It is tough to judge Kelly’s performance with Tennessee Titans in 2022
Just looking at the Tennessee Titans’ passing game on the surface in 2022 with Kelly in charge of it, you would be very underwhelmed. But when you actually look at the contributions he was actually able to make in games, you might not be that concerned anymore.
The Titans built their first down identity on running the ball down the middle, which was of course Todd Downing’s decision and put the team into second-and-long situations so many times. Not only that, but based on the formation they would line up in from play to play, which was also on Downing, it would only give the defenses a better idea of whether they were running or passing the ball.
All of it just doomed the Titans to further predictable play-calling, and there is a reason why they had such a high percentage of three-and-outs and such a low third-down conversion percentage. Not to mention, with the absurd talent deficiencies and injuries that they had in the passing game for most of the season, Kelly’s ability to make a positive impact on the offense was strangle-held in just about every game.
Now, Mike Vrabel offered some information in his recent press conference which gives us some opportunity to evaluate Kelly’s role with the Titans in 2022.
The most concerning thing about that quote is Kelly’s role in the first down plays, considering that the Titans ran the ball so many times. But once again, the decision to run the ball on those plays was ultimately Downing’s call, and many of the times the Titans passed the ball on first down, especially off of play action, they did well.
As mentioned, the team constantly found themselves in seconds-and-long situations due to disastrous first-down decisions, so it was hard for them to do much of anything there either since opposing defenses knew what they were doing almost every time.
Now we were actually able to see Kelly’s impact in the red zone, where the Titans scored most of their touchdowns — mostly passing — and were one of the best teams all year. They finished with the sixth-best red zone touchdown percentage at 64.3%, which is quite good considering the lack of talent they had for most of the year.
Yes, many will be mad about Kelly being an internal hire, and those people will also ask the question of why he did not take over in 2022 when Downing was so bad. But let’s face it, teams that look playoff bound (which the Titans were for the majority of the year) rarely if ever change play-callers, especially when the talent level on offense is as far from complete as theirs was.
You have to remember that Shane Bowen was promoted from within and did very well, and also ask yourself if you would be as mad if Kelly was hired as an outside candidate. Unlike most times that the Titans have promoted from within, this guy has an actual track record of being successful with a team that was average at best in terms of talent.
All of the evidence we have shows that not only will Kelly be a much better offensive coordinator than Downing, but he also has a better chance of outperforming expectations than anything else.