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Offensive Coordinator Praises 'Strong-Minded' Mariota

NASHVILLE -- Arthur Smith says the quarterback's character has been evident since being benched

Marcus Mariota does not have much history as an NFL backup. But it is a good one.

Only one of the Tennessee Titans quarterback’s 62 career appearances was in a game he did not start. It was early last season and he came off the bench midway through the first quarter and rallied the Titans to a 9-6 victory against Jacksonville. Mariota completed 12 of 18 passes for 100 yards and ran for 51 yards on seven carries despite an arm injury that sidelined him completely the previous week.

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, a Tennessee assistant since 2011, witnessed that performance as well as every other one of Mariota’s professional career and was effusive in his praise days after the 2015 second overall pick lost his starting job to Ryan Tannehill following a poor performance last Sunday at Denver.

“Marcus and I have a lot of history,” Smith said. “We’ve been together the whole time he’s been here. I’ve seen all the highs and lows. I just can’t tell you guys enough how much of a high-character [person] that guy is. A lot of guys in this situation would never handle it [or] all of the things that have gone on in his career. I know each quarterback that plays in this league can handle different things, but you can’t say enough about his character. He’s as real a person as you can get. And he’s a strong-minded guy.”

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In his last three years with the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill played just 24 out of a possible 48 games. He missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury. He missed three games in 2016 and five last season.

Whether or not he can stay upright for the remaining 10 games of this season, therefore, remains to be seen. Smith, however, is certain that the NFL has not seen the last of Mariota.

“Who knows how the rest of this thing is going to play out,” he said. “I don’t want to speak for him but he knows this – and I truly believe it – the journey is not over for Marcus.”