Greeson: Mariota's early returns give hope to Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota stretches during an organized team activity at the team's NFL football training facility Tuesday, June 2, 2015, in Nashville.

The weekend reviews of Marcus Mariota could not have been much better.

Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, was the top draft pick of the Tennessee Titans a little more than a month ago, and his early returns seem sharp.

Clicking through the first few offseason team activities, Mariota has caught the eyes of the guys he needs the most -- his wide receivers. It's also the group that was famously perplexed on draft day when the Titans made Mariota the No. 2 overall pick.

Mariota represents the single most important pick for this franchise at least since Vince Young, and more likely he is the most important player in Nashville since Steve McNair was in town.

Before we get to the seriousness of the issue, let's at least start with the positive feedback from his future receivers.

After just three practices -- and remember these quotes are through the team website, meaning there's almost as much spin here as there was on Mariota's spirals -- the praise was clear.

The view of Justin Hunter: "He's a smooth guy. He's a real good quarterback. I see it in him."

The view of Hakeem Nicks, who has caught passes from Eli Manning and Andrew Luck the last few seasons: "He's a grown man. I think he's going to adapt fairly quickly. He's been making some throws that are pretty impressive to me."

The view of Harry Douglas, who had been with Matt Ryan in Atlanta since 2008: ""Matt was my righthand man. One thing I can say about Marcus, though, is that he's very intelligent. He's smart, he's athletic and he can play the game. He knows the game. He goes through all his progressions, and he throws well."

Now let's decipher the spin element.

There are no references to "exciting" or "explosive" or "potential" in any of the quotes. Ther are not any references to being a "playmaker" or "dynamic talent" or any of the other versions of guys who light up highlight reels in positive and negative ways.

photo Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota passes during an organized team activity at the team's NFL football training facility Tuesday, June 2, 2015, in Nashville.

Nope, the guys who need Mariota picked interesting words. Smooth. A grown man. Very intelligent.

And most importantly, as Douglas noted, Mariota "can play the game."

Tennessee certainly hopes so. Because the Titans are desperate for Mariota to be the guy.

To succeed in this league, a team must have good quarterback play. In fact, there is such desperation around the NFL, guys with limited credentials and huge bust-potential such as Ryan Tannehill and Colin Kaepernick are getting nine-figure contracts.

The Titans have become the face of forgettable in the league because they rotated the cap of incapability through the likes of Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst last year.

And before that, the visor of invisibility was rotated among Locker, one of the Hasselbecks and Ryan Fitzpartick.

And let's not forget the five-year song-and-dance between Young and Kerry Collins that even included a start for some cat named Rusty Smith. Better still, let's not only forget it, but let's pretend it never happened.

The Titans' huge quarterback need is magnified by the steps made by their division rivals.

The Indianapolis Colts have the future face of the NFL in Andrew Luck. They are set for a decade or more.

The Jacksonville Jaguars hope they addressed it last year when they drafted Blake Bortles.

The Houston Texans, like the Titans, have more QB questions than answers, but unlike Tennessee, Houston has an impressive and complete roster that includes the best defensive player of this generation in J.J. Watt.

So the Titans addressed the biggest hole on arguably the most flawed roster in the league with Mariota.

And if it doesn't work, well, it will mean the end of another coaching staff and hitting the reset button again, because while not having a quarterback is painful, missing on a first-round QB erases the blackboard of the entire franchise.

The pick of Young forced Jeff Fisher out, even if Fisher was never high on Young from the start.

The pick of Locker doomed Mike Munchak.

The pick of Mariota will define current coach Ken Whisenhunt.

It's just that simple.

So, Titans fans, here's hoping the wide receivers are right and Mariota has what it takes.

If not?

Well, in three years, we'll revisit the entire issue, only the names will be overhauled.

Once again.

Contact Jay Greeson at and follow him on Twitter at @jgreesontfp. You can read his online column "The 5-at-10" Monday through Friday at after 10 a.m.