NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Another offseason, another new head coach for quarterback Marcus Mariota to get to know along with a different offense.
Yes, a little experience with such changes can help make transitions a bit easier.
It’s not something Mariota wants to become a way of life in the NFL.
“But I think being able to have gone through that situation before, it’s helped all of us to be ready and prepared for this new stuff,” Mariota said Wednesday.
Mariota, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2015 draft from Oregon, is heading into his fourth season with the Tennessee Titans with his third different head coach. He started with Ken Whisenhunt, who lasted only seven games into Mariota’s rookie season. The Titans fired his replacement, Mike Mularkey, in January despite back-to-back 9-7 seasons and their first playoff win in 14 years.
Now first-time head coach Mike Vrabel is in charge with Matt LaFleur as his offensive coordinator and Pat O’Hara as quarterbacks coach. The Titans hired Vrabel wanting more out of both their offense and Mariota, whose fifth-year option was just picked up.
“It’s a process. It takes some time,” Mariota said. “Everybody is doing their best to learn the playbook, learn about each other. It takes time and I think a lot of the guys would probably say the same thing. As we go through this process, if we continue to learn more about each other, we continue to communicate, all the stuff on the field will take care of itself.”
Mariota is the youngest quarterback in franchise history to lead the team to a playoff victory with an amazing 18-point comeback in a wild-card win at Kansas City . He also became the fifth quarterback in NFL history with at least 9,000 yards passing (9,476) and at least 900 yards rushing (913) in his first three seasons.
But Mariota also had more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (13) last season, though he had four TDs and only one interception in two playoff games.
Luckily for Mariota and the Titans, the quarterback is as healthy as he’s been since being drafted at this time of year. His rookie season ended with a sprained knee, and he broke his right leg in the next-to-last game of his second season. A year ago, he wasn’t allowed on the field while he recovered .
“It’s kind of crazy to think about where I was last season at this time, and now here I am today,” Mariota said. “Being able to run out there and compete, and practice with these guys, it’s night and day and I’m just excited to be out there with the guys.”
Mariota got to work on chemistry with some of his wide receivers in March in California.
The process of learning the new playbook started April 9 with the start of the Titans’ offseason program, and Wednesday was the second of a three-day voluntary minicamp the Titans were allowed with Vrabel being a new coach. This is all new for Mariota along with Blaine Gabbert, signed in March as Mariota’s new backup.
Learning the new names for the plays is the first hurtle. Vrabel said he knows players tend to look at a play call and translate to what they used to call it.
“You have to try to train them to understand the new language and the verbage,” Vrabel said. “I think there’s also a give and take where, ‘OK, if everybody is familiar with that, well then we’ll make it that or we’ll call it that.’ I think that’s where you try to blend the different systems.”
Mariota isn’t tipping how different this offense might look just yet either. He’s focused on learning and making sure the offense is on the same page.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” Mariota said. “But, I love learning and doing my best to put everything that we learn out on the field.”