NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The offseason is flying by for quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Titans.
In his mind, the start of the offseason program – on April 9 – can't get here fast enough.
This week, Mariota is spending time back home in Hawaii before returning to Nashville. Prior to his annual Motiv8 Foundation charity golf tournament at Oahu Country Club, he sat down with KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello to talk about a number of subject, from the way last season ended, the coaching change, his future, and how much he hates losing.
"I just love the game," Mariota said. "I love what comes with the game, I love the relationships, the hard work it takes to be successful on Sundays, really just the process. And I enjoy it. I look forward to getting in the building, I look forward to getting in the facility with the guys. Those are things that I'll never take for granted."
A few months after the 2017 season ended, Mariota acknowledged "it took a little bit" to get over the finish. The Titans advanced into the AFC divisional round with a Wild Card weekend win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
But a loss to the New England Patriots ended the team's season, and Super Bowl hopes.
"To be in the divisional round, to be two steps away, it was a tough loss," Mariota told KHON2's DeMello. "But to go into New England, to play (Tom) Brady and to have an opportunity to experience that, I think it was huge. We were a pretty young team, so that will be huge moving forward. When you look back on it, to get a road wild card game was huge for this franchise, and it is just continuing to ascend. And if we continue to grow, I think we have an opportunity to reach where we all want to go to."
Following the season, the Titans made a coaching change.
The team parted ways with Mike Mularkey, and hired Mike Vrabel.
"Well, first and foremost to lose the staff of Coach Mularkey and that group, it was tough," Mariota said. "I thought they did an incredible job of changing the culture, changing the perspective that we had really as a franchise and it put into action how it is to win, how can you win at this level. And that foundation, I think, will help us as we move forward.
"I'm really excited with Coach Vrabel. I had opportunity to sit down with him a couple times, and his vision and the standard that he's going to hold for all of us as players, the accountability, the competitiveness, I love it. I am really excited to get back to work with these guys. I think the (offensive coordinator Matt) LaFleur and the offensive guys have a great vision for this team as well, and it's going to be a lot of fun and as a young group, as a young team, we just need to continue to feed off the energy. I think we'll be in a good spot."
Mariota has met LaFleur, who served as offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams last season, has been instrumental in the success of quarterbacks like Jared Goff, Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III in the past.
"I think they're going to do a great job of putting each individual player in the best possible situation to excel, and that's all you can ask for as a player," Mariota said. "Even just sitting down and talking to him just a little bit, the vision of what they want to do with our guys, I think, is going to be awesome. They're going to put some of our best players in a setting where they can just go make plays and just not think and play fast. I'm really excited to see how our guys, how they handle it and how they're just going to excel in it."
Mariota, who is headed into his fourth NFL season, was asked about the potential for a second NFL contract by DeMello.
Mariota, the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has thrown for 9,476 yards with 58 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in his first three seasons, with a 61.8 completion percentage and a passer rating of 88.6.
He said he trusts Titans general manager Jon Robinson, while making it clear his focus is on playing football.
"Those are things that are outside of my control," Mariota said. "Obviously, there are certain things that you can do to kind of speed up the process, but if I started to concern myself with that, I lose sight of what it means to be a team guy and what it means to put this team first, and whenever that gets done it will get done and I just kind of focus on what's going on on the field
"I've always kind of been that way. I trust the organization, and I trust Jon. He's done an unbelievable job since he stepped in, and whenever that gets done, it will get done, and I'm kind of just focused on what's going on on the field."
Mariota spent time working with the team's receivers in Los Angeles earlier this month. Since the end of the season he's also spent time in Nashville. He spent part of Super Bowl week in Minneapolis.
When he returns to Nashville, his focus will shift even more to what's ahead.
He wants to end 2018 in a winning note.
A smiling Mariota told DeMallo something his friends know well – he hates losing.
"Whether it is in cards, or 18 holes of golf, it could be anything," Mariota said. "It's funny because we might be playing a fun game, but if I lose people are like … just don't. Let him cool off for 15 minutes and then he'll be OK. I have been wired that way since I was (young), and I think that's kind of gotten me to where I'm at.
"I think that is really what's made me the athlete I am."
TitansOnline.com looks back at QB Marcus Mariota's 2017 season. (AP Photos)