The last time the Tennessee Titans promoted their offensive coordinator from within, it worked out pretty well for them.
They’re hoping new offensive coordinator Todd Downing can find the same success Arthur Smith ultimately found that led to him earning the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s easy to draw the comparisons between the two as each was promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator, but Downing wants to forge his own path and not just follow in Smith’s shadow.
“I think there’d be a pressure if I looked at it as my job to fill Arthur’s shoes,” Downing told reporters on Wednesday. “But each year is its own year with its own challenges and components.
“I look at this job more as what coach [Mike] Vrabel and [GM] Jon Robinson asked me to do to fill it this year, not to be Arthur Smith. It’s my job to be the best version of me and the best coordinator for this offense I can be.”
Downing has his work cut out for him, though. Smith left some lofty expectations after the Titans offense finished tied for the second-best unit in the NFL, averaging 396.4 yards per game, while ranking second in rushing (168.1 yards per game) and fourth in scoring (30.7 points per game). Oh, and he won’t have the benefit of utilizing the departed Corey Davis or Jonnu Smith either, who combined for 1,432 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago.
Luckily for Downing, he’s not exactly walking into his new role blind, having served as an offensive coordinator in 2017 with the Las Vegas Raiders. And he has experience calling plays as well. He will also have many of the same weapons the Titans featured last year including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry and receiver A.J. Brown.
“The continuity of being here helps me with the language and the transition of getting everyone on the same page from a communication standpoint,” Downing said. “We are in the phase of laying our foundation right now, so I think we’ll get more into the differences in scheme down the road.”
The Titans could be bringing in more help for Downing, too, as the team is the reported frontrunner to trade for seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones. If Tennessee ultimately swaps Davis for Jones — even despite Anthony Firkser replacing the superior talent in Smith — then Downing would essentially be handed the keys to a brand new Ferrari. All he has to do is not crash it.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_