Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota spoke publicly for the first time since the team signed veteran qb Ryan Tannehill to not only be his backup, but to also push and compete with him throughout the 2019 season.
And as we know, Mariota is entering the final year of his rookie contract and will presumably have to play out the season before his future financial fate is decided.
As reported by nfl.com writer Herbe Teope today, Mariota, who is in his home state of Hawaii hosting his Motiv8 Foundation fundraiser, said this when asked about Tannehill’s arrival.
“My mentality as a competitor never changes….I’m going to do my best to be at my best when the season comes and do my best to win games. All that other stuff will take care of itself.”
Predictable enough, given Mariota’s personality. But when speaking about the Titans organization, the cynical part of me raised an eyebrow to the next statement.
“Obviously I love Nashville, I love Tennessee. It’s a great organization to play for. With that being said, it’s a business and you can’t take any of that stuff personal. You just got to go out there and do your thing.”
“No matter what, my No. 1 goal is to get healthy and from there just become a better football player and do my best to be my best when the season comes so we can win games.”
There was no mention of….my focus and goal is to prove to this organization that I’m the long-term answer. My goal is to bring this city its first championship and retire a Tennessee Titan.
Mariota’s statements sounded like a man who does not want to limp into free agency next season if it comes to that.
And as a business man myself, I can’t blame him.
Mariota and his agent knows that if the Titans thought he was the long-term solution they would have locked him in on an extension by now.
He also knows that the Titans can rid themselves of him and Tanehill next offseason with no financial blow back.
With that as the backdrop, how much pain will or should Mariota be willing to play through this season if it means being damaged goods on the open market?
Embracing his inner Steve McNair and playing 16 games with an assortment of injuries is no guarantee of a lucrative extension from Tennessee, even while knowing that his public persona could take a hit.
But like Mariota said, he understands this is a business, and he will need someone to pay him next offseason….even if it isn’t the Titans.
We won’t know Mariota’s mindset for sure until he is placed in that situation this season, but history suggests that it will happen.
And when it does, expect a circus-like atmosphere to soon follow.