Sep 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Tennessee Titans kick returner Darius Reynaud (25) downs the ball on the opening kickoff against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The play was called a safety as he picked the ball up and backed into the end zone. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s revisit this past offseason. The Tennessee Titans had one of their most eventful offseasons in franchise history. Management spent more than $100 million trying to revamp player personnel and coaches from a team that had finished the 2012-13 NFL season with a 6-10 record. Andy Levitre, Delanie Walker, Sammie Lee Hill and Shonn Greene were a few of the dozen-plus new additions to the roster.
That uncharacteristic shopping spree reinvigorated a fan base that questioned owner Bud Adams’ desire to win. With that said, not every move was praised. Among the most unpopular changes: the firing of Alan Lowry.
From 1996-12, Lowry was an assistant coach under Jeff Fisher and Mike Munchak. Lowry spent the last 14 of those seasons as the special teams coordinator.
He’s known for masterminding “The Music City Miracle.” He coached Pro Bowl return specialists Derrick Mason and Marc Mariani. In his last season, special teams played a significant role in three of six victories.
There’s no doubt that special teams outperformed the offense or defense. Yet, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray retained his job following a season when his defense surrendered a franchise-worst 471 points.
What made Lowry’s dismissal even more surprising were the two assistant coaches who received promotions. Chet Parlavecchio was promoted from special teams assistant coach to linebackers coach. Assistant offensive line coach Nate Kaczor was the man chosen to replace Lowry. From 2008-11, Kaczor spent four seasons as an assistant special teams coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Firing the special teams coach and then promote his assistant to linebackers coach? Strange.
Kaczor is five games into his tenure. Special teams have had their bright moments. They’ve had their duds. Unfortunately, the dud moments have outshined the bright ones. Each of the Titans’ two losses have showcased critical errors from the return units. The Titans are muffing punt returns, dropping snaps, making far too many penalties that handicap the offense’s field position, missing kicks and making awful decisions on kickoff returns. Darius Reynaud is either taking them 10 yards out of the end zone or he’s taking it out, back in, kneel down, safety.
Amazing how one unpopular decision can have such an impact on an entire unit. According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, he suggested that Munchak was looking for new ideas and approaches that would rejuvenate—and improve—the entire unit. That was in Jan. 2013.
Here was a paragraph that briefly summarizes Lowry’s 2012 accomplishments (The Tennessean):
"In 2012, the Titans had four returns for touchdowns, including three by Darius Reynaud. They were among the NFL’s best in punt and kick returns. Punter Brett Kern broke a franchise record for net and gross average. The Titans struggled on coverage teams, yes, and kicker Rob Bironas didn’t have his best year (25-of-31). But Lowry can’t kick for Bironas."
It’s too early to write off Kaczor, however, his special teams unit hasn’t performed well. It’s not the mistakes as much as the foolishness of those mistakes. Reynaud’s safety, Damian Williams kicking the football, non-stop penalties…
Did the Titans make the right decisions when they parted ways with Lowry and last season’s captain, Tim Shaw? What must this unit do to get back on track? Answer in the comments, Twitter or Facebook.
SOURCES: Jim Wyatt