Arthur Smith: 'Marcus Mariota has already changed enough'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Arthur Smith is a big fan of the Matt LaFleur offense and its roots and plans to stick with it as he takes the reigns as the Titans offensive coordinator.

Smith was introduced Tuesday as the OC after his recent promotion from tight ends coach. He replaces LaFleur, who left after one season as the play-caller to become head coach of the Packers.SmithFlame

While he has no play-calling experience, he is not unfamiliar with presenting to the entire offense, last year he presented red zone offense for LaFleur, who was very complimentary of all his work. [Unlocked]

The first way Smith hopes to help maximize Marcus Mariota is by not asking him to change a lot.

“He’s already changed enough,” Smith said. “So, when he comes in here, he’ll know exactly how we’re reading plays, he’ll know exactly how we’re calling plays. It just allows him to take another step… I think as the whole offensive improves in Year 2, it will help the quarterback.”

He also believes play-calling can help keep the QB healthy.

“You make sure you keep changing the launch points for him, that helps, he said. “The way the game is going, you’re able to run the ball or you’re able to move people off the line of scrimmage, it opens up a lot of things for him. So yeah, there’s certain areas of play-calling that go into it, and understand what your matchups may be week-to-week.

“Whether they’re inside or outside, the percentage these guys are going to blitz you in certain situations. That all factors into it. But, play-calling definitely can help. It’s not the end-all be-all, but there definitely will be a conscious effort to keep him healthy.”

The other points of note from his press conference:



“Derrick (Henry) is going to be a big part of our offense,” Smith said. “Derrick has got a rare skillset. …He’s a home run hitter. Obviously, we’re taking another step, hopefully, with him. What he did the last five weeks will open up a lot of things, and hopefully, again, to improve what he did. But, Derrick will be a big part of the offense.

Taylor Lewan had told me he thought Smith would use the best features of a power/gap scheme we saw from Mike Mularkey/Terry Robiskie and the best feature of the zone scheme LaFleur brought in.

“Zone is a great starting point for us,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of schemes that fit Derrick, that fit Dion (Lewis), that fit David Fluellen, or whoever else is going to be on our roster we’re going to hand the ball to.

“Whether you’re running zone, gaps, pin-pulls, doesn’t matter, zone reads, there’s a certain mentality we want to play with coming off the football. We want to be physical and knock people back. That’s not necessarily saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to only run gap schemes, we’re only going to run zone schemes.’ We’re going to try to give us an advantage.”


Even as an NFL rookie, Smith had an opportunity to speak weekly to an entire defense. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gave Smith a narrow but important assignment in Washington in 2007 when he was the defensive quality control coach.

Preparing for his team’s first game against the Miami Dolphins, he was assigned a report on screens and gadgets.

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“I just gave it to him, we gave it to the staff and I was like, ‘Oh great, this is cool,’” Smith remembered.  “Then he’s like, ‘Hey, you’re going to present.’ I was like, ‘Oh gosh.’ I don’t think I slept that night. Here I’ve got to get up in front of these guys, we had a really veteran team -- London Fletcher, Marcus Washington. We had some really good vets, Shawn Springs, guys that played a long time. So, I’m like, ‘Oh man, what am I going to tell these guys?’

“So, I stood up front there, and he gave me an opportunity to present in front of the defense then. Everywhere I’ve been – when I got here with Jerry (Gray) we did the same thing. I did a first- and second- down analysis. So, every staff I’ve been on I’ve gotten an opportunity to get up and present

"It goes back – and I’ve always tried to pick the brains of the coaches and players I worked with. London Fletcher always told me, he was like, ‘If you get up there and you know what you’re talking about, and you give me one thing to help me on Sunday, you’re good.’ So, I always remembered that. I was always appreciative of London Fletcher and the advice he gave me.”

As he advanced to coaching tight ends, he needed to give them a lot more than one thing, and now as the coordinator, he’ll have much broader responsibilities, of course.

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Plenty of people who have know Smith didn’t learn for a while that his dad is Fred Smith, a billionaire who founded FedEx.

“Obviously, I’m very proud – I’ve been lucky,” he said. “My dad has had a positive influence, but I’ve never mistaken his success as my success. He’s always told us, ‘Go earn your own success.’ Again, it’s the attitude. He’s the most humble man I’ve ever met, and that’s had an impact on me.

“He’s never been impressed with himself, I’m certainly not impressed with myself, or think I’ve arrived just because I’ve been given a chance to be a coordinator. I’ve got a lot of work to do and improve myself, and I don’t ever stop as long as I’m coaching.”

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