Jim Wyatt, Senior Writer/EditorTitansOnline.com
Pat O’Hara crossed paths with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota at the NFL Combine several years ago, and more recently he’s admired him from afar. Now O’Hara, hired last month at new quarterbacks coach for the Titans, is on a crash course studying his prized pupil.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Pat O’Hara crossed paths with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota at the NFL Combine several years ago, and more recently he’s admired him from afar.Now O’Hara, hired last month at new quarterbacks coach for the Titans, is on a crash course studying his prized pupil, looking for ways to try and help him get even better.
Already, he knows a few things about Mariota.
“It is obvious he is an explosive player with the ball in his hands,” O’Hara said of Mariota. “And the arm talent is there. I think he is a very tough player, high character. I think his teammates really respect him. So obviously he is key to our offense.”
O’Hara, who will work alongside new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur under new head coach Mike Vrabel, spent some time with Mariota recently after he was hired.He’s excited about what’s ahead.
“He is as high character a kid, young man, as you want to be around,” he said. “He came in and met with me for a little while. And he is a down to earth, really good person. I can’t wait to work with him. … Knowing Marcus was here and knowing what I kind of knew about the character and then kind of meeting with him (made the job attractive). I think it will be a really good quarterback room.”
O’Hara joined the Titans after spending three seasons (2015-17) with the Houston Texans. In his time with Houston, O’Hara was an offensive assistant who helped coach quarterbacks, including Deshaun Watson. In both 2015 and 2016, the Texans won the AFC South, while posting back-to-back 9-7 records.
O’Hara’s playing career spanned 16 years as a quarterback, playing in the NFL, World League and the Arena Football League. Additionally, he spent 10 years coaching in the AFL, including stints as a head coach for the Los Angeles Avengers (2009), Tri-Cities Fever (AF2, 2009), Orlando Predators (2010-11) and New Orleans Voo-Doo (2012-14).
LaFleur, offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams last season, said he didn’t know O’Hara personally when he was hired.
“But I’ve gotten to know him in my short time here, and I can’t wait to work with him,” LaFleur said. “He has so much energy, so much juice.”
O’Hara has already started planning for 2018, but he’s going to need patience.
Per NFL rules, he’s not allowed to spend time with players, including Mariota, talking football until later in the offseason. In the meantime, coaches are spending time together, getting to know the offensive personnel.
The Titans are scheduled to begin their offseason program on April 2.
“I am going to support Matt’s vision, and we are getting to know each other,” O’Hara said. “So far it has been awesome. I really like Matt. I think so far we see things from the same set of eyes, which I think is important. It is a day to day process and it is fun. It is fun learning something new, and learning from Matt. And there’s a lot of collaboration, which is good, with our whole offensive staff as it relates to our offense.“It is key that, No.1, we do the full evaluation on what we need to do from a personnel standpoint. And then we’ll get ready for the combine. But intermixed in that, Matt and I and the offensive staff will spend a lot of time meeting, and figuring out what our players do well, and try to put together a system that can enhance the skill set of our players.”
Mariota, heading into his fourth NFL season, has already thrown for 9,476 yards with 58 touchdowns and just 34 interceptions.
Mariota’s numbers dipped in 2017 in his second full season under former head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie. After throwing for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016, Mariota threw for 3,232 yards with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2017.
While he guided the Titans into the playoffs, his passer rating dipped from 95.6 to 79.3. Mariota’s passer rating as a rookie was 91.5, when he threw for 2,818 yards with 19 touchdowns in 12 starts.
O’Hara, who played at USC and was a 10th-round selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1991 NFL Draft, said it’s still too early to say what coaches will address with Mariota during the offseason, leading up to the 2018 season.
Putting Mariota in positions where he’s comfortable, and where the team can take advantage of his skill set, will be a priority for LaFleur, O’Hara and Vrabel.
“I think it would be premature to comment on any player really,” O’Hara responded when asked about specifics surrounding Mariota’s game. “I’ve been here (two weeks). I’ve watched a ton of tape. But I think it would unfair right now to say some declaration of exactly what needs to be done.
“It is a full evaluation, and getting to know the player. I had dinner with Marcus, he came in and met with me briefly – we’re not really allowed to talk about football – so it was a get to know you process. But I think it would premature to comment on what needs to be corrected or what we need to enhance.”