HOUSTON – Warren Moon is a legend in these parts, thanks to the work he did as quarterback of the Houston Oilers.
Moon broke countless records during his playing days, and his body of work earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here on Monday night, he was a part of Super Bowl LI Opening Night at Minute Maid Park. He's been a big hit on Radio Row.
Moon believes the Titans have a special player in quarterback Marcus Mariota, and he thinks he's just going to keep getting better.
"I was impressed with Marcus in Year 1,'' said Moon, who threw for 49,325 yards in 17 NFL seasons with the Oilers, Vikings, Seahawks and Chiefs, "and I saw so many positive things from him this past year until the injury.
"His future is really bright, because I know how he works on and off the field, putting the time in. And I've heard about how he is in the meeting rooms, and working on his body. He'll continue to do that, and that will help him take the pounding NFL quarterbacks take.
"But he has a great temperament, he doesn't get too high or too low. And I always look at that in quarterbacks, just to see how they handle themselves, whether they are having prosperity or dealing with tough times. And you really can't tell the difference with him, and that is a great sign not only for him, but also for his teammates. They don't need to see a guy who is going to be erratic. You want your quarterback to be a steady influence, and that's what Marcus is.
"So he has everything to be a great one in this league,'' Moon continued, "and he has progressed even faster than I thought he would."
Mariota completed 276-of-451 passes for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 95.6 passer rating in 2016 before suffering a fractured fibula in Week 16 contest at Jacksonville. He added 60 rushing attempts for 349 yards and two touchdowns in 2016.
Mariota's 95.6 passer rating ranks third in franchise history for a single season, behind only Moon's 96.8 in 1990, when he was the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year, and Steve McNair's 100.4 in 2003, when he was the NFL's Co-MVP.
Mariota's 26 touchdown passes in 2016 rank fourth in franchise history behind only George Blanda's 36 in 1961, Moon's 33 in 1990 and Blanda's 27 in 1962.
Moon, who spent some time with Mariota when he won the 2014 Davey O'Brien, said the Titans did a good job of building the offense around the quarterback to make him more comfortable. Mariota was the No.2 overall pick by the Titans in the 2015 NFL draft after winning the Heisman Trophy at Oregon.
"He is well on his way and is definitely doing better than most people expected because of the talent that is now around him,'' Moon said. "Getting the two running backs – DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry – was good for him, and then drafting the big tackle out of Michigan State in Jack Conklin. They've really rebuilt that offensive line to protect him and keep him from getting hit so much."
Moon, who is currently the color commentator for the Seahawks radio network, said Mariota turned in a Pro Bowl season. Mariota was an alternate, and would've played in the all-star game if not for the injury.
The key for Mariota moving forward is to stay healthy, Moon said.
"My biggest concern is his injuries — he's just been hurt the last two years,'' Moon said. "He hurts his knee as a rookie, and this year he breaks the leg. But he had a tremendous season up to that point, especially down the stretch. He was playing some of his best football, and they were winning games, and then it all came to a screeching halt. It's just unfortunate for him.
"The biggest key for him is to stay healthy, because that's the biggest thing a quarterback can do for his team is to be there every week. They have a really good team around him now, so all of a sudden he doesn't have to worry about doing it himself. It was just all really clicking this past year, and now he has to go through rehab and that's unfortunate. But I expect him to be back stronger than ever."
Another thing Mariota has going for him heading into 2017, Moon said, is continuity with coach Mike Mularkey, and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie.
And that should show on the field this fall.
"When I came into the league, I had three or four coordinators in my first three years, and I was constantly relearning things, and I never really had a chance to really have command of the offense the way I wanted to,'' Moon said.
"So Marcus has a chance to do that in his third year. He will have command of that offense next year because he's been in it. He is intelligent enough to handle everything he has been given, and you'll see the progression. I definitely think the future is bright for Marcus and the Titans."
TitansOnline.com looks back at Marcus Mariota's second NFL season in 2016. (AP Photos)