He's considered to be the golden boy, the lifeblood of a state which so desperately clamors for something to hold on to.
He's stayed out of controversy throughout the entirety of his football career to date, letting the likes of Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel receive the ire of authority figures after committing brash mistakes while he garnered the praise on the other hand.
He pioneered a title run last season at Oregon, capturing the coveted Heisman Trophy while compiling 42 touchdowns through the air to accompany his scintillating 68.3% pass completion rate. On the ground, he was just as effective, rushing for 770 yards and 15 touchdowns, and he even caught a 26-yard touchdown pass while making a tackle on defense.
Basically, he did it all with the Ducks, and he should be revered for it. However, his era in the fluidity of the Oregon offensive system in a historically defensively-poor PAC-12 conference has passed, and his exposure to the formidable pass rushes of the AFC South is soon to come.
First of all, his numbers were inflated due to the horrific defensive nature of his former conference. When you look past Stanford, which dominated the category of yards per game, allowing just 282.4, the defensive trend of the PAC-12 in 2014 was starkingly poor.
The second-best defensive team in the conference, Utah, allowed 398.2 yards per game, good for 59th in the nation, while the next squad in the rankings, UCLA, allowed 398.5 per game. Oregon State allowed 406.3, USC relinquished an average of 407.9, Washington coughed up 410.6, Arizona State allowed 417.1, Washington State allowed 442.3, Arizona and Colorado allowed 451 and 461, respectively, and, worst of all, California allowed an average of 511.8 yards per game.
As evidenced by the statistics, Mariota was racking up these astounding numbers against defenses which never stood a chance in the first place. Before garnering a victory over Stanford this past season, Mariota had historically struggled to muster offense against the formerly Derek Mason-lead Cardinal, leading us to believe that he will not be able to handle professional-style defenses.
Another factory which will go against his favor will be the fact that the offense which he will be running with the Tennessee Titans will be nothing like the one which he has run throughout his entire football career, which includes his high school days in addition to his time with the Ducks.
Check out this observation from Rob Rang of CBSsports.com: "The Ducks' innovative offense simplifies QB decisions, and this is roughly the same scheme Mariota played in high school. As such, some of the basics like taking the ball from under center and scanning downfield while dropping back are skills Mariota hasn't been asked to master yet.
"Overly reliant on his first read, and occasionally commits the cardinal sin of throwing late across his body. Accuracy can be an issue, as Mariota misses too many open receivers, including high-percentage underneath passes."
In the Ducks' system, Mariota wasn't forced to make instantaneous decisions, receiving the opportunity to roll out while looking downfield rather than being forced to drop back, survey the defense, and fire out a throw in the blink of an eye, skills he will need to develop if he wishes to be successful in the NFL.
He was also too audacious in his decision-making at Oregon, opting for the cross-body, long range toss at times. While these sort of choices are acceptable against the porous competition of the PAC-12, throwing it into the middle of an NFL defense is a proven recipe for disaster.
The final factor in Mariota's failure to reach expectations will be the situation he's been thrown into. The AFC South features three of the most daunting defenses in the league, a far cry from the sort of competition that the Hawaiian native faced throughout his collegiate career.
First, you have Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt, in addition to 2014 No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney on opposite ends in Houston, wreaking havoc for the offensive tackles on each side. Houston also recorded 20 interceptions in 2014, tied for the second-highest mark in the NFL. Jacksonville bolstered their pass rush on the Draft's first day, selecting Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. with the third overall pick, while Indianapolis ranked just outside of the top ten in total defense in 2014, allowing 342.7 yards per game.
In addition to facing a myriad of menacing defenses, don't expect Mariota to receive much assistance from his offensive line in terms of protection. They ranked 26th in pass protection last season, allowing their quarterbacks to be sacked on 50 occasions while collecting an adjusted sack rate of 8.9%. In comparison, Denver's adjusted sack rate was just 3.7% after allowing just 17 sacks on Peyton Manning all season.
So far, the Titans have overlooked their need for an offensive tackle, selecting guard Jeremiah Poutasi out of Utah with the 66th pick, and while they chose electric wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham out of Missouri with the 40th selection, the weaponry surrounding Mariota is mediocre at best. At 5'10" and 196 pounds, Kendall Wright doesn't have the size necessary to become a viable No. 1 option in the NFL while the likes of Hakeem Nicks (38 receptions, 405 yards, 4 touchdowns in 2014 with the Colts) and Harry Douglas (51 receptions, 556 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2014 with the Falcons) are past their prime.
If the young, sizeable Justin Hunter fails to become a key target after compiling an underwhelming stat line of 28 catches for 498 yards and three touchdowns in 2014, Mariota could see his frustration (and his turnovers) mount over the course of the near future.