NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Bob Bratkowski expects his receivers to catch the football. In executing their assignments, he also wants them to be tough-minded, and physical.
Priority No.1 for them, however, centers around Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. At least that's the mindset of the team's new receivers coach.
"You have to develop a relationship with the quarterback, and you have to get that quarterback to trust you,'' Bratkowski said on Tuesday. "You need to be where he's expecting you to be, when he's expecting you to be there. I've always told the guys who complain about not getting the ball enough, or "It's not coming my way": You have to make sure the quarterback feels comfortable with you. You have to do everything you can. You have to take the proper angles to stay quarterback-friendly. All those things are very important."
Bratkowski, who has worked 15 years as an offensive coordinator, coached quarterbacks and also receivers during NFL stops with the Seahawks, Steelers, Bengals, Falcons and Jaguars, said he's learned one thing to be true along the way:
"Basically, the quarterback is always right,'' said Bratkowski, who has 21 years of NFL coaching experience, in addition to 14 years in the college ranks. "You need to be where he expects you to be, and you need to develop a relationship and be able to talk and the quarterback needs to be able tell you: That is not what I was expecting, or how I was expecting you to break. And you need to be able to listen and take it and not be sensitive to that, because the quarterback's job is the hardest in the game to play.
"As far as other traits, there's a certain amount of toughness, a certain amount of confidence one has to play with, and certain amount of accountability. But you have to be able to work with the quarterback."
Hired by Titans coach Mike Mularkey last month to replace Shawn Jefferson, Bratkowski has coached some pretty famous pupils during his career, from receivers Hines Ward, Terrell Owens, Joey Galloway and Chad Johnson to quarterbacks Warren Moon, Carson Palmer and Matt Ryan.
Bratkowski last served as offensive coordinator with the Jaguars in 2012, and prior to that spent one season as Ryan's quarterbacks coach in Atlanta (2011). Bratkowski was offensive coordinator for the Bengals (2001-10) for a long stretch after coaching receivers in Pittsburgh (1999-2000) and serving as offensive coordinator in Seattle after first working as receivers coach. He was in Seattle seven seasons in all, from 1992-98.
With the Titans, Bratkowski will be in charge of jumpstarting a receiving corps with plenty of talent, although it's a group that's also been inconsistent on recent years. Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter are players Bratkowski is familiar with, but he'll find out more about them in the coming months.
"I think there's a good group here,'' Bratkowski said. "Now am I opposed to a free agent or a draft pick coming in to push them? Absolutely not. Because the competition factor makes everybody better."
So how does Bratkowski plan to get his message across?
"I try to speak softly and carry a big stick,'' he said. "The one thing I learned because my father played and then coached 28 years in the league, you have to be a teacher and you have to learn a language that the players can relate to and understand what you are trying to get across. Does that mean I won't ever get upset? No. But generally when I do get upset they'll know it was something major. I am not going to yell and scream at every little thing, I am going to preach."
Bratkowski said he hasn't yet met Mariota, but has heard – and seen – plenty about him. He said he'll consult with the quarterback during the offseason and throughout the season about his expectations from the receivers.
Bratkowski said he plans to offer input to offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, something he expects other offensive coaches to do during the course of the season. The more opinions, and ideas, the better, Mularkey has said.
The familiarity on the coaching staff in Tennessee, Bratkowski said, is one of the main reasons he decided to give up life in Florida – and time with his family, the beach, the golf course -- to join the Titans. Bratkowski has worked previously with Mularkey and assistants Dick LeBeau, Russ Grimm, Lou Spanos and Robiskie. Bratkowski coached assistant Mike Sullivan at the University of Miami (Fla.).
He also acknowledged he had a sour taste after Mularkey was replaced after the 2012 season in Jacksonville. Bratkowski, of course, was a part of that staff. Bratkowski did some advance scouting for the Bengals in 2014, from his home in Jacksonville.
"It was going to take the perfect storm to get me to come out of retirement. I was happy with what I was doing. And it was a perfect storm of "These guys are damn good coaches,'' he said. "And I finally thought, "Here is a perfect opportunity to go back and instead of finishing my career with a sour thing, let's go up there and get the Titans situation really going good."
"This will probably be my last job. To get back in the grind of the 80-85 hour work week, you have to think that through and I had to think it through. But I feel good about the decision. I'm happy to be here and ready to do my part."