NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Just over six months ago, during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner assessed his former coach's team, and came to a conclusion when talking about the future of the Titans.
"Ken has to have a quarterback,'' Warner of Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. "I don't care what coach you are, it's tough to find one who can survive for a long period of time without a quarterback. The whole organization and Ken will be behind the 8-ball until they find somebody. Right now, it's an uphill climb."
On Friday, Warner was in Nashville with NFL Network to watch the Titans practice.
Mariota, the second overall pick of the NFL Draft, had another solid day. During the first seven days of training camp, Mariota still hasn't thrown an interception.
Warner left impressed. He believes the Titans might've found their quarterback.
"You check all the boxes physically, no question, not that you had a lot of boxes to check. You see the ball come out quick, you see plenty of velocity on the ball. I don't think there is any question about the footwork and that kind of stuff, we knew he was a great athlete from that standpoint,'' Warner said of Mariota.
"Just the command that he has, and seeing how he adjusts plays at the line of scrimmage, it's really impressive for a guy who hasn't been in the system very long."
Under Whisenhunt, Warner and the Arizona Cardinals went to Super Bowl XLII. The two men had great success in three years together in the desert, as Warner threw the ball all over the field to spark a turnaround after the Cardinals posted one winning season in 22 years prior to Whisenhunt's arrival.
Coming off a 2-14 season, the Titans selected Mariota out of Oregon.
Mariota is a completely different quarterback than Warner, a pocket passer known for having a strong arm. Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl win over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. Mariota ran a spread offense at Oregon, and is quick on the move.
"They are different, but they are similar,'' Whisenhunt said of the Warner and Mariota. "Their mindset, how they go about the game. Marcus is very early in his career, but the way he prepares and the way he handles himself, there's a lot of similarities there to Kurt."
Warner believes Whisenhunt will find a way to make Mariota work in the NFL.
"I think any quarterback has to be able to do some of the things that we did in Arizona, the drop backs, the read-the-progressions, the get-the-ball out. You have to be able to make those plays,'' Warner said. "But I think the great thing about Ken is he is very flexible, and he was very flexible when I was with him, adjusting and changing our offense, and it was a continual evolution process we were going to become based on the players we had, based on who I was, based on who he saw and that is the great thing about this marriage.
"Ken is going to have his stuff and things he has done and things he knows can be good, but you are also going to have great flexibility with a guy like Marcus to be able to say, "Hey, maybe I didn't run any read-zone stuff with Kurt and Philip (Rivers), but hey, we are going to look into this and find ways we can use his unique skills and talents to be a part of our offense and shape this into something Marcus is extremely comfortable with, Ken is extremely comfortable with, and then they meet in the middle on other things. That becomes what the offense is. I don't believe what they had Day 1 as an offense will be what they have at the end of this year. It will continue to be shaped around their personnel and particularly what Marcus does well."
From the sideline, Warner spent the day watching the Titans practice.
He paid close attention to Mariota. He also mingled with the fans, and can sense the enthusiasm in the city surrounding the team.
Warner said fans will need patience, but he believes the Titans could be rewarded in time.
"People need to remember it is a team process. Marcus is young, but so are a lot of his skill guys like Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter and Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack and Bishop Sankey. All these guys are 2-3 years in and everyone is going to have to come along and grow together,'' Warner said.
"But I liked what I saw (today) and I love his demeanor. He has that flat-line demeanor of not too high and not too low is a great thing for a young guy because there will be good times, but there will also be struggles."
Titans players take the field for training camp on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (AP Photos)