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Former NFL QB Sees Success for Titans with Mariota, LaFleur

Posted Jan 30, 2018

Long-time NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky knows new Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur well. And from afar, Orlovsky has watched Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. Orlovsky called the hiring of LaFleur “brilliant” for the Titans, and he predicted big things for Mariota moving forward.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Long-time NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky knows new Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur well. He was coached by him on two different teams.

And from afar, Orlovsky has watched Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. He’s a self-described student of the game.

On Tuesday, Orlovsky called the hiring of LaFleur “brilliant” for the Titans, and he predicted big things for Mariota moving forward, starting in 2018.

“If Marcus buys in to what he is going to be asked of him, and I have no reason to think he won’t, then I think you could see a meteoric takeoff with Mariota,” Orlovsky said. “I know the Titans may need a piece here and there, but I would imagine Mariota making a really, really big jump because of this offensive scheme. If Matt is the play caller a lot of people think he will be, I think it's going to work out really well for Tennessee.”

Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks Jared Goff, left, and Dan Orlovsky warm up before an NFL preseason football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (AP Photo)

LaFleur, announced as the team’s new offensive coordinator on Tuesday after spending one year as offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams, is a good fit for Mariota and the Titans because of the style of offenses he’s been around in the past, Orlovsky said. He’s expected to bring a similar style to Tennessee.

Orlovsky played 13 NFL seasons with the Lions, Buccaneers, Colts, Texans and Rams. He was with LaFleur in Houston when he first came into the league under Gary Kubiak, and he spent last offseason, including training camp and preseason, with the Rams. He’s known LaFleur for eight years, he said.

“When the (Titans) decided to let go of Mike Mularkey down there – and obviously you never want to see anyone get fired – I made the comment saying, 'I believe that Marcus would be best suited for an offense that was able to utilize the greatest strength that he has and that is throwing on the run, outside the pocket, deceptive ball handling,'” Orlovsky said. “And ball handling is a skillset he acquired in the spread — he learned that in college at Oregon. So that offense that comes from the Mike Shanahan world, the Gary Kubiak world, the Kyle Shanahan world — a big part is the run game, but the bigger part is the illusion of the run game, with the way the quarterback can go through a play-action fake and get chunks down the field but also move the pocket.

“You can set different launch points — you don’t have to drop your quarterbacks back all the time. Some quarterbacks can because they are Tom Brady, but you can change the launch points, and I think that is going to benefit Marcus because that is going to utilize the greatest asset that he has, and that’s his athleticism. But also keep him safe. It’s not the designed run that is going to put his body at risk, but it is allowing his athleticism to get him in a position to make successful plays down the field.”

LaFleur was part of the Rams takeoff on offense last year, in his first season with the team. The Rams led the NFL in scoring in 2017, averaging 29.9 points per game. The Rams finished 10th in the NFL in total offense in 2017 — 8th in rushing, 10th in passing.

LaFleur has a great track record with quarterbacks, and he’s been involved with some potent offenses.

In his first season with the Rams, LaFleur was instrumental in the development of quarterback Jared Goff, who threw for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in 2017 en route to reaching the Pro Bowl. Running back Todd Gurley led the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,093) in 2017, and was second in rushing yards (1,305).

LaFleur will be calling plays for the first time in 2018 — head coach Sean McVay called plays for L.A. in 2017 — but Orlovsky thinks he’ll handle it well. In fact, he said he’s seen him do it in the past.

“He understands how to attack defenses and their weaknesses,” Orlovsky said. “He has a great pedigree coming from systems that have been successful. We’ll find out if he can call plays — that will be the biggest question mark. But there needs to be three variables in the NFL for a unit to be successful. You need to have a good scheme, good players and a good play-caller, and he is bringing a really good scheme with him and they have some good players down there. So if he can be the play-caller that I think he can be, and Sean McVay thought he could be and obviously Mike Vrabel and company think he can be, I think it is going to be a really good hire for the organization, and especially Mariota. I think it’s a brilliant hire.

“I think he is going to be really good calling plays. He called plays occasionally in practice last year in camp and in some preseason games, and I remember going into the locker room after one (game) and going, ‘Dude, that was really good. You did a really good job of calling plays there.’ I have been around it long enough to know which guys can call plays and which guys can’t, and I do think he’ll have an opportunity to grow into that role and be better and better at it.”

Prior to joining the Rams, LaFleur served as quarterback Matt Ryan’s QBs coach for two seasons with the Falcons. Ryan was named NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns for a 117.1 quarterback rating in 2016. In LaFleur’s first season with Atlanta, Ryan was also third in the NFL in completions (407), fifth in yards (4,591), and sixth in completion percentage (66.3).

LaFleur coached quarterbacks for the Redskins from 2010-2013, and he worked in Washington with QB Robert Griffin III, who became the first Redskins rookie quarterback selected to the Pro Bowl and led the team to its first NFC East title in 13 years. Under LaFleur, Griffin established Redskins rookie records in pass completions (258), passing yards (3,200), passing touchdowns (20) and rushing yards by a quarterback (815).

Mariota, heading into his fourth NFL season, has already thrown for 9,476 yards with 58 touchdowns and just 34 interceptions. He’s coming off a season when he threw a career-high 15 interceptions, with 13 touchdowns, while posting the lowest passer rating (79.3) of his career, however.

Orlovsky believes LaFleur will jumpstart the QB, and he also thinks he’s a good fit for Mariota from a personality standpoint as well.

“He is a very, very demanding coach. The bar is very high,” Orlovsky said. “But I think great coaches are able to set a standard level they want you to get to, but also equip you with the tools you need to get there. A lot of coaches can’t do that. They set the standard and say, 'OK, you have to get here.' Matt has the ability to be able to equip Marcus with the toolkit to get to where he wants and needs to be. And I think he has the personality and demeanor that will allow them to get along very well.”