If there is a quarterback who fights to say the non-controversial thing the non-controversial way more than Derek Carr, it is his new backup.
Which is to say Jon Gruden has two guys who know what words mean by struggling not to say them, which as a tool toward benign social interaction is pretty much a non-starter.
So speaking of non-starters, we bring you Marcus Mariota, the former Tennessee Titan brought in to push and/or supplant Carr in Las Vegas if and when the NFL season begins. When asked about his relationship with Carr, Mariota said the painfully correct thing.
It's the same thing that Case Keenum said about Baker Mayfield, and the same thing Ryan Tannehill said about Mariota a year ago, and for you folks who need that pernicious local angle, it's what Jim Garoppolo said about Tom Brady back in the day. It's what the backup says, even when the backup doesn't believe a word of it, which is always. And the starter knows that the backup knows it, which usually creates a wariness between the two. Sometimes… well, often, it leads to quiet simmering dissatisfactions, and if the starter is good enough, it can lead to what happened to Garoppolo — a new job somewhere else.
And it's designed to do that. It's called "creative tension," and is a well-known and oft-used management tool that is largely designed to have one guy eat the other thoroughly enough that the loser can never resurrect his career. Sometimes that doesn't work (Tannehill and Garoppolo, most recently), but most of the time it's a loser-leaves-town match.
So what Mariota is actually saying is, "I'll never say it and never act like it, but I want his job." And what Carr is hearing is, "He'll never say it and never act like it, but he wants my job, and it's part of my job to read between the lines when he speaks."
In football, this level of head-eyes-and-ears-on-a-swivel is considered normal Darwinian management, and for them it is, well, normal. But the fact is Mariota is merely doing the dance expected of him, and Carr will do the dance expected of him. It just feels more contrived than most such situations because they are both so accomplished at singing the right song and making the accompanying dance seem believable. It isn't, but they have to be seen making it look that way. It's mandated disingenuousness, and it will become wearying before too long.
Unless, of course, the sports programming drought turns it into a rolling reality series on NFL Network. After all, Brady-Garoppolo is still going on and that's going on three years since they parted sub-acrimoniously. Some feud narratives never die even when nobody says anything at all.