NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the NFL, no team knows quarterback Marcus Mariota better than the Tennessee Titans.
Teams in the AFC South are next on line, like it or not.
After seeing Mariota play during his rookie season, coaches in the division know they have a challenge on their hands for years to come.
"He is a nightmare for you,'' Colts coach Chuck Pagano, speaking at the NFL owners meetings this week, said of Mariota. "He is wired the right way. His DNA is spot on. He is a winner, a tough guy, a competitor, and he's smart. All the intangibles are there for him to be a really good football player.
"What makes him tough is he can beat you in so many ways. He can beat you with his arm, and he can beat you with his feet. And he is going to do nothing but get better. And they're going to get better as a team."
Titans Online talked with the head coaches from all the AFC South teams at the owners meetings.
Mariota faced the Jaguars twice in 2015, and the Colts once. Mariota missed both games against the Texans because of injuries, and he missed the season-finale at Indianapolis because of an injury.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien said he's plenty familiar with Mariota, however.
"I really liked him when he was coming out (of college at Oregon),'' O'Brien said of Mariota. "We interviewed him at the combine and he was excellent. He's a very bright guy, a very sharp guy. And then when you watch him play, I think he has a lot of tools. Obviously he can run, so he is a really big threat to take off and run.
"But I think the big thing about him is over the years, from college to this past year, his passing has really improved. He is an accurate passer. So I think there is a lot of things you can do with him. Plus, he has a really good disposition for that position. He is a leader, he's calm. He is a winner. He has won a lot of games. That guy is a big, big challenge for teams."
Mariota broke rookie records for most touchdowns (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing attempts (370) in his first NFL season.
He also ran for 252 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts, including an 87-yard run for a touchdown against the Jaguars on December 6. He had three runs of 20-plus yards, including a 23-yard touchdown run in Jacksonville on November 19 on a Thursday night.
"I think his ability to extend plays is something that is a big concern,'' Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said of Mariota. "To come in as a rookie and play with the poise that he did. I think in the red zone, he had unbelievable success. The situational football deals that come up in a game, to see him perform at a high level, that's impressive. But he can really hurt you running the football.
"And it is only going to get better for him. But his ability to extend the play and make good decisions I think are his two highest qualities."
TitansOnline.com looks back at the 2015 rookie season of Titans QB Marcus Mariota. (AP Photos)
Pagano said Mariota's maturity reminds him of his own quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Mariota completed 27-of-44 passes for 367 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the game against Indianapolis last season, in week three.
"He is a great, great talent,'' Pagano said of Mariota. "He is a great athlete. He has great arm talent, and can make all the throws. His decision making is top notch. From an athletic standpoint he can extend plays.
"Now that he has a year under his belt, he is going to be better next year than he was this year. And he is mature like Andrew coming in, mature beyond his years. He's going to be tough to deal with not only because of his arm and his smarts, but when the play starts to break down, he has the ability to extend plays. That really makes it tough. It is hard chasing those guys around for two and three seconds, let alone five or six seconds."