At some point, the Tennessee Titans have to stop defining themselves as a run-first team, but fans shouldn't hold their breath.
On Thursday, Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly was asked about whether the Tennessee Titans have a "style" on offense, and if they do, then what is that style?
Seemingly aggravated by the question, Kelly said that they do have a style. His exact quote was, "A team that when it's playing well is a physical team that is able to not only run the football efficiently but also able to use play action and do things that we have been able to, at times, do well."
I like Tim Kelly, and I think that he can be a good offensive coordinator in the NFL, but that just isn't a good answer.
Let me be clear, there isn't anything wrong with wanting to run the ball. If you run the ball effectively, there are examples out there of teams that do that well and have good offenses.
Excluding the teams with QBs who are heavily involved in the running game like the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles, teams like the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, and Miami Dolphins are all near the top of the list of team rushing leaders.
Here is the part the Tennessee Titans don't get
Here is the big thing that no one talks about...they are also near the top of the NFL in passing yards. In fact, the Dolphins, 49ers, and Lions are respectively 1st, 2nd, and 4th in passing yards!
Everyone who wants to say that those teams show you that it is alright to be a run-first team is leaving out the most important half of the story. The truth is, good offenses spread teams out and pass the ball, then they take advantage of defenses by running the ball in favorable situations.
As long as this coaching staff refuses to acknowledge that, they are doomed. Before the season started, it looked like there was a positive shift toward signing and drafting offensive linemen who were historically better pass protectors than run blockers.
Then it was just more of the same mentality when the season started and the Titans have had the same run-first mentality that fans have hated since Arthur Smith left and it stopped working.
This offseason the Tennessee Titans are going to have to start their rebuild a year too late, and watching them continuing to double and triple down on emphasizing the importance of the running game makes me feel like Walter White watching the scene with Hank and "Uncle Jack" in Breaking Bad.
Sure, there is a chance that the Titans end up completely rebuilding the offensive line and finding another Hall of Fame running back this offseason, but even if they do and they miraculously hit the same heights that they did in 2020, is that the smartest path?
Can the Titans continue to zig while the rest of the league zags, or should they consider modeling their offense after teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, or Miami Dolphins? Those teams love to run the ball, but they know their bread is buttered by the passing game and they invest heavily in that.
Even the teams like the Lions and 49ers who recently splurged on running backs only did it because they had already had passing game success.
We are three weeks away from the rebuild starting and actions will speak louder than words this offseason. Regardless of which coaches are still in the building, there are no excuses anymore and this team has to find a way to make Will Levis a franchise quarterback. Anything less than that is grounds for termination across the board.
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