Marcus Mariota 'really fired me up today'

Like many fans, Jon Gruden’s favorite player is almost always the backup quarterback.

The Las Vegas Raiders coach has earned a reputation throughout his career of grinding on starting quarterbacks and always seemingly pining after the next QB on the horizon.

It is no different in Vegas.

From the moment the Raiders signed Marcus Mariota, it didn’t take a crystal ball to foretell Gruden would quickly begin to salivate about the mobile QB during training camp.

It didn’t even take a week of on-field practices to get our first Gruden quote gushing over Mariota.

“(Mariota) really fired me up today,” Gruden said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic. “He has turned a corner with his ankle (injury) and he is a dazzling playmaker. He had a very nice day.”

Mariota signed a two-year, $17.6 million deal with the Raiders in the offseason. The former first-round pick was added to help push Derek Carr, and if the starter falters, step in.

We know that Gruden loved Mariota’s dual-threat running ability when the Oregon Duck was coming out of college. It’s possible that he could view Mariota’s running acumen as a more intriguing fit than Carr’s pocket style. It should be noted that one of the most frustrating parts of Carr’s game was his unwillingness to take chances down the field. Mariota, in his time in Tennessee, was on par or worse with that reticence. So, if Gruden’s biggest annoyance with Carr is the lack of deep shots, Mariota might not be the best anecdote.

Carr has said he’s tired of being disrespected. Any perceived disrespect starts in the building with how the Raiders have handled the quarterback position for the past year. Gruden’s propensity to glow about backup quarterbacks won’t help.

Is every positive remark about a backup quarterback — say, like the over-the-top comments about Nathan Peterman last year — reason to assume Carr is on a short leash? No. It’s not. But Gruden’s history of how he’s talked about and grinded on quarterbacks makes each comment about Mariota much more notable than it would be with any other coach.

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