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At the Pro Bowl, QB Ryan Tannehill Lauds Fellow Titans QB Marcus Mariota: "I Have So Much Respect and Love for Him"


ORLANDO – By now, you've probably seen the video.

The one where Marcus Mariota did his best to lift the spirits of Titans starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the closing moments of Sunday's AFC Championship Game loss to the Chiefs.

"I am excited for you – it's the start of something great, brother," Mariota told Tannehill during a sideline embrace at Arrowhead Stadium, the clock ticking down on the team's season. "I am so excited for you."

Tannehill, mic'd up for Inside the NFL on Showtime, could be heard saying, 'I'm so mad right now" as he put his head down in disappointment.

Mariota patted Tannehill the chest and told him: "Hey, you're going to be playing in a lot of these."

A social media post by Inside the NFL was posted with the words: Nothing but respect between (Ryan Tannehill) and Marcus Mariota at the end of the Titans season.

Here at the Pro Bowl, Tannehill recalled that conversation with Mariota, who he replaced as the team's starter in Week 7. Mariota didn't play in nine consecutive games after the Titans made the move, instead watching from the sideline as the team's back-up quarterback. Mariota played a handful of snaps in the team's playoff games.

And Tannehill said he has the utmost respect for Mariota, the second overall pick by the franchise in 2015 whose contract expires in March.

"Marcus is an incredible human being, and I have so much respect and love for him," Tannehill said. "The way he handled things – it was an incredibly tough situation. He was in Tennessee for five years, and it was his team and where he made his home. The way things went down, I don't think many guys in the world would handle it the way he did. He handled it like a true professional. He was supportive of me from Day One. I know he was hurting, and I tried to be empathetic with that throughout the season and give support to him as well. But he handled it so well – he was supportive of me, helped me out on game days, in preparation during the week. He was just a consistent guy throughout the year.

"We are great friends and we will continue to be great friends."

A look back at QB Ryan Tannehill's 2019 Pro Bowl season that saw him complete 201-of-286 passes (70.3%) for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns, and an NFL-leading 117.5 passer rating. (Photos: Donald Page).

Tannehill, asked what he remembers about Mariota's words in Kansas City, admitted "I think I was in shock at that point, so I probably didn't say a whole lot back to him.

"I was struggling for words at the end of that game," said Tannehill, who guided the team to a 9-4 mark, and into the franchise's first AFC Championship Game since the 2002 season. "Marcus talked to me, (offensive coordinator) Arthur (Smith), and other guys on our team – and guys on the other team – and I was struggling just to think straight just because I was in shock. Marcus and I have had a couple more good conversations since that conversation on the sideline and he has been nothing but encouraging every time."

Mariota's contract with the Titans expires in March, and he talked after the game as if he didn't expect to be back in Tennessee in 2020.

"The organization took a chance on me, and I felt like I gave them everything I've got," Mariota said. "Obviously, we're not sure what is going to happen. But I know when it is all said and done, I gave this organization everything I could.

"… No matter what, this game will be done for all of us at some point, but the relationships will last. I am truly grateful for the time with these guys."

Tannehill, who joined the Titans in March via trade after playing his first seven seasons with the Dolphins, said on Wednesday he hopes to return to Tennessee in 2020. He also said he's grateful for the time he spent with Mariota in Nashville.

And he wished him well moving forward.

"I know he has big things in front of him in his career," Tannehill said of Mariota, "and I'll be cheering him on every step of the way."

Titans players arrive for week-long practices and festivities leading up to Sunday's Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla. (Photos: Donald Page)

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