Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota appears on this week's cover of Sports Illustrated. 

By Scooby Axson
May 05, 2015
Hollis Bennett for Sports Illustrated

For new Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, the debate about whether he could be a top-notch NFL starter has been argued even before he announced that he was entering the draft.

Every other top prospect had his own list of pros and cons, but for Mariota, who is on the national cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, the debate centered on whether he was too nice for an NFL huddle, too dependent on the high-octane Oregon offense and could he adjust or read NFL defensive schemes.

Revival for the Titans is now paramount and the team, which missed the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, is hoping Mariota can and will be the face of the franchise.

At his draft party in Honolulu, attended by some 300 people, Mariota contemplated being the second overall pick, instead of the draft's top selection, which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made in Jameis Winston.

"It's something you can't really control," he says. "Eventually you end up in the right spot with the right team. That's all that matters."

The Titans have a chance to prove they made the right decision when the past two Heisman Trophy winners square off in Week 1, when the Titans visit Tampa.

Things were so wild at his draft party that the Titans accidently hung up on him minutes before he was drafted. And when his name was finally called, Mariota didn't hear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell brutally butcher the pronunciation of his last name.

Goodell later called a surprised Mariota to apologize about the slip up.

Draft analysis of Marcus Mariota

The Titans will bring Mariota along slowly, trying to revamp their offense that scored just under 16 points a game last season. Tennessee did its part by taking six offensive players in the draft.

Whatever success or failure Mariota experiences during his time in the NFL, he knows he has the support of his family and friends and can always lean on them when times get tough.

"Growing up here (in Hawaii), you learn that whatever success you have is through everybody. Together, we are one," he says.

For more on Mariota, check out Austin Murphy's story in this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).

Also in this issue: The aftermath of the Kentucky Derby and the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, continuing coverage of the NHL and NBA playoffs, plus an excerpt of a book about Ty Cobb and a profile of Chicago Cubs power-hitting third baseman Kris Bryant.

Marcus Mariota's Illustrated Covers

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