Marcus Mariota is known for his quiet, unassuming personality, but after leading the Titans to a Week 16 win over the Jaguars, the former Heisman Trophy winner was fired up – and for good reason.
“He made a couple big runs at the end to really seal that game for us,” Titans wide receiver Eric Decker said on Tiki and Tierney. “You saw the personality, kind of the swag come out, and it was like, okay, I see you, Marcus. He’s a very quiet, humble kid, works hard, just a great guy to be around – and he’s done a good job as far as taking that leadership role as the season has progressed At this point, we go as Marcus goes. His development has been fun to be a part of. I think he’s got a lot of upside as well.”
Indeed, not many quarterbacks can run like Mariota. Or throw on the run like him.
“He kind of has it all,” Decker said. “His thing is just slowing the game down, making reads, getting comfortable in the pocket. He’s been doing a lot better job as the season progresses.”
Mariota threw a 22-yard dart to Decker to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City this past Saturday. The Titans trailed 21-3 at halftime but scored the final 19 points to win, 22-21.
Yes, Mariota can win games with his arm – and only his arm. He showed that in Week 6, when he threw for a season-high 306 yards in a 36-22 Monday Night win the Colts. Even more impressive, Mariota did that without the threat of his legs. Mariota, who was protecting a strained left hamstring, finished without a single rushing yard.
“He made a lot of great throws and a lot of great reads,” Decker said. “When you’re a quarterback and throughout your life you can rely on your athletic ability, sometimes he relies on that and wants to escape and run. But when he’s forced in the pocket, he definitely can make the progression reads and throw the ball to No. 3, No. 4. He’s got that ability. There’s going to be a lot of upside for him to be able to do that. It’s just getting comfortable in the pocket and trusting his receivers. He’s definitely got the ability to do all that.”
Mariota, Decker and the rest of the Titans head to Foxboro this week to take on the Patriots. Kickoff is Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET, with the winner to advance to the AFC Championship.
Switching gears, Decker was also asked about player safety. Specifically, he was asked if he would let his son play football.
“I just think in general sports has kind of defined and molded me into who I am,” Decker said. “I’m not going to push him one way or the other. I will say, though, that my first son looks like he might be a lefty, so I might be pushing him towards baseball. There’s some money in baseball. To be a lefty pitcher, maybe a lefty hitter, you got some potential. But no, I’m indifferent. I love the game. It’s given me so many opportunities, so many things that I probably wouldn’t have ever had or seen if I wasn’t in the situation. Again, I’m not going to push him to play the game, and I’m not going to force him from not playing the game.”
That said, Decker, 30, will not let his son play tackle football at a young age.
“I’m not going to let my kid be in tackle football until he’s developed, whether that’s eighth grade or high school,” Decker said. “I don’t see any sense for that. He’s got to learn the skills, he’s got to play the game, but you can find a way to acquire those and have fun. That’s what it’s about at that age anyway. So that’s my only concern with it. Other than that, if he wants to play football, I’m excited for him.”