With the Tennessee Titans and their offense blowing the doors off opponents lately, it might be time for those of us Arthur Smith detractors to eat some crow.
Raise your hand if you didn’t think the Tennessee Titans offense could ever succeed with Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator.
You can’t see it, but I’m raising my hand. I never thought I’d say this after the way the season began for the Titans’ offense, but it’s time for me to say sorry to Arthur Smith.
So, I’m sorry, big guy. I should’ve given you more time, but like a lot of Titans fans, I’ve become extremely jaded over the years thanks to routinely bad offenses. I’d like to give you a chest bump to show my appreciation for what has transpired lately.
I had my doubts for sure, and it didn’t just have to do with the team’s struggles to score points earlier in the season.
There were times where I saw personnel groupings that made no sense, route designs that had wide receivers practically tripping all over each other and the kind of over-reliance on a seemingly washed-up Dion Lewis that infuriated me to no end.
Bottom line: he looked like a rookie play-caller that was in way over his head.
However, a lot has changed in the last seven games — and in particular, the last four — that have made me change my stance from “the Titans need to fire Arthur Smith” to “hey, this guy might be pretty good.”
Let’s not pretend that quarterback and offensive line play didn’t have something to do with the early struggles of Smith and the Titans offense, because it certainly did, and I had no problem pointing those things out when they were taking place.
The Titans’ offensive line was putrid in pass protection, and having an indecisive and apparently broken quarterback under center in Marcus Mariota only made that issue worse.
Since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter in Week 7, the Titans’ offense has been humming, and in the last four games alone the Titans have scored 30 points or more in each and just dropped 552 total yards on the Oakland Raiders in Week 14.
This isn’t your typical Titans offense anymore, kids.
Of course, the direct correlation between something as simple as better quarterback play and a better offense must be made, however Smith deserves a ton of credit for pushing the right buttons with his play-calling to make this offense click.
As a result of Tannehill’s decisiveness, accuracy and arm strength, Smith’s offense is finally being realized.
You can also credit Smith with making the necessary adjustments to the issues I listed above as another reason this offense has scored 31.4 points per game since Week 7, the second-most in the NFL.
Some of the adjustments Smith has made have been more obvious than others, like finally giving Derrick Henry a huge workload and getting A.J. Brown, who is the team’s best wide receiver by far, a full complement of snaps that has him on the field more often.
On top of that, we’re also seeing Smith’s willingness to draw things up that utilize Tannehill’s athleticism, which is something he didn’t do anywhere near enough when Mariota was on the field.
As far as route designs and spacing go, Smith still has room to improve there.
Smith has also taken Henry’s success on the ground and turned it against opponents through the air by utilizing play action passes that have led to overwhelmingly successful results. Going hand-in-hand with that, teams can no longer load up the box to stop the Alabama product because, for once, you have to respect the pass in Nashville.
We’re also seeing some creativity and trickery coming out of Smith’s bag, as he continues to get literally everyone involved in the passing game, from wide receiver Kalif Raymond to RB/FB Khari Blasingame, to tackle Dennis Kelly. There was even a MyCole Pruitt sighting in Week 14.
Now, is Smith perfect and all the way there yet as an offensive coordinator yet? No, but there’s no arguing that, at bare bones minimum, Smith is on the right track based on the results of the second half of the season until this point.
When you add it all up, Smith has the Titans’ offense posting numbers it hasn’t sniffed in a long time, if ever. And, while his work isn’t done with three big games left that will determine if the Titans are a playoff team or not, Smith has undoubtedly earned a second season as Tennessee’s OC.