What’s Next in the NFL for Hawai‘i’s Marcus Mariota?
Humble hometown hero selected No. 2 in draft by Tennessee.
1. SIGN OF THE TIMES?
After the usual formalities of meeting the local media and attending rookie mini-camp in Nashville, the most pertinent question for Marcus Mariota will be: When will he sign his contract? The NFL has a wage scale for first-year players that lock them into four-year contracts. Expect the former Saint Louis Crusader to make a bit more than Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles, who was the No. 3 pick in last year’s draft. Bortles is in the second year of a four-year, $20.6-million contract, which includes a $13 million signing bonus and $20 million in guaranteed money. In other words, he can expect to be well paid.
Photo: Lance Tominaga
2. PLAY NOW OR LATER?
It had been speculated that the Titans would pass on drafting Mariota because they already have a promising young QB in Zach Mettenberger. As a rookie in 2014, Mettenberger started six games for Tennessee, tossing 8 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Team management clearly wasn’t satisfied. But will Mariota be thrown to the wolves right away, or will he sit for a while and learn his craft? Top NFL QBs Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Tony Romo never started a game in their rookie seasons. But considering the hype surrounding Mariota, it’s doubtful that the team will pay him to sit on the bench. In fact, it’s already being reported that Mettenberger wants to be traded.
3. MORE UPGRADES?
Last season, the Titans’ offense ranked 29th out of the 32 NFL teams, averaging a paltry 303 yards per game. During the recent free agent period, the team added some depth in the wide receiver and tight end positions, but that’s it. Simply put, Tennessee’s attack is devoid of weapons. Mariota, who had plenty of talent around him in college, is going to need help. Look for the Titans to stock their offense in the draft’s remaining rounds today and tomorrow.
4. WHO’S BETTER?
For months, NFL scouts, coaches and other observers have debated: Who’s the better quarterback—Mariota or Jameis Winston? Yesterday, Winston was selected No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was deemed more “pro ready” than Mariota, who will have to adjust to a different offensive attack. Winston, however, had both on- and off-field issues at Florida State in 2014, and Mariota is widely regarded as the better athlete. Storylines don’t get much better than this: If both players immediately take the starting reins for their respective teams, Mariota and Winston will be matched up against each other in the first week of the regular season. Yes, it will be Tennessee visiting Tampa Bay on Sept. 13.
5. WILL YOU BE A PART OF MARCUS-MANIA?
Well, will you? The Tennessee Titans hope so. Mere minutes after drafting Mariota, they made his No. 8 jersey available for sale on their official team website.
Editor’s Note: Writer Lance Tominaga works for ESPN 1420, our sister company in the aio family of companies.