The Tennessee Titans haven’t had many talented offensive coordinators, but I’m not sure there has ever been a more clear dropoff in production than there was from Arthur Smith to the Todd Downing era.
Following Arthur Smith was never going to be easy, but Todd Downing was handed a playbook on how to run a successful offense with the pieces he was given, and he flushed it down the drain before Week 1 in 2021.
If you want evidence of how bad it had gotten, there is no shortage of stats to prove the nightmare that Tennessee Titans fans endured.
They led the NFL in 1st down runs despite having almost no success on 1st down runs, and it was so obvious that by the final game of the season Troy Aikman was laughing at the Tennessee Titans before first down calls because the only person in the building that thought those plays might work was Todd Downing.
Only one team in the NFL failed to have a single game with 28 points or more all year, and that was your Tennessee Titans. A big reason for that was the historically low point totals that the team put up in the second half, meaning that while other teams adjusted the Titans’ coaches on offense were nowhere to be seen.
Mercifully, the Titans fired Todd Downing on the Monday following the end of the regular season.
Give the Tennessee Titans credit for making this call
First and foremost, this is a credit to Mike Vrabel. Based on all of the rumors and reports swirling around that Todd Downing might keep his job for another season, I questioned whether we would see Vrabel morph into Mike Mularkey 2.0 right in front of our eyes.
One season was a warning, but back-to-back trainwrecks were too much for him to stomach and he made the right move.
Honestly, I don’t know whether Todd Downing would have been fired if the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs, and the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars might go down as a pivotal point in the Vrabel era.
Getting rid of Downing was a must, but they also fired Keith Carter and Anthony Midget, two coaches who have wildly underperformed when you look at the resources they were given and how the players they were in charge of rarely improved and always made the same mistakes.
In addition to being the catalyst for firing those three, the loss meant that the Titans added the 11th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. 9 years ago the Tennessee Titans used the 11th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft to select Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan, and they will have their opportunity to add a talented left tackle in this upcoming class.
A rebuilt offensive line coached by someone who is better at their job than Keith Carter, blocking for an offense that is coached at a much higher level by a different OC, will make a huge difference in what this team is able to do in 2023.
When you look at the names involved in the GM search along with this news, it feels like this is the first opportunity that Tennessee Titans fans have had where they could truly hope for a good year in 2023.
There are still a lot of key decisions to be made and new players to be added, but this is a very promising start to an offseason…and with Downing gone, fans don’t have to worry about a late collapse ruining a promising start.