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Tales of the Titans: A new era of Titans football has arrived.


Titans owner Ammy Adams Strunk (L) and GM Ran Carthon (R) wlecome new head coach Brian Callahan (C).

Photo: AP / George Walker IV


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a new era of football in Nashville!


On January 24th, the Tennessee Titans hired former Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to be their next head coach. He replaces former coach Mike Vrabel in a huge shift of philosophy, which has me excited for the future. Callahan, an offensive assistant his whole coaching career, has worked with Peyton Manning, Derek Carr, and of course most recently, Joe Burrow. Hopefully he can help young QB Will Levis be the next in line of successful quarterbacks that Callahan has coached. Titans Nation, welcome to Cashville!


First Impressions


Callahan is a well respected coach around the league. He won Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos, and worked closely with Derek Carr in Oakland when Carr was consistently putting up 4,000+ passing yards per season. Obviously, he's had lots of success with Burrow in Cincinnati, reaching the big game once again in Burrow’s second season.


Despite being the offensive coordinator, he did not call plays with the Bengals, head coach Zac Taylor (a former Sean McVay disciple) did. Callahan plans to follow Taylor’s footsteps, and call offensive plays for Tennessee. This doesn’t concern me, as Taylor did the same thing with the Rams when McVay called plays for them. While yes, there could be some growing pains, it’s nice to have a competent offensive play caller, as the last time the Titans scored 30+ points was January of 2022. Yikes. The mere thought of a good offense gives me hope for the 2024 season.


Callahan also has a connection to Bengals star receiver, Tee Higgins, who is set to become a free agent this offseason. Higgins is also a Tennessee native who has already expressed desire to return home. While signing/trading for him would be difficult, building an offense similar to Cincy’s would be a dream come true. Sadly, superstar running back and franchise icon Derrick Henry will most likely leave in free agency. Callahan has said that Henry is perfect in any offense, and would love to see him back in the two-tone blue. Encouraging words from the new main man in Nashville.


 

Titans new DC, Dennard Wilson, from when he was a New York Jets assistant coach.

Photo: Steve Ryan / Getty Images


New Hires

Like any other new coach, Callahan has overhauled the coaching staff, kicking most of Vrabel’s friends to the curb, and bringing in his own buddies. The main difference between the two coaches' friends is that Callahan’s are actually successful. Out are OC Tim Kelly and DC Shane Bowen who didn’t bring much this past year, and in are new OC Nick Holtz and new DC Dennard Wilson.


These are two huge hires in my eyes. Firstly, Holtz was with Callahan in Oakland, overseeing Derek Carr’s transformation from average starter to consistently atop passing yard leaderboards, and has most recently been passing game coordinator for the Jaguars. Holtz helped Trevor Lawerence ascend to the top of many passing categories this season. He will be tasked with doing the same with a rocket armed Levis, signaling a transformation of offensive identity here in Tennessee.


Most likely gone are the days of smash-mouth football and game management, and in are the days of a dynamic, pass-first offense that many of the best teams (ie: Chiefs, Bengals, Niners) have recently implemented. Flipping to the defensive side of the ball, Wilson was the Ravens defensive backs coach this past year, and held that same position for the Eagles the year prior, when they reached Super Bowl LVII. The Ravens were regarded as the best defense in the league this year by most, and went from the bottom third in pass yards allowed (232 a game in 2022), to number six (191.9 a game in 2023), under Wilson’s guidance. Philadelphia was the number one pass defense in 2022, with 179.8 yards per game, and had two All-Pro corners, in James Bradberry and Darius Slay.


What makes me most excited about this hire is that Rodger McCreary was ranked as the number 17th best cornerback in all of football last year by PFF, and former first round pick Caleb Farley, who has tons of potential, but has dealt with many injuries, are both young dynamic players. If Wilson can help McCreary hit another level, and help Farley tap into his potential that got him drafted in the first round, the secondary could improve a whole lot, regardless of any free agent additions.


Another hire which has been overlooked was poaching Callahan’s father, Bill, an offensive line coach for the Browns. The elder Callahan has 46 years of coaching experience, and helped the Browns make the playoffs despite many injuries on the line. During his time in Cleveland, they amassed 2,490 rushing yards, 3rd-most in franchise history, and lead the league in 2021, with 5.09 average yards per rush, their most since 1966. If he can help rebuild the pitiful line, it will help Levis tremendously, and maybe even help convince the King to return for another couple seasons.

 

Possible Titans draft selection, Notre Dame OT Joe Alt, during a pre game warm up.

Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images


What This Means for Personnel

While I assume getting new players will remain similar to the philosophy of the Vrabel days, it will be interesting to see how GM Ran Carthon and the rest of the front office deals with free agency and the draft. The defense has many impending free agents like DE Denico Autry (who just had a career year at age 33), and LB Azeez Al-Shaair (5th in the league in tackles). Will they re-sign them, or just plug holes, and hope that Wilson’s leadership can keep the defense together, as they were already a top-10 unit in the league?


I hope they go this route, as the offense needs a lot more help, and most of the resources should go on that side of the ball. Offensively, the line is an issue. Bill Callahan’s coaching isn’t going to save it. Additions need to be made, especially at tackle. I hope the team picks Notre Dame’s LT Joe Alt at number 7 overall, but either way change is necessary. Receiver also needs an overhaul. DeAndre Hopkins proved that he still has it late in his career, and is the undisputed number one, but aside from him there isn't much. I’m a huge Treylon Burks guy, but right now he hasn’t stayed healthy enough for me to see him as more than a number 3 option, even if his potential says otherwise.


Kyle Phillps and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine are both valuable death pieces, but this team and Will Levis need a dominant number 2 option. Does Ran see it in free agency, with Higgins or someone like Michael Pittman, or with the draft with Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze in the first round, or one of the Texas receivers, Xavier Worthy or Adonai Mitchell in round two? I don’t know the answer to that, but it will be interesting to see how this first offseason of a new era of Tennessee Titan football goes. Until next time, #TitanUp!



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