As They Go Their Separate Ways, Tannehill and Mariota Remain Connected
NASHVILLE – Whatever the level of competition was between Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota, it was friendly. Right to the end.
The NFL’s new contract year will start Wednesday, and Mariota will sign with the Los Angeles Raiders after the sides reportedly agreed to contract terms two days earlier.
Tannehill is locked in as the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback – Mariota’s former job – courtesy of the four-year, $118 million contract extension he signed Sunday.
In their one season together, though, the two forged a friendship and a working relationship that benefited both, even if their personal goals were at odds with one another. Their ability to handle the situation – individually and collectively – throughout the course of the season was critical to the Titans’ success and their march to the AFC Championship.
On the eve of their official parting, they remained connected.
“Yeah, we’ve been talking the last few days,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “[I am] really happy for Marcus. I feel like he kind of ended up in a spot where he possibly wanted to be months back. So, really happy for him and his next chapter.
“I have a lot of confidence in him as a player, love him as a person and respect him, want him to succeed.”
When the Titans traded with Miami to acquire Tannehill last year, franchise officials and coaches insisted that he was not meant to challenge for the starting job. He was insurance against injury to Mariota, who had not missed time with injuries in each of his first four seasons.
Throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason, Mariota, the second overall pick 2015, worked almost exclusively with the first-team offense. He was the starter in the season-opening victory at Cleveland and held the job through the first six weeks of the schedule.
With Tennessee at 2-4 and Mariota battling inconsistency and inaccuracy, however, coaches turned to Tannehill, who had been a starter in every game he played over seven seasons with the Dolphins. Tennessee won seven of its final 10 games, reached the playoffs and won a couple of postseason road games.
Tannehill is now the franchise’s quarterback of the future and Mariota is a part of its past.
“Yeah, it’s pretty crazy how some things have changed in the past year,” Tannehill said. “My wife and I were talking about that a few days ago. This time last year we knew we weren’t going to be back with the Dolphins, they were trying to trade me. Didn’t know where I was going to end up. Didn’t have a say in it. Just kind of a tough situation.
“Obviously, [I] ended up in Tennessee, then had the transition to the backup role which was also very hard, and then here we are today. Been through a lot of ups and downs through the past year, a lot of emotions, a lot of hard times, and also a lot of good times.
“I had a lot of support along the way. My wife, my family were incredible the whole way through. The organization was great. I love the locker room, the guys supported me through the whole process. [And] of course, Marcus.”