Reports from ESPN, NFL Network and the Associated Press surfaced Monday evening that Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur has been offered and accepted the opportunity to fill the Green Bay Packers’ vacancy at head coach.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 7, 2019
It is a brutal loss for the Titans.
Despite some early struggles, 2018 certainly was not a complete dud for LaFleur and the Titans’ offense. There were times when he really got into a rhythm in the booth, and his players followed suit on the field.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the 2018 season for LaFleur and the Titans offense was the team’s blowout of the reigning AFC Champion New England Patriots. Behind a strong gameplan from LaFleur, the offense put up 34 points.
Games like that one over the course of the season serve as evidence that the Titans’ offensive players gained more comfort in playing in LaFleur’s system as the season advanced.
Continuity? Not so fast.
If LaFleur was still with the Titans, that comfort would have only increased in 2019. The continuity would have been a big boost to the entire offense.
Multiple players on the Titans offense were looking forward to the potential of not having to learn a new system during the offseason and to get a second year to learn and improve under LaFleur.
“As the year goes on,” said running back Derrick Henry, “you have more experience, build more chemistry, you understand the ins and outs of the offense, what’s wanted to be done, what’s expected. I feel like, with a year under our belt, more experience, building that chemistry together on offense, it’s clicking as a whole. I definitely feel like it will help the transition into next year.”
“For what it’s worth,” said quarterback Marcus Mariota, “it will be nice to get back into the building when we have the opportunity to do so, to be familiar with what’s going on. I think everybody will have an opportunity just to go out there and get ready to play, and you’re not really trying to engulf a new system.”
Now, that won’t happen. The Titans will indeed have to engulf a new system. The chemistry and the clicking will be subject to a reset button being pushed.
More for Mariota
#Titans QB Marcus Mariota will have his 5th play-caller when he begins his 5th NFL season:
— Austin Stanley (@AustinStanley81) January 8, 2019
As big of a burden as this change will certainly be for young, up and coming players in the Titans offense like Henry and receiver Corey Davis, the biggest burden falls squarely on the shoulders of Mariota.
Mariota is about to enter his fifth season. There are doubts, due to his history of missing games due to injury, over whether the Titans can rely on him to be their franchise quarterback moving beyond 2019.
Instead of getting a look at him in his second year under an offensive system, when a great deal of comfortability would be expected, Jon Robinson and the rest of the Titans front office will be forced to evaluate him in another year of change.
The biggest difficulty in learning a new system is not necessarily the terminology or concepts themselves—Mariota is, after all, a smart guy. The problem lies in having to rediscover the chemistry that the offense was finally seeming to find under LaFleur.
With a roster that should be, by the start of next season, fully capable of winning the AFC South and competing in the playoffs, the Titans cannot afford to sit back and wait while another coordinator “finds his way” with the offense.
There will need to be a sense of urgency once the team decides the direction they want to go in. It will take quick results from their new play caller for the team and, perhaps more importantly, Mariota to achieve their potential in 2019.
Cover image: USA Today/Christopher Hanewinckel