Unless you have been palling around with Fred Flintstone in a cave-house in Bedrock, you’re aware the Titans have a new offensive coordinator. Matt LaFleur’s name has flown under the radar for years. He’s never actually called plays for himself. However, he has been groomed under two of the finest football minds in the game: Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. They both have confidence in his abilities. This is how the Titans offense will change under LaFleur and exactly why football fans should be excited!
Let’s face it, Robiskie’s play calling was…well you know…not very good. An ineffective DeMarco Murray was used in place of a healthy and hungry Derrick Henry. A mobile, play action genius quarterback in Marcus Mariota was rarely used in play action. The wide receivers displayed a striking inability to create separation. Let’s be honest, what exactly is exotic about an “exotic smash mouth” system anyway? Right? What’s exotic about “first down – run, second down- run, third down- pass”?
LaFleur has been quoted as wanting “to marry the run and the pass together”. What does that mean exactly? Letting the run game set up the passing game and letting the passing game set up the run game. A true partnership. Screens and play action passes are set up by a healthy respect for the rush game. Then when the passing game gets cranking the rush game gets to spanking. Good thing the Titans have the crank (Dion Lewis) and the spank (Derrick Henry). What’s the straw that stirs all of this together? Mariota’s excellence in screens and play action passing.
A look at Mariota’s pass chart from last season thanks to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. You can see that Mariota really flourished behind the line of scrimmage last season. According to the @RotoStreetJournal, last season, Mariota posted a jaw-dropping QBR of 122.8 on play-action throws. He also averaged 11.2 yards per play action attempt, both ranking first in the NFL. Yet the “exotic smashmouth” maestro refused to make Mariota an all-star, only calling play action plays a putrid 23.5% of the time.
LaFleur knows what he has in Mariota. He knows that if Mariota is in the proper system, his talent will flourish and the Titans offense will blossom. Much like Robert Griffin III in 2012, Mariota has the running ability to torch opposing defenses. While LaFleur was the QB Coach in 2012 with the Washington Redskins, Griffin danced and dashed his way to 815 rushing yards. Mariota doesn’t have Griffin’s 4.3 track star speed, but he certainly leaves the rubber a little warm behind him with a 4.48 40 time.
As the term marriage so appropriately suggests, look for the play calling between pass and run to be more proportional this season. Expect more quick-hitting screens, yard gashing play-action passes, and back-breaking bombs to fly this season.