As the Tennessee Titans’ fate became clear in the waning moments of Sunday’s AFC title, cameras caught this exchange between the club’s quarterbacks:
“I am excited for you – it’s the start of something great, brother,” Mariota told Tannehill during a sideline embrace at Arrowhead Stadium, the clock ticking down on the team’s season. “I am so excited for you.”
“I’m so mad right now.”
“Hey, you’re going to be playing in a lot of these.”
If you didn’t know any better, you would assume the first voice, the one not in italics, was of some grizzled veteran whose role was solely to mentor the young starter — the kind of exchange one might assume Eli Manning had at some point with Daniel Jones, or perhaps Ben Roethlisberger had with the Steelers’ young quarterbacks. But that’s not always the case, even in pro football — no, especially in pro football — and especially with quarterbacks. These guys may be millionaires several or even hundreds of times over, but human nature is human nature and there’s only one ball to throw.
So, the quarterbacks involved in the above exchange were Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, with Mariota consoling Tannehill. See for yourself below.
— Inside the NFL (@insidetheNFL) January 21, 2020
This isn’t some 38-year-old encouraging a 22-year-old. Mariota is five years younger than Tannehill. We’re talking about a guy in Mariota that won a Heisman Trophy five years ago, who was the second pick in the draft, who should be in the prime of his career but due to a myriad of reasons never clicked in Tennessee.
Tannehill himself was also a first round pick, who was brought in to Tennessee after flaming out in Miami. Originally signed to back up Mariota, Tannehill entered the starting lineup in October and led the Titans, 2-4 at the time, to a 9-3 record before Sunday’s loss.
The future of the quarterback position in Nashville is now Tannehill, and Mariota appears headed out of town with his contract set to expire.
“Marcus is an incredible human being, and I have so much respect and love for him,” Tannehill told the Titans’ team site. “The way he handled things – it was an incredibly tough situation. He was in Tennessee for five years, and it was his team and where he made his home. The way things went down, I don’t think many guys in the world would handle it the way he did. He handled it like a true professional. He was supportive of me from Day One. I know he was hurting, and I tried to be empathetic with that throughout the season and give support to him as well. But he handled it so well – he was supportive of me, helped me out on game days, in preparation during the week. He was just a consistent guy throughout the year.
“We are great friends and we will continue to be great friends.”
Mariota likely won’t be out of work long, and the glimpse we saw of his character in the clip above is a large reason why.