General manager Ruston Webster and coach Ken Whisenhunt said they grew increasingly comfortable with Mariota during the pre-draft process, which included an NFL scouting combine meeting, a private workout and meeting after his pro day, and a visit to the team headquarters.
"Every minute we spent with him, it just felt better and better," Webster said.
TheOregon Ducksstar had been coveted by several teams. A league source said thePhiladelphia Eaglesand Chicago Bears were pushing hardest for the pick. A separate source told ESPN's Bob Holtzman that the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams also had talked with the Titans about the selection.
But ultimately, Webster said the team felt strongly that taking the Heisman Trophy winner was the way to go and that late in the process, the conversation was more about searching for a reason not to select him than it was about making the pick.
"It was going to be difficult to convince us to back out," Webster said.
While Tennessee's offensive system differs greatly from the one Mariota operated at Oregon, the Titans believe his skills will translate into Whisenhunt's system and that they will adjust for him a bit, creating more offense where he could be on the move.
"I felt that through all of our conversations and everything that we did we developed a pretty close relationship," Mariota said of Webster and Whisenhunt during a conference call. "I'm looking forward to playing for them. I'm excited for this opportunity. I'm going to work hard at this and make the most of it."
Mariota did not attend the draft in Chicago, choosing to stay home in his native Hawaii.
Whisenhunt said the team already has done work on offensive revisions that will suit Mariota, who the Titans expect will be their Day 1 starter, displacing last year's sixth-round pick, Zach Mettenberger. The coach said the plan was to push Mariota while "incorporating what he does well."
Tennessee has not truly had a franchise quarterback since Steve McNair left following the 2005 season. Since then, the Titans have used first-round selections on both Vince Young (No. 3 overall, 2006) and Jake Locker (No. 8, 2011), but neither proved to be reliably successful and both have retired.
Mariota said he had no preference regarding where he wanted to land. He heard from Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who recruited him to Oregon, a day ago, and his former coach wished him well, he said.
Memphis was the first of three schools to recruit him, and he said he sees irony in landing in Tennessee, where he has some family and likely will hear more of some of his favorites: country musicians Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.
Mariota is expected in Nashville on Friday.