Titans OC Arthur Smith did not have a good day against the Ravens’ defense, but the Chargers should look at his full body of work.
After a hot start against the Ravens, the Titans struggled to respond offensively in the second half. A lot of the blame fell at the feet of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Smith will be interviewing with the Los Angeles Chargers today following the Titans’ elimination:
NFL fans were less than enthusiastic about Smith following the game on social media. That includes Chargers fans who may have moved Brian Daboll ahead of Smith in their personal rankings or have taken the Tennessee coordinator out of the running completely.
It’s certainly understandable to prefer other candidates over Smith, but taking him out of contention over a one-game sample size is a little ridiculous. Sure, it was an important playoff game.
May I remind you that Smith also coached very well in three playoff games last year during the Titans’ AFC Championship run? Or that he beat the juggernaut Ravens last year and the same Baltimore team earlier this season?
Chargers fans love to salivate over Daboll, but he did the same exact thing as Smith last year-blow a double-digit lead in the wild card round. That’s not to say Daboll is a bad choice either. The point is simply to not judge off of one game.
Remember when Atlanta’s Kyle Shanahan was partially responsible for blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl? He’s been fantastic in San Francisco to this point, leading the team to a Super Bowl appearance. More impressively to me, he led the team valiantly despite many injuries in 2020. Imagine if the 49ers pulled their offer after the historically bad Super Bowl 51 loss.
Smith has a track record of success. In 2019, he turned the Titans into a top 10 scoring offense. He did even better in 2020 by making Tennessee a top three total offense in the league.
Daboll certainly deserves quite a bit of credit for Josh Allen’s 2020 explosion (as does NFL QB coach Jordan Palmer), but let’s not pretend Smith doesn’t have a quarterback he also helped in development. Ryan Tannehill was thought to be done in the NFL after Miami. After just a few years, he’s a consensus top 10 quarterback in the NFL with a $100 million dollar contract.
Critics of the Titans OC say that Derrick Henry is the primary reason for his success. What they fail to point out is that Henry wasn’t who he is in the league today until he played in Smith’s system.
Henry averaged 66 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry in 2018. In 2020, Henry averaged 126 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. It’s not as simple as Smith taking advantage of having the best running back in the league. He’s partially responsible for making Henry dangerous and efficient enough to become the best running back in the league.
The other criticism is that Smith would be “run-heavy” like Anthony Lynn. Coaches clearly adapt to what their situation is though.
If you have Henry as your running back, you’re going to want to run 25-30 times per game. If you have Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson as your primary backs, you’re not going to want to do that. Tennessee also passes more on first down than they are given credit for situationally.
Lynn’s issue was not being run heavy-it was being run-heavy with insufficient talent. Having the right personnel and players is crucial to play calling. That’s why Lynn and Shane Steichen taking the ball out of Justin Herbert‘s hands in many situations was wrong.
In addition to getting the best out of Herbert, which both Smith and Daboll are qualified to do relatively well, they also need to fix the running game. I’ve certainly seen more from Smith in improving the run game than I’ve seen from any other coaching candidate.
Like I said earlier, he’s not going to run the ball 25 times a game with Ekeler. The idea of Smith improving his efficiency with more running plays that help the offensive line? That’s pretty intoxicating.
To wrap it up, there are still plenty of reasons to like Smith as a coaching candidate. If you’re going to use one playoff game to make up your mind on him when he had three great playoff games last year, I think that’s very shortsighted.
He has a great 10-year resume in Tennessee from developing Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith as a tight ends coach to fixing the Titans’ offensive woes as coordinator. He might not be your favorite candidate, but he’s still more than qualified despite yesterday’s game.