While the sky seems to be falling in Nashville, there are some positives that Tennessee Titans fans can take away from the first two games of the season.
The rookie class has looked good despite not being given a fair shake, Ryan Tannehill has been crisp except for a tipped pass and a target to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and Jeffery Simmons, Bud Dupree, and Denico Autry have combined for four sacks.
From a play-calling standpoint, let’s talk about the Tennessee Titans’ offensive script, what it is, who is responsible for it, and why the other plays have been pathetic.
What is a script?
A script is a group of plays (usually somewhere between 8-20) that an offense wants to start the game off with based on what they have seen from the team they are playing. Usually, this lasts for one or two drives.
Sometimes these plays need to be run in a certain order and other times they are for specific situations, it all depends on the team.
Tennessee Titans’ success on scripted plays
Who is responsible for it?
This is the question that everyone is asking with the Tennessee Titans right now and for very good reason. In 2021 the Titans had one of the worst scripted offenses with just 17 points coming from opening drives and that was one of the worst results in the NFL.
Through two games this year, the Titans have scored 14 points on opening drives which is literally the best result you could ask for.
So is this a case of Todd Downing suddenly learning how to make a script? Or is this a case of Todd Kelly being a positive influence on the offense?
In 2017 when Downing was the OC of the Oakland Raiders, they managed to put up 31 points on opening drives. That was less than the 38 points that Tim Kelly put up last year, but that isn’t a massive difference.
Either performance was good enough to double what the Tennessee Titans put up in 2021. In all honesty, this is probably a case of Todd Downing not being as terrible at this as he was in 2021, but Tim Kelly being better than him and being a positive influence.
Why the massive dropoff?
Todd Downing struggles to really…know how to call a football game. There is no flow to his play calls, he doesn’t adapt to what is working and what isn’t, he doesn’t put the players in good positions to succeed, and he doesn’t take into account the talent difference between starters and their backups.
In all likelihood, the offensive dropoff comes from the scripted plays being smart plays that take all of this into account. When Downing is faced with the prospect of stringing plays together by himself in real-time, he struggles greatly.
It is probably unfair to say that Todd Downing is the reason for everything bad in the Tennessee Titans offense and that Tim Kelly is the savior that the franchise needs. However, everything that we have seen over the last 20 games suggests that Downing doesn’t understand how to call an NFL offense effectively and that he doesn’t know how to call plays for this group of players.
I am much more inclined to believe that the improvement in the success of the scripted plays should be attributed primarily to the new voice in the room. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the scripted plays feature play-action passes more than the 2021 Titans offense did for entire games, and it isn’t random that those plays have been the most successful…like they were in 2020 when a different OC was in charge.