NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s rare for an NFL team to enter the month of June not knowing who will call its defensive plays, but that’s where the Tennessee Titans are, and it looks like that may not be changing for a while.
“Honestly, we don’t have to call a play until mid-August in the first preseason game, so there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about that at this point,” said Bowen, who was once thought to be a candidate to replace former Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees when he retired.
Calling the Titans’ decision to hold off this long on picking a defensive play-caller lackadaisical would be inaccurate, as they’re surely doing their due diligence and will take the decision seriously whenever they decide to make it.
It’s fair to ask some questions because of how long this process has taken, but the Titans deserve the benefit of the doubt, here, at least to a degree.
For the most part, whenever Titans coaches have been asked during the offseason about defensive play-calling responsibilities, they’ve brought up the playbook and synergy among coaches as seemingly being more important.
“I’m excited about our staff, our conversations in the morning to get the playbook exactly how we want it, find out what we did well and continue to do that,” head coach Mike Vrabel said before the draft while answering a question about defensive play-calling in 2020.
Veteran defensive coach Jim Haslett, who joined the Titans’ staff as inside linebackers coach this offseason, pumped up the importance of the entire coaching staff getting on the same page when asked about play-calling responsibilities.
Shane Bowen on #Titans defensive play-calling: “We don’t have to call a play until August, so we haven’t really had discussions on that front.”
Added that their main focus is the playbook and getting new members of the coaching staff acclimated.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) June 2, 2020
“I don’t make the decisions as to when things need to be decided,” said Titans inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett, himself a former NFL defensive play-caller.
“More than anything, as a group, this is a close-knit coaching staff and it doesn’t really make a difference who calls it. Everyone here is trying to win, trying to get on the same page.”
As the vast majority of NFL teams decide on their traditional offensive and defensive coordinators in the winter, the Titans’ thinking is certainly unique. But is it problematic?
The answer to that question would be “yes” if the Titans delay on deciding a play-caller was a result of Vrabel and the staff thinking the decision isn’t that big of a deal.
While there seems to be bits and pieces of that attitude present in the Titans mindset, it’s not pervasive enough to be a real problem.
That’s because Vrabel is also probably concerned about not rushing into the decision and making the wrong one. That concern, along with the aforementioned lack of concern, combine to make what could end up being a more-than-reasonable approach.
The Titans will need a capable play-caller if they want to have any kind of success in 2020. They must understand that picking one is crucial and not comparable to deciding which popsicle you want when the ice cream truck rolls around.
But the reality of the situation is that, as Bowen said, they do have time to decide, and the digital climate that the NFL currently exists is due to the coronavirus may not be the best setting to make that choice.
It’s too early for fans or anyone else to worry.
Cover image: David Butler II / USA Today