The Tennessee Titans named new offensive and defensive coordinators on Friday, and it’s fair to ask whether the team is really better for it.
Tight Ends coach Todd Downing was promoted to offensive coordinator, while outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen was officially named defensive coordinator, although head coach Mike Vrabel will have you believe he filled that role last year.
“Shane will move into the dedicated role of coordinator…and I am looking forward to him growing in that role,” Vrabel said. “We are going to work hard to improve that side of the ball through better coaching, improving our system and our players. I like the group we have on the defensive staff and I am confident that we will improve."
Bowen is the head scratcher. If he indeed was Tennessee’s “defensive coordinator” in 2020, the unit’s on-field results definitely didn’t warrant an official promotion.
The Titans defense registered the third-fewest sacks (19) in the NFL with the fourth-fewest QB pressures (117) and seventh-fewest QB hurries (50) with the worst third-down conversion percentage (51.9) in NFL history.
Tennessee ranked 29th in passing yards per game (277.4), and 24th in both points per game (27.4) and yards per play (5.9). The team also had the third-worst red-zone percentage (69.2) in the league and the fourth-fewest QB hits (70) while allowing the second-most touchdown passes (36) and sixth-most rushing touchdowns (18).
The Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley failures presumably played a significant role in that, sure, as did being without top cornerback Adoree Jackson for much of the season due to a lingering injury, and second-round pick Kristian Fulton missing a chunk of time because of injuries and stints on the reserve/COVID list.
But if anything, the Titans’ sheer defensive ineptness should have lit a fire under Vrabel to go out and find a legitimate guy to run his defense. The team interviewed Pittsburgh Steelers secondary coach Teryl Austin for the DC role on Jan. 14, but nothing came of it.
The Titans likely believe their defensive struggles last year has more to do with personnel than coaching. However, with Wade Phillips stating his availability, and other candidates who were available before signing elsewhere -- Raheem Morris, Matt Patricia, Dan Quinn – it’s hard to get excited about Bowen’s promotion.
Downing isn’t a flashy hire, but the potential is there. And if it works out anything like the last time the Titans promoted their OC from within, this move has the potential to be a coup for Vrabel.
The 40-year-old Downing has a 20-year coaching resume that includes stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders, where he was started as the team’s quarterback coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2017.
Under Downing, quarterback Derek Carr made two Pro Bowl appearances while passing for 7,924 yards, 60 touchdowns, 19 interceptions.
The Raiders were a middle-of-the-pack offense in Downing’s lone year as OC, ranking 18th in total offense (324.1 yards per game), 17th in passing offense (226.9 yards per game) and 25th in rushing offense (97.1 yards per game) and 23rd in scoring offense (18.8 points per game).
This go around, Downing will be working with better nucleus of weapons than he did with the 2017 Raiders, who had an injured Amari Cooper and past-their-primes Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree.
“Todd did a great job with the tight ends over the last two years and had important role in the game-planning process each week,” Vrabel said. “I was impressed with the details of his teaching and the production from his group and the offense in general. I am sure he will have some new ideas to implement, but the core system will be in place to build upon, which I think is important.”
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