New offensive coordinator Todd Downing will certainly give the Tennessee Titans continuity, but his value goes beyond that.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel announced on Friday that Downing will step into the void left by former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s departure to be the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach. Downing was previously the Titans’ tight ends coach, a position he had held since 2019.
While hiring Downing wasn’t an exciting move by any stretch of the imagination, it definitely was a smart one.
MORE THAN CONTINUITY
The #Titans are expected to promote TEs coach Todd Downing to offensive coordinator, source said. The last time they made an internal promotion of a TEs coach, it was Arthur Smith. The hope is that this works out just as well.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 29, 2021
Hiring Downing, who has NFL playcalling experience from his days as the Raiders’ OC in 2017, will prevent the Titans from having to alter their offensive terminology. The same verbiage used by former OCs Smith and Matt LaFleur will, in all likelihood, remain in place.
That will make life a lot easier for QB Ryan Tannehill, who will get to spend a third year in the same system instead of having to learn a new one.
However, an in-house hire at offensive coordinator gives the Titans more than just system continuity. It also gives them someone with intimate knowledge of the team’s offensive personnel, a crucial trait for a play-caller.
Because he’s been with the Titans for two years, Downing knows exactly what he’s working with in terms of the team’s roster. More specifically, he understands his players’ strengths and weaknesses.
He understands what Tannehill is and isn’t comfortable with. He understands the factors behind RB Derrick Henry’s rise to stardom. He knows what he can and can’t get out of WR A.J. Brown and others.
That type of intel is invaluable in the NFL.
WHO NEEDS A “GENIUS?”
Everyone these days wants some kind of offensive guru when, really, all you need is someone who knows how to game plan and won’t get in the way of your personnel.
This hire accomplishes that. https://t.co/m61duzvw6b
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) January 29, 2021
These days, a lot of NFL teams seem to be on the hunt for the next “offensive genius,” a game-changing play-caller who provides cutting-edge innovation like Sean McVay of the Rams or Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers.
Unfortunately for those teams, finding one of those geniuses is akin to Derrick Henry being tackled in the open field—it just doesn’t happen very often.
More teams should, instead, seek to simply find a competent play-caller who understands how to get the most out of his personnel. That’s seemingly what the Titans’ goal was in promoting Downing.
It could turn out that Downing isn’t a very good play-caller. His stint as Oakland’s OC wasn’t terribly successful, though it was too marred by cultural toxicity to make any sort of evaluation out of it.
However, Downing has a leg up on just about anyone else the Titans could’ve hired because he has a good understanding of the personnel he’s working with—the first step to being able to cater a gameplan to that personnel.
That, not continuity of terminology, is the biggest advantage he will give the Titans.
Vrabel may have made a terrible choice at defensive coordinator, but it looks like he got it right on the other side of the ball.
- Tannehill image: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today
- Downing image: Tennessee Titans