Marcus Mariota will be leaving behind more than a few good memories from his days as a Titan, but here is my personal favorite.
I could fill an entire article worth of “off the top of my head” memories about Marcus Mariota and his time as a Tennessee Titan both as a player and a person.
For playing just 63 games, it feels like you could write a book about Mariota’s individual highlights in the Titans’ two-toned blue.
The ‘Barry Church stiff-arm’ stands out as an underrated classic.
The pass to himself against the Kansas City Chiefs that sparked that comeback win in the Titans first playoff win in a decade was unforgettable.
Converting not one, not two, but three 4th downs in an overtime drive against the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, only to cap it off with a last-second walk-off touchdown pass to Corey Davis had me running around my apartment screaming so much I’m surprised I didn’t get a noise complaint.
Those are just a few memories, and they’re the recent ones. The ones where the writing started showing itself clearer with each passing week. That Marcus Mariota couldn’t be the answer, the franchise quarterback in Tennessee that so many fans thought he could be. That so many wanted him to be.
But even in the years of Mariota’s regression, he never failed to entertain.
My favorite memory of Marcus Mariota doesn’t come during a football play, but rather, one that came after a play. It was during that Wild Card game against the Chiefs. Derrick Henry had just broken a 3rd and 10 run for a first down with under two minutes left in the game. Kansas City only had one timeout left. That was the play that won the Titans the game, and Marcus Mariota was the one out in front of Henry laying a lead block on a linebacker.
That Mariota block (again, on a linebacker) could be my favorite memory, but it isn’t. Instead, my favorite memory of Marcus Mariota as a Titan was what happened right after. How Mariota was greeted on the sidelines by his Titans teammates, rushing off the bench to hype him up, after he got down and dirty and did whatever it took to get his team a win.
I love that moment for so many reasons. I love Mariota’s beaming smile as he pulls himself away from the enthusiastic embrace of Brian Schwenke. As someone who’s developed a reputation for being as mild-mannered as they come, that moment of pure exuberance from Mariota was so much fun to see.
I love how it wasn’t just offensive players that went over to celebrate with Mariota. It’s easy for the unit you spend the most time with to be hyped for you, but Mariota’s effect on the locker room extended beyond the offense. Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard was the first to meet Mariota on the sideline, followed closely by former pass-rusher Derrick Morgan. I love how excited the whole team was for Mariota at that moment.
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Maybe more than anything though, I love how much that moment meant for the season. Here’s a quarterback that threw 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in a sixteen game schedule. His offense ranked towards the bottom of the NFL, and his team stumbled into the postseason without being given any chance of moving on.
But none of that ever matters to Mariota. He has never been phased about outside noise, he’s never let a poor box score get him down, and his teammates never gave up on him. It would have been easy for one of the defensive players to throw Mariota under the bus, but nobody ever wanted to do that. That speaks to the guy that Marcus Mariota is.
When he makes his way into the Raiders locker room, he’ll be bringing the Aloha Spirit along with him.
Thank you for the memories, Marcus. Here’s hoping you can make a few more in Las Vegas.