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As defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans, Mike Vrabel would lose sleep worrying about players like Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“We were scared to death,” Vrabel said of Mariota on Monday. “He’s a special talent.”

On the day he was introduced as head coach of the Titans, Vrabel said he’ll now spend a lot of his time working to help Mariota reach the next level, instead of trying to slow him down.

On Sunday night, Vrabel talked to Mariota by phone.

“The vision is that we’re going to do things that are going to help him,” Vrabel said of Mariota. “We’re going to get guys around him that are going to help him. We’re going to get him to play with confidence, we’re going to get him to play energetic and bring the passion of football out that he’s so capable of showing. That’s my idea for him. There’s not going to be a greater relationship that I need to foster and develop than the one with our starting quarterback.”

Mariota just wrapped up his third NFL season.

In 2017, under the direction of head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, Mariota competed 281-of-453 passes for 3,232 yards, with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

The interception total was the highest of his career. Mariota also ran for 312 yards and five touchdowns.

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Vrabel didn’t reveal which coaches might serve on his coaching staff on Monday. He said the Titans will hire the “right guys” in putting the staff together, but said he couldn’t see a scenario where Mariota would be involved in the process of hiring an offensive coordinator.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for guys in this league, but we’re not going to go down that path,” Vrabel said. “That’s not something we’re going to do. That’s not something that I believe in. (I) certainly would like to get their feedback and understanding. This is a trust process. There’s coaches in this league and there’s players. Amy (Adams Strunk) is going to trust me to hire the right guy for Marcus (Mariota), Jon (Robinson) is going to trust me to hire the right guy for Marcus or I wouldn’t have been hired.”
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Vrabel said the Titans have a “franchise quarterback” in Mariota and “we’re going to develop him.”

“He’s a special talent, he’s a special kid,” Vrabel said of Mariota, “and I can’t wait to work with him and help him through taking that next step in his career.”

So how will the Titans look on offense with Mariota? Vrabel did give a few hints. He declined to discuss how the Titans used Mariota in previous seasons, instead saying: “We’re moving forward.”

Vrabel said the Titans plan to take advantage of Mariota’s skill-set, but said the team doesn’t want to put him in harm’s way. Still, he made it clear the team will find ways to get him on the move, and into space.

The Titans also plan to lean on those around him, and behind him.

“I think we are going to run the football,” Vrabel said. “We’re going to run it from the quarterback being under center, we’re going to run it from the quarterback being in (shot) gun. We’re going to give Marcus some easy-access throws, whether that be RPOs (Run-Pass Options), or run relief – we are not going to run it into eight or nine guys, and we’re not going to be silly.

“I believe in screens, I believe in play-action, things that (Mariota) does well. We were scared to death, again, when we do the stats and run the statistics and he is averaging 17 and 18 yards a completion on play action, those things scare you as a defensive coordinator. Those are big plays that change field position.

“So those are things that we believe in, but we are going to run the football and we are going to do it from different ways.”