From the Senior Bowl: What Hiring Arthur Smith as OC Means for QB Marcus Mariota, and the Titans

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MOBILE, Ala. – The Titans didn’t promote Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator because he was the “easy” hire, an in-house coach they knew well.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Smith became the easy choice, however, because he was qualified and respected, and a perfect man for the job.

And having Smith in charge of the offense in 2019 should make things easier for the Titans, and quarterback Marcus Mariota. As a result of Smith taking over, there won’t be wholesale changes for players to learn this offseason.

“I think it’s what’s best for Marcus, and best for a lot of guys,” Vrabel said on Tuesday from the Senior Bowl. “We make decisions that are for the best interest of the Titans, and Marcus is a huge part and so are all of our other players.

“This is the best thing for us, to continue down that path. We’re happy, I’m happy, and I am excited to give Arthur this opportunity and I know the coaches and players are excited as well.”

Vrabel said on Tuesday Smith was among a small group of coaches he interviewed for the OC job after Matt LaFleur left to take the head coaching job with the Green Bay Packers.

When it came time to make the decision, Vrabel said it wasn’t that hard.

“Ultimately it was easy, at the end,” he said. “We try and do our due diligence with everything we do. … We felt like in the end this was the best thing for us, and the right thing.”

What does it mean for the offense in 2019?

There will be changes, Vrabel said, but they won't be drastic.

“There’s change every year in the NFL,” Vrabel said. “The terminology is going to remain consistent, and in order for players to improve and develop, they can’t spend a whole bunch of time learning. Even though the formation is going to be the same, the terminology may have changed, and it’s not going to change. When they hear a formation (this offseason), it’s going to be the same one they learned last April and that we used throughout the season.

“The foundation is going to stay the same. There’s going to be things that we want to do differently. Being able to get guys lined up quickly, hear the same terminology going into our second year is going to be really critical, and I am excited to watch the growth from our players. And whatever else we try to add that maybe we didn’t do as much of.

“This is going to be a real positive move for us,” Vrabel continued. “I am excited for Arthur, but excited for our players to be able to stay really close to the system that they learned last year, that we implemented last year, and continue to grow and develop and improve in that system. We thought it was our best opportunity to be able to improve, to teach, and not have to spend so much time with people learning.”

Smith served as assistant tight ends coach in 2014 and the early part of 2015 before being promoted to the team’s tight ends coach in the second half of that season. He remained in that role until he was promoted on Monday. Smith was an offensive line/tight end assistant in 2013, and an offensive assistant/quality control coach in 2012 after serving as a defensive assistant/quality control coach in 2011.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson said Smith is smart, and noted as tight ends coach he was involved in the run game, and also in pass concepts.

Robinson also stressed the importance of keeping things familiar with the players, while complimenting Smith, who watched Senior Bowl practices here at Ladd-Peebles Stadium from the stands.

“Ever since I have gotten here, Arthur has been a really good soldier for the team,” Robinson said of Smith. “He cares about this football team. Whatever was asked of him he always jumped in and did whatever we came up with. The continuity and the familiarity with the system, so the offense doesn’t have to learn something wholesale new, it is just an easier transition. Everybody wants to talk about the quarterback, and of course that’s important, but there’s 10 other guys out there as well and you want to keep it as easy for them as possible -- not that we won’t change some things up, add some things, take some things out.”

As for Mariota, who is headed into his fifth NFL season, the familiarity with Smith and the offense should help, Robinson said.

The change at offensive coordinator will give Mariota his fifth play-caller heading into his fifth NFL season.

“I think that is one thing that he won’t have to focus on -- learning a new playbook, learning new terminology,” Robinson said of Mariota. “He can focus on getting healthy, focus on immersing himself even more in the offense, and just going out there and playing quarterback.”

TitansOnline looks back at the coaching career of the team's new offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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