Arthur Smith, after several years in Tennessee, has an intimate knowledge of his personnel that should help him tailor an offense that will capitalize on their strengths and mask their weaknesses.
Many, including Titan Sized’s Will Lomas, expected the Titans to be waiting on a position coach from one of the remaining playoff teams in order to hire an offensive coordinator. However, after weeks of speculation, the Titans and GM Jon Robinson ended up promoting tight ends coach Arthur Smith to be the team’s new play caller in the wake of Matt LaFleur’s departure to Green Bay.
Smith has been the TE coach for the Titans since QB Marcus Mariota’s rookie year and has found success under three different head coaches. His enduring success and consistency is something that Robinson likely respects in a Titans organization that has seen a ton of turnover and changes in the offense that have stunted Mariota’s trajectory as a passer.
Despite changes in the offense and coaching staff, the TEs have always been one of the team’s best position groups under Smith. Delanie Walker has quietly been a top five TE every year and Smith has done a great job with secondary TEs and blocking TEs who help to power the running game and give Mariota other great sets of hands to rely on. Walker vouched for his former position coach in an interview a few days ago.
The performance of Titans tight ends in 2018 was an even better testament to Smith as a coach. He lost his star TE Walker early on, but helped backup Jonnu Smith overcome a slow start and turn into a weapon for Mariota. After Smith went down with an injury of his own, Smith turned to players like MyCole Pruitt, Luke Stocker and Anthony Firkser for production.
Former Titans OC-turned-Packers HC LaFleur certainly noticed the work of Smith and was reportedly trying to lure him to join his staff before the Titans promoted him to OC on Monday. Although Titans fans might have been expecting a splashier signing after the long wait, Smith might just be the perfect man for the job despite not having the “big name”.
Smith not only has had a great deal of success with his TE position group over the years; he has also seen Mariota at his best and at his very worst. Any offensive coordinator that the Titans would’ve hired would be judged on how they can make Mariota more consistent. Smith is in the unique position of knowing exactly what plays Mariota feels comfortable with and has executed at a high level.
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Smith has seen Mariota in several different offensive systems that he can draw from without forcing the young signal caller to learn even more verbiage in a new system. Smith’s background as an offensive lineman and TEs coach will also serve him well in the running game, where he has two very talented running backs and some cornerstones along the offensive line.
Whereas a new offensive coordinator from another organization would not quite know the capabilities of his players, Smith knows exactly what he can expect and how he should utilize the players he has been around for years. Smith has the knowledge and experience to craft a team that enhances and complements the skillsets of these players, rather than forcing them into a scheme that worked elsewhere but might not translate perfectly to Tennessee.
It’s uncertain at this point what we can expect from an Art Smith-led offense: He has never called plays before in his young career. That said, the consistency of an in-house promotion could work in favor of a Titans offense full of young players that have had to learn a new scheme nearly each year for the past five seasons. By keeping concepts and even plays in place from the past, the Titans allow young offensive talents to focus on growing and improving their craft, which could lead to an offensive explosion in 2018 to complement a defense that is already playoff-caliber.