NASHVILLE, Tenn. – New Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is still getting to know quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Titans kicked off their offseason program on Monday, but the team won't hit the field until 10 more days, when April's minicamp begins. At this point, LaFleur and Mariota are in the early stages of an OC-quarterback relationship the team hopes will blossom.
But as LaFleur watched tape of his quarterback in recent months, he came away even more impressed.
"It's interesting, because you get to know these guys a little bit when they come out from the draft," LaFleur said. "And he is as impressive as they come. He is humble, just a high-character person. And when you watch the tape, you notice – I always call them prerequisites for good quarterback play. He is a natural thrower, and he is fearless. And he is an unbelievable competitor. I am just really excited to get a chance to work with a guy of his skill-set."
LaFleur made his comments on Friday during an appearance on 104.5-FM's "Midday 180."
Mariota, heading into his fourth NFL season, is a good fit for the offense LaFleur plans to run, the OC said.
"Yeah, because I just mentioned – I think he is fearless," LaFleur said. "I think he is an extreme competitor. I think he is a guy who can make teammates around him better and I think he is a natural thrower. And he does have that element of athleticism that not all these quarterbacks have. So just to add that as another weapon within the offense, I think that gets any offensive coach very excited."
LaFleur, who served as offensive coordinator with the Rams last season, was named new offensive coordinator of the Titans in January. He'd previously interviewed for the head-coaching position with the Titans before the team hired Mike Vrabel.
In the interview with "Midday 180," LaFleur touched on a number of topics, from his opportunity to call plays for the first time to getting to know his new players to how his past experiences helped prepare him for his chance with the Titans.
He's spent a good part of his offseason watching film of his players, and wondering: "How can we put them in a position to have success?"
"Just having been around these guys for the last week, I can't tell you how excited I am," LaFleur said. "I feel like as good as they are football players, the character in this building that (GM) Jon (Robinson) and the rest of his staff has been able to assemble is top-notch, and that makes coming to work every day that much more enjoyable."
Receiver Tajae Sharpe is also set to return after spending last season on Injured Reserve, and earlier this week the Titans signed former Ravens receiver/return man Michael Campanaro.
"That's quite a few weapons to work with," LaFleur said. "The challenge for us is we do have a lot of really good players, and it's: 'How do you spread the ball around to get all of those guys involved?"
LaFleur said "speed is at a premium" with some of the stuff the offense plans to do, including in the play-action passing game.
"We are going to really try and threaten the defense down the field and create some three-level throws for the quarterback," LaFleur said. "Absolutely speed is an important part of our offense."
"Derrick, he is a lot bigger than he even looks on film when I met him for the first time this week," LaFleur said. "So (I'm) really excited about him, I think he has some deceptive speed that can kind of lull the defense to sleep and then all of a sudden you see him running by everybody on the defense.
"And we just added Dion Lewis, who brings a little bit more wiggle to us on offense, and we can get him involved in the passing game. And then also excited about David Fluellen, to see how he will develop along this process."
In LaFleur's first season in L.A., the Rams led the NFL in scoring in 2017, averaging 29.9 points per game. LaFleur was instrumental in quarterback Jared Goff's development, as Goff 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, was second in rushing yards (1,305).
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.
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, passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing yards by a quarterback.
In the 13-minute interview with "Midday 180" LaFleur said he has grown from his past experiences, and said he's looking forward to calling plays for the first time.
"I kind if taken the same approach I have always taken," LaFleur said. "I have been fortunate I think to be around a lot of great coaches who have mentored me, starting with Gary Kubiak when I first got hired back in 2008 with the Texans. And then from there I went on to work for a guy than won a Super Bowl in Mike Shanahan. I learned from Dan Quinn and Sean McVay and now I am here with Mike Vrabel, so I am really excited about that."
TitansOnline looks back at the NFL coaching career of Matt LaFleur, who was named the team's offensive coordinator on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Photos: AP, Rams, Falcons)