Entering his fourth season in the National Football League, Honolulu’s Marcus Mariota is preparing for a new head coach, new offense, new expectations, and possibly a new contract.
The Tennessee Titans quarterback is home in the islands hosting his annual Motiv8 Foundation charity golf tournament at Oahu Country Club, where prior to the Monday event, he sat down with KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
In 2017, Mariota responded from an injury-shortened second campaign in the NFL by leading the Titans into the AFC divisional playoff round for the first time in 14 years, having picked up a post-season road victory in Kansas City before falling to the eventual conference champion Patriots in the league semifinals.
Following that loss, Tennessee fired head coach Mike Mularkey, who had gone 20-21 in two and half seasons at the helm.
“Well, first and foremost to lose the staff of Coach Mularkey and that group, it was tough. I thought they did an incredible job in changing the culture, changing the perspective that we had really as a franchise and it put into action how it is to win, how can you win at this level. And that foundation, I think, will help us as we move forward,” Mariota said.
Hired to replace Mularkey was former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, who had been defensive coordinator of the Titans AFC South division rival Houston in 2017.
“I’m really excited for Coach Vrabel. I had opportunity to sit down with him a couple times, and his vision and the standard that he’s going to hold for all of us as players, the accountability, the competitiveness, I love it. I am really excited to get back to work with these guys. I think the coach and all the offensive guys have a great vision for this team as well, and it’s going to be a lot of fun and as a young group, as a young team, we just need to continue to feed off the energy. I think we’ll be in a good spot,” Mariota said.
Vrabel’s addition brings a new offense to Tennessee.
Former Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur brings an impressive resume as NFL quarterbacks coach for Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, and Robert Griffin III. All three players experienced their best NFL seasons with LaFleur alongside them.
“I think they’re going to do a great job of putting each individual player in the best possible situation to excel, and that’s all you can ask for as a player. Even just sitting down and talking to him just a little bit, the vision of what they want to do with our guys, I think, is going to be awesome. They’re going to put some of our best players in a setting where they can just go make plays and just not think and play fast. I’m really excited to see how our guys, how they handle it and how they’re just going to excel in it ” said Mariota.
Year four for Mariota also represents the final year of his rookie contract signed as the second overall draft pick in 2014. Although there is a team option for a fifth year, many expect a deal to be done prior to that fifth season.
According to Mariota, it’s not a priority to have a new contract in place prior to this season.
“People that I talk to, whether it’s my agent, whether it’s family members, those are things that are outside of my control. Obviously, there are certain things that you can do to kind of speed up the process, but if I started to concern myself with that, I would lose sight of what it means to be a team guy and what it means to put this team first, and I’ve always kind of been that way,” Mariota said. “I trust the organization, and I trust Jon (Robinson, Titans general manager). He’s done an unbelievable job since he stepped in, and whenever that gets done, it will get done, and I’m kind of just focused on what’s going on on the field.”
As part of Monday’s Motiv8 Foundation charity golf tournament, the foundation announced that Damien Memorial head football coach Eddie Klaneski was the first ever recipient of the Ardel Deppe Community Football Coach Award, named after Mariota’s grandfather who passed away last year.
Mariota will return to Nashville early next week to begin workouts with teammates and prepare for training camp.
He will also be a representative of the Titans for the unveiling of the team’s new uniforms for the 2018 season, which would be the first rebranding of the team since changing the team name from the Oilers to the Titans in 1999, after relocating from Houston in 1997.