The 21-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner and national title runner-up sold the most NFL jerseys for the month of May according to ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky and the Titans’ director of finance, Stuart Spears by Chuck Campbell of Knoxnews.com
According to SportsPro, the former Oregon Duck is the 39th most-marketable pro athlete, and yet he has yet to throw—or complete—an NFL pass. Couple that along with endorsements from Subway and Beats, and the NFL make have stumbled onto their next golden boy.
While Zach Mettenberger is not willing to give up his spot without a fight, factors beyond his control have already decided that Mariota is the face of the Titans franchise going forward.
Blessed with GQ-cover worthy dashing looks, and a quiet off-the-field demeanor, Mariota is exactly what the NFL needs as a marketing tool in the face of off-the-field domestic incidents involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy. Combine that with the never-ending “Deflategate” controversy and the likelihood of long-time standard bearers such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady set to hang them up within the next two to three years, and an individual such as the handsome Hawaiian could be the new face of the league for the next decade.
While playing in a small market such as Nashville may prove to be problematic for the NFL, Mariota’s combination of looks, humble low-key manner and good guy-type of appeal will help repair the NFL’s sullied and battered image from a public relations point of view.
While fellow draft classmate in top overall pick in fellow Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston may have been taken first by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Titans may end up coming out on top as they will not have to worry about maturity issues and off-the-field distractions. That along with having a under-25 nucleus of talent around him in Bishop Sankey, Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham and Delanie Walker have the potential to form a sleeper contender in the AFC.
Mariota and the Titans also benefit from being in the heart of the football-obsessed state of Tennessee and SEC country, which will be drawn to see a player such as him revive an otherwise stagnant franchise.
While it is premature to say that Mariota is the future of the NFL, or that the Titans could instantly challenge the likes of Indianapolis and Jacksonville in the AFC South, based on the early rave reviews of Mariota, along with having an offensive-minded coach such as Ken Whisenhunt, may give the NFL a glimpse of it’s future brand ambassador in Mariota.