Whether or not the No. 2 overall pick plays in the finale against the Colts, it won't change what Mariota is calling a challenging first season in the NFL.
"I kind of expected this to be a tough transition," Mariota said, per the team's official website. "It is not easy to come from the college level to come play at this level. So I kind of expected it and I'll learn from it and grow from it."
Globally, the Titans have been a disaster, burning toward another top overall pick with little to show for the season beyond overachieving tight end Delanie Walker and the team's promising young quarterback. Mariota, though, brings immense hope for the future because of his unusual athletic talent and off-the-field study habits.
"You have to stay the course, no matter what happens," Mariota said. "Prepare each and every single day. Enjoy the process, and find ways to get better. And whatever comes at you whether it is an obstacle or adversity, take it with a grain of salt and understand you can learn from it and do your best to prepare and get better for the following week."
It's amazing what one functional quarterback can do for your future. Without Mariota, Tennessee -- set to look for a new coach -- would loom as a bottom-of-the-barrel wasteland for prospective leaders. The rookie passer's presence, though, makes this an attractive landing spot for bright offensive minds -- maybe even Chip Kelly if the Philly experiment dissolves.
It also means the Titans, if they land that No. 1 overall pick, don't need to swing for the fences on a signal-caller. With Mariota under center, the team-building process becomes more focused. That alone should make this a merry Christmas for a fan base without much else to smile about.