NASHVILLE, Tenn. – No one had a bigger role in creating the opportunity Mike Vrabel has stepped into than Marcus Mariota.

It’s a bit odd to think of it that way.

But in no uncertain terms, Mike Mularkey’s inability to maximize Mariota’s talents was the chief reason Mularkey lost his job, creating an opening Jon Robinson picked Vrabel to fill.

That, combined with the fact that the quarterback is any team’s most popular topic, creates questions for Vrabel about Mariota.MariotaHeadJags

But the new coach has been reluctant to talk much about his signal-caller.

In Indianapolis, Vrabel was asked about what excites him most about Mariota, with the questioner clearly looking for a football answer.

He didn’t get one.

“He’s just a great human being,” Vrabel said. “I think if he’s half the player that he is a person, we’re going to be really excited. I got to know him before he went on his travels and went to wherever he’s at.

“We communicate via text and I’m just trying to get to know him. I’m trying to get to know our quarterback and that relationship is going to be critical. He’s a great human being.”

This continued a trend for Vrabel: He’s been reluctant to speak much about the QB, particularly football-wise. Seemingly, he is trying not to single Mariota out.

VrabelStare“I will be reluctant at any stage,” Vrabel said when I asked him about Mariota talk on The Midday 180. “I will talk about him. But I also want everybody to understand how important it is that we all play a role in the success of the player. There is a head coach, there is a position coach, there is a coordinator, there is a strength coach, there is a trainer, then there is the player.

“I think you need to manage all those people to improve the player. I believe strongly in developing players.”

So many other pieces go into a quarterback’s success or failure and Vrabel’s wants us to see a fuller picture where, perhaps, we aren’t hyper-focused on Mariota or focused on a team issue as his issue.

“For a quarterback, it takes the O-line to do their job, it takes the running back to do his job, the receiver to run the correct route and then ultimately the quarterback has to execute the plays,” he said. “So along those lines, we have to hold everybody accountable.

“If someone misses a block, we’re going to complain about the quarterback because he scrambled out of the pocket and threw the ball away. Somebody drops a ball we’re going to complain about the quarterback’s accuracy or completion percentage. If we can’t run the ball and we’re third-and-9 every single time, we’re going to complain that we’re not very good on third down, that we don’t have a good enough quarterback.

“So it takes everybody. I believe it. I’ve seen it.”

Mariota is going to work hard to take the blame for stuff that is not his fault. That’s his nature and it mirrors the approach the best quarterback of the Tennessee era, Steve McNair, took.

It’s a quality that prompts his teammates to love him more and rally around him. While the quarterback looks to deflect criticism from other guys, it certainly appears Vrabel will point it to where it belongs.

Mularkey was very candid on such things. Once he spoke to a player he usually shared such things with us when asked about them. Vrabel has indicated he’s talking to his team when he’s talking to the press. Mariota  will love being talked about less. It will be apple icon 114x114 precomposedinteresting to see how that plays out.

We are super-curious about Mariota right now because the staff is currently assembling a playbook that will play to his strengths. We have a sense of what it will look like, knowing the Rams and Falcons offenses Matt LaFleur most recently worked in.

But it’s a wait-and-see time of year.

As for the approach in talking about Mariota, Robinson said it fits with the team's overall philosophy.

“That’s kind of what we believe in, it’s about the team,” Robinson said. “Marcus is an important part of our team, just like the other guys that are on the team. At the end of the day, it’s about team success, that’s how we as a team are going to be measured. It takes everybody on the team to get there.”

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