Don’t dink and drive.
That seems to be the philosophy of new Tennessee offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s, who said Wednesday that his plans are to create more explosive plays for the Titans offense in 2018.
While LaFleur, hired by Mike Vrabel away from the Los Angeles Rams, will be a first-time play-caller, if his background is any indication, he is open for the Titans offense to not only be more creative, but to try and push the ball down the field whenever possible.
“It’s extremely difficult to dink and dunk all the way down the field. Defenses are just too good. I think if you look at statistically if you look at the teams that are producing the chunk plays are the teams that are producing more yards and more points,” LaFleur said in his introductory press conference. “Yards really don’t matter. It’s about points. You’ve got to score points”
The Titans offense struggled to do that under Mike Mularkey and Terry Robiskie in 2017. Tennessee averaged just under 21 points per game in the regular season, and the Titans’ 334 regular season points was the second fewest of any team that qualified for the playoffs.
LaFleur hopes to draw upon his previous experience of working with creative play-calling minds to help open up the Titans offense.
“I’ve been fortunate in my career to be around some really good play callers, starting with Gary Kubiak, then going to Kyle Shanahan and then Sean McVay. That was always at the forefront of our mind was how can we create explosive plays,” LaFleur said.
Key to making that happen, of course, will be to get quarterback Marcus Mariota to revert more closely to his 2016 form when he had 26 touchdown passes to nine interceptions, as opposed to last season when he tossed a career high 15 interception to just 13 TD throws.
“He’s as coachable as they come,” said LaFleur, who got to know Mariota a bit when he was evaluating him for the NFL Draft in 2015. “That really stood out to me. We’re still kind of going through and trying to evaluate what each one of these guys does well, and we’re going to try and tailor our offense to our guys’ abilities.”
LaFleur had a hand in Jared Goff’s remarkable turnaround with the Rams, and said Wednesday that Mariota checks off all three boxes of what he looks for in a quarterback.
“You can see the talent he possesses. One thing we look for in quarterbacks, there are really three – I call them prerequisites in playing the position,” LaFleur explained.” No. 1, you’ve got to be a natural thrower. You’d better be fearless in the pocket and be able to stand in there. And the last one is just those intangibles. I think he possesses all of those. Some of things that we’ll be working on with him – and you never know what a guy has been taught in the past – but we’re going to be extremely detailed with his fundamentals and his footwork, because I think that leads to more consistent quarterback play.”
He also wants Mariota to be involved in the process as they get to know each other, and to not be shy about saying what he likes and doesn’t like in the playbook.
“I think our communication is going to be absolutely critical to all of our success here. I just kind of reiterated to him the importance of, ‘Hey, it there’s something you don’t feel comfortable doing, I want you to tell me.’ I know that’s kind of against his nature because he is such a good person. But I just don’t want him to hold back on any of it,” LaFleur said. “I think it goes with all young quarterbacks. … If they don’t believe in something you’re doing, odds are, it’s not going to work. They are an extension of the coaching staff.”