Titans can learn from Rams on grooming a more candid Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota often looked uncomfortable last season running parts of Mike Mularkey's offense. AP Photo/Steven Senne

INDIANAPOLIS -- All eyes will be on Marcus Mariota and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur when the Titans return for offseason workouts April 9.

The Titans haven't wavered in their support of Mariota despite a rough Year 3, and there's plenty of optimism that LaFleur will be able to get the most out of Mariota.

"He’s just a great human being," new head coach Mike Vrabel said of Mariota. "If he’s half the player that he is a person, we’re going to be really excited."

Mariota's calm and cool demeanor won't change, but the Titans hope to get their quarterback to vocalize his likes and dislikes more as the team creates an offense to best suit his skill set. They can learn from the Los Angeles Rams' work with Jared Goff to get that type of change from Mariota.

Young quarterbacks are often apprehensive about making demands or requests that oppose a coach's particular play, formation or scheme. Mariota is no different, and he often looked uncomfortable running Mike Mularkey's scheme in 2017.

A big reason why the Titans hired LaFleur was his work with Goff last season. The Rams went from having the worst scoring offense to ranking first under head coach Sean McVay. LaFleur played a significant role in helping develop a game plan and grooming Goff to play a proactive role in building the offense.

"It’s all about that relationship," McVay said. "As the season progressed, Jared got more comfortable. You’re not going to offend me. We like all these plays, but if you don’t like it -- it’s not something we’re going to call. My grandpa [John McVay] told me coach [Bill] Walsh used to always say, ‘It’s the most difficult position in all of sports, so how can we make it as easy as possible.' You make it as easy as possible by fitting the offense to the skill set of the QB. I have a much better understanding of Jared because of the experience we have together."

LaFleur spoke at length about building a relationship with Mariota where he is confident and willing to express what he's comfortable doing. That's a big staple of what the Rams did with Goff, and LaFleur plans to bring that to Tennessee.

"Matt is a good communicator," McVay said. "I think he’ll be able to comfortably open up the avenues of communication where Marcus [can say], ‘This isn’t something I like.’ When they’re able to explain why, it also helps. It’s not, 'I don’t like it because I didn’t have success in practice.' Why didn’t I have success with this in practice? If there’s something we feel adamant about, you sell it. If they still don’t feel comfortable, you say, 'All right,' and it’s out of the game plan. That guy has to be an extension of the coaching staff. That’s the challenge for us in L.A., and that will be the challenge for Matt in Tennessee as well."

Vrabel said he suggested LaFleur to general manager Jon Robinson and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk as a potential offensive coordinator because of his intelligence and his philosophy on handling specific downs and distances.

There will be questions about LaFleur's lack of playcalling experience, but McVay has little doubt and expects an even brighter future for his friend soon. Vrabel agrees, at least on the first aspect.