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Ex-NFL QB Kordell Stewart Shares Vision for Mariota, Titans
February 16, 2018 03:59 PM | Jim Wyatt
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Former NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart sat down with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota on Super Bowl LII Radio Row recently, and came away impressed.

"He's everything that you see on the football field, which is very calm and relaxed and easy-going," said Stewart, a host on "NFL No Huddle" which airs on NFL-TuneIn. "But you can see that little spark inside of him. When you look into his eyes you can kind of tell what goes on inside his soul. I like him a lot because he is humble and he hasn't forgotten where he came from. And he's a good football player."

So, what do the Titans and Mariota need to do to take things to another level?

Stewart discussed that topic with Titans Online, and he also shared some thoughts on new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, his teammate four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"The thing is being able to allow the player, Marcus in this case, to take his talents, and just be natural with it," Stewart said. "When we saw him at Oregon, we saw the RPOs, which is something he hasn't done since he's been with the Tennessee Titans. If you can add that functionality to it a little bit, it gives him a chance to be himself. Being able to move and run a little bit is a big part of why he's been so successful and why he won a Heisman Trophy.

"If you can bring that kid-like life back to the game for him, you'll have a chance to see his talents flourish the way they should."

Stewart, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, played from 1995-2002 with the Steelers before playing with the Bears and the Ravens. Nicknamed "Slash," he was known for his athleticism and versatility. He threw for 14,746 yards during his career, and ran for 2,874 more.

Mariota, heading into his fourth NFL season, has already thrown for 9,476 yards with 58 touchdowns and just 34 interceptions. But 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, he threw for 3,232 yards with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2017. He ran for 312 yards on 60 carries.

While Mariota 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.

Stewart believes Mariota should benefit from an offseason without surgery. Some fresh ideas with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, formerly with the Los Angeles Rams, should also help, he said.

"I think we all have to respect Marcus Mariota came off a severe injury that I think slowed him down a step and a half last year," Stewart said. "But you also have to get him to evolve into being a better passer. You have to remember he came into the league from Oregon being an RPO kind of guy, a run/pass offense. So now he's been asked to be a three-step, five-step, seven-step guy. Well, that's not who he is. But you also have to start forcing the hand to implement that so he can develop into being that quarterback on the field. ... It is taking this and developing his skill set to be a more efficient quarterback in the National Football League. Sometimes coaches try to change a player. You don't want to change him, you just want to refine him, enhance what you have."

So how might that look like in 2018 for Mariota, and the Titans?

"The sooner he grasp what is being asked of him and he gets comfortable, the better off he'll be," Stewart said. "In the interim, it is going to be a process, and I don't think you need to put a stamp of approval of what it should be, other than when watching him, doing the eye test. Is he progressing to be something better than what he was? And that's not saying the guys weren't good coaching him. But we all like to evolve, right?

"It is just going to be a matter of how he progresses. You saw what happened to Jared Goff last year with the Rams. Look at how a coaching change impacted him. Look at how (Eagles quarterback) Carson Wentz seemed to change overnight before he was injured. Get in a good situation and have an opportunity, and you have a chance to be great."

As for Vrabel, Stewart thinks he has a great chance to be successful.

Stewart said he thought Mularkey, his former offensive coordinator with the Steelers, helped the Titans make improvements. He called Vrabel, his teammate from 1997-2000 with the Steelers, one of the smartest players he's ever been around.

"He gets it and understands it," Stewart said of Vrabel. "Mike has been amongst the best and seen how they coached. He played the game like he was one of the best. And I think he is going to take that combination of success and apply it to his football team."



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