Sports, Thrill of Victory

Staying grounded: What should we make of Marcus Mariota’s impressive training camp?

As of this writing, Marcus Mariota has yet to throw an interception during training camp.

Marcus Mariota has been the talk of the NFL thanks to his training camp performances. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Marcus Mariota has been the talk of the NFL thanks to his training camp performances. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

By the time you read this, he probably will have thrown one. Maybe two. Possibly even three.

Tennessee Titans fans have every reason to be excited about Mariota’s hot start to training camp. After all, these same fans didn’t get much to cheer about in 2014. Especially not on offense.

In that regard, being thrilled with Mariota’s seemingly flawless delivery is fine. However, at the risk of ruining an optimistic mood that hasn’t been around in a while, let’s remember something.

This is still just training camp.

With that out of the way, let’s return to the land that signals a bright future for Mariota and the Titans franchise.

Perhaps we’re now learning that the biggest concern about Mariota this off-season was indeed whether or not he would sign his rookie contract. Because on the field, he’s been nothing but impressive thus far.

Every day, the stories have been the same.

Mariota continues to impress everyone in Titans camp. Mariota has a good handle on the Titans’ offense. Mariota isn’t throwing interceptions.

With all of that leading the headlines each day, what should any of us be concerned about?

It’s clear at this point that the Titans are happy with their young quarterback’s progression. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt continues to reiterate how well the Heisman Trophy winner has looked in drills.

Marcus Mariota is giving head coach Ken Whisenhunt plenty of reasons to smile right now. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Marcus Mariota is giving head coach Ken Whisenhunt plenty of reasons to smile right now. PHOTO BY DONN JONES, COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Here’s the thing: For those that have followed this franchise for a while, you know that we’ve been here before. We’ve heard the same thing about previous highly-touted quarterbacks.

Vince Young had good training camps. Jake Locker also had good training camps. However, neither ultimately lived up to the hype of being a franchise quarterback. Both had their moments, but their lack of consistency stopped their run under center.

So, despite all of the great things that we’ve seen from the former Oregon star thus far, maybe being hesitant about Mariota isn’t such a bad idea.

The Titans didn’t draft Mariota to be a training camp star. They drafted him to help them return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999. To get there, the Titans will first have to win a playoff game for the first time since 2003. And to have that opportunity, the team will have to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

You get the point. Just like getting to the Super Bowl, Mariota’s development is a process. And it’s one that’s going to have a lot of bumps along the way.

That’s why we should take his training camp hot streak as nothing more than that. It’s a good showing in training camp, and nothing more.

That’s not being pessimistic. Whisenhunt would tell you same thing, as would Mariota.

Even Peter King is interested in Marcus Mariota's impressive pre-season form. PHOTO BY DONN JONES COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

Even Peter King is interested in Marcus Mariota’s impressive pre-season form. PHOTO BY DONN JONES COURTESY TENNESSEE TITANS

The interception streak is something that the players and media can have fun with, and that’s really about it. The consistency is great to see from the 21-year-old, but it’s still too early to put his statue outside of Nissan Stadium.

Training camp is a time for players to gain more experience in an environment that offers much less pressure than a regular season game will. Mariota is taking full advantage of that right now in honing his skills for the new year.

And all signs point toward Mariota being a good NFL quarterback.

However, failure to keep expectations realistic will cause a lot of ugly emotions to come into play when Mariota hits that first large bump in the road.

So, before we send him to Canton for his Hall of Fame speech based off of a week of training camp, let’s at least be aware of the disappointments of the past.

After all, it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed.