Jason Fitz appears on a variety of programs across ESPN.
He also once covered the Titans in Nashville, Tennessee, where he came to know a quarterback who was chosen No. 2 overall in the 2015 draft.
Marcus Mariota never fully reached the expectations that come with such placement, which has led him to signing with the Raiders as a free agent to back up Derek Carr.
At least in the beginning.
Fitz suggests those in Las Vegas are getting much more than a backup.
“Marcus is not only capable of playing quarterback in the NFL, but is one of the most quality human beings I have ever interacted with in any capacity,” Fitz said. “You are getting someone that to a man, in any organization, will tell you is the most selfless player they have ever met.
“I believe you’re going to see a true quarterback battle in the most supportive way from Marcus. He’s a quiet leader who does whatever is asked of him. It’s a fantastic signing for the Raiders, at the very least to create a better culture top-to-bottom in any locker room.”
Character is forever. More than any trait, it’s a true measure of self.
Fitz isn’t the only one who speaks about Mariota with such admiration.
Pretty much everyone who knows him does.
If it had a choice, any NFL team that could assemble an entire roster of players with Mariota’s reputation and still be good enough to win the Super Bowl would immediately do so.
Nobody wants bad headlines — especially those generated off the field — if they can be avoided.
But few fairy tales lack a villain, and often on winning teams a handful of them contribute. Some exceedingly so.
As much as those in the NFL would prefer champions grown from only good seeds, they would take a collection of bad ones to win a ring.
Character matters at some secondary level. Performance and results matter a whole lot more.
Put it this way: If this were an episode of “Game of Thrones’ and winning big meant the difference between signing the honorable Jon Snow or the treacherous Ramsay Bolton, well, say hello to the guy who keeps others captive and tortures them.
As for the Raiders, they have for a few seasons now under Jon Gruden espoused a desire to sign and draft players of high character.
Mike Mayock as general manager also banged such a drum upon arriving, and yet he understands the reality of existing in a win-at-all-costs world.
“At the end of the day,” Mayock said upon the Raiders signing troubled offensive lineman Richie Incognito prior to the 2019 season, “you can’t have all Boy Scouts.”
Maybe the Raiders — who have made the playoffs once in 17 years — need fewer merit badges.
It’s certainly a noble goal, teams trying to avoid potential headaches when it comes to building a roster.
No industry goes to the extremes of the NFL when assessing skill and fit, and I believe most teams also have good intentions in evaluating a player’s mental makeup.
Winning is just more important.
The Raiders through this cycle of free agency seem to have added more character than not.
One exception could be Eli Apple, a cornerback who had some serious locker room issues with the Giants (2016-18), so serious he was suspended by the team for conduct detrimental.
And yet his biggest problem with the Saints the last two years was penalties.
He commits far too many.
Still, things to this point appear less hectic with the Raiders than last season.
That’s when, seemingly seconds after preaching about character, they brought in Incognito (who actually caused zero problems, played well and is back in 2020), oft-disciplined linebacker Vontaze Burfict (limited to just four games after being suspended by the NFL for a helmet-to-helmet hit) and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
The latter arrived to camp in a hot air balloon, exited it with frozen feet, didn’t like his helmet, had his contract voided by the team and was gone before taking a regular-season snap. A real head case.
So far — with the draft yet to come — such buffoonery is absent.
“We are trying to strengthen and improve our locker room with character, hard-working guys,” Mayock said this time last year.
Tell you what. With the signing of a certain free-agent quarterback, it sure looks like they have done that now.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.