Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

For Mariota, competition leads to mentorship

05222024 P3 Practice KC53706

Marcus Mariota received a tough lesson about being humble early in his career.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2015, Mariota entered the 2019 season -- a critical year for him to prove he deserved a long-term contract -- as the Tennessee Titans' starting quarterback. He was benched six games into the year in favor of Ryan Tannehill, effectively ending his time in Tennessee and leading to him playing for three teams in four years.

The experience served as a reminder to appreciate where he's at, no matter the role.

"I love ball. I love being around it," Mariota said. "So, regardless of what my situation entails, I put a smile on my face, and I love coming to work and that's not going to be any different if I'm here or somewhere else. I don't change that mentality for anything."

Now, Mariota is in the same room as Jayden Daniels -- another No. 2 overall pick taken by the Washington Commanders in April. As an NFL veteran heading into his 10th season, part of his job is to mentor Daniels through his rookie season, but as a competitor, there's also a desire to prove that he can still be a starter.

For Mariota, mentoring and competing go hand-in-hand.

"I think competition makes everybody better," Mariota said.

To be clear, Mariota is not misinterpreting the situation he is in. He signed a one-year deal with Washington knowing there was a strong possibility the team would draft one of the top quarterbacks in college football. Daniels, a Heisman Trophy winner who broke program and NCAA records at LSU, ended up being that player, and while the staff has not officially named Daniels the starter, they will eventually want to put most of their attention into their investment.

It's a reality Mariota is familiar with, although his experience comes from the other side of that relationship. As the highest-drafted quarterback in Titans history since their move to Tennessee, Mariota was expected to put an end to the team's quarterback struggles that had existed since Steve McNair was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in 2006.

All draft picks come with a level of expectation to produce, but that is heightened with quarterbacks, particularly ones drafted as highly as Mariota and Daniels. Mariota made it clear when he signed his contract that he wants to be a resource for young quarterback.

"I can provide a little bit of comfort knowing that you [need to] be your best version of yourself," Mariota said. "Don't worry about everything else. Don't worry about the expectations. Just go out there and try to get better every day and the rest of it will fall into place."

The Washington Commanders and Marjorie Harris, Chair of the Washington Commanders Foundation, hosted a Day of Service at three locations across Washington, D.C., supporting causes such as youth sports, STEM and education. The Foundation's three events were joined by team President Jason Wright, Valerie Biberaj, Executive Director, Washington Commanders Foundation, as well as members of the 2024 rookie class, Washington Legends, and Commanders employees.

Through rookie minicamp and the first half of OTAs, Daniels looked the part of a first-round pick. Mariota took most of the snaps with the first group, but Daniels was poised in the pocket, dissected the defensive looks and placed passes with pinpoint accuracy.

As someone who does not have much more experience in the offense than Daniels, Mariota has been impressed with the rookie.

"I think he really moves well, throws the ball well and for a young guy that's coming in, seems to really like command the offense and I think that's important," Mariota said.

But while Daniels is undisputedly the future at the position for Washington, Mariota still has belief in what he can do, too.

"I really believe if that's my role, if I'm called upon to play, I'll do it to the best of my ability," Mariota said.

Mariota is one of the more successful backup quarterbacks playing today. He has played in 90 games with 74 starts, throwing 93 touchdowns with 55 interceptions. He is one of the most successful quarterbacks in Titans history, taking the team to the playoffs in 2017.

Mariota also knows from personal experience that comparing himself to someone he is competing against is counterproductive. So, rather than always trying to show that he can be a better short-term option, Mariota chooses to look inward and be "the best version" of himself.

"You'll find that you're making better plays, you're making better decisions," Mariota said. "So, I look at it at from that standpoint of just like, how can I get better myself? At the same time just kind of bringing up the quarterback room as well."

Mariota "absolutely" thinks about the chance to start for Washington. He's an NFL quarterback who wants to create the best opportunity for himself. However, Mariota "checked his ego a long time ago," and he believes that the best way to create a healthy quarterback room is to push himself. If that happens, he and Daniels will be better for it.

"Regardless of who's the starter week one, I'm going to do everything I can to be the best version of myself and also bring out the best out of my teammates," Mariota said.

Related Content