The Tennessee Titans have announced the hiring of Matt LaFleur as the team’s new offensive coordinator.
Though Matt LaFleur previously held the same position with the Los Angeles Rams, it had been reported by multiple news outlet that Rams head coach Sean McVay would be willing to part ways with LaFleur if it meant he would get an opportunity to call plays. That’s exactly what he will be doing with the Titans.
When Mike Vrabel was named the Titans’ new head coach, almost everyone said his success would be contingent on a good hire at offensive coordinator. Last season, the team’s offense was anemic and, at times, painful to watch.
The glaring issue with LaFleur is that he has never called plays in the NFL. However, if his track record and resume tell us anything, that won’t be an issue.
In addition to his one year working under McVay in Los Angeles, LaFleur has spent several seasons working under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur hasn’t called plays, but he’s spent more than six years studying under the best play-callers in the league.
LaFleur’s system should be a stark contrast from that of Mike Mularkey and Terry Robiskie. Whereas the Titans’ previous coaching staff valued precision, three tight end sets, and a power running game, LaFleur will likely just focus on his players playing loose and relaxed.
He will also likely bring with him an increase in spread looks on offense, especially on third down. Part of the downfall of Robiskie’s offense was his refusal to spread the field in favor of tight and congested formations and passing concepts.
Every Titans offensive player should benefit from this new philosophy. Particularly, second-year receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor likely feel like the “exotic smashmouth” monkey has been removed from their backs.
But, the player who will benefit the most from LaFleur’s teaching and play calling is quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota regressed at an alarming rate during the regular season in 2017, throwing only thirteen touchdowns and even more interceptions.
While plenty of fault from last season’s shortcomings fall on Mariota’s shoulders, many of his mistakes could be attributed to playing in a poorly designed offense. Several of his interceptions came on plays where two receivers had run routes to nearly the exact same spot on the field.
LaFleur, similar to former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, has a strong track record of developing quarterbacks. He’s helped a raw rookie (Robert Griffin III) play effectively and win the division in his first year, a struggling sophomore (Jared Goff) find his way and become an effective starter, and a seasoned veteran (Matt Ryan) finally take the long-awaited next step and win NFL MVP.
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With his strong history, LaFleur has set a high standard for himself in getting production out of quarterbacks. Titans fans certainly hope that Mariota will also take multiple leaps under his new offensive coordinator.
At his opening presser, Mike Vrabel defined what he wants the Titans’ offense to look like. “I think we’re going to run the football. We’re going to run it with the quarterback under center, we’re going to run it with the quarterback in the shotgun. We’re going to give Marcus some easy access throws…I believe in screens and play action, things he does well.”
If nothing else, LaFleur will make his offense user-friendly and tailor it to the strengths of his players. The only philosophy, as Vrabel proclaimed last week, will be to win games.
Despite what some national media members may try to tell you, the Titans are now in an ideal situation with both their personnel and coaching staff. Fans should be excited, not skeptical.