Although the Tennessee Titans scored a huge upset victory in the Wildcard round resulting in owner Amy Adams-Strunk voicing her confidence in Mike Mularkey going forward, changes to the staff are still necessary. Let’s look at some potential options at Offensive Coordinator.
Coming off of the first playoff win for the franchise in 15 years, it would seem like an unusual time to be scouting potential replacements along the staff. However, one win cannot shake the disaster the Titans offense was this season. Constant miscommunication between Marcus Mariota and his receivers, poor play calling and a regressed running game have shown that changes need to be made. The rest of the NFL world is currently focused on staff changes and it would behoove Titans General Manager Jon Robinson to be doing the same. With that in mind, let’s take a peek forward at a short list of possible candidates who could join the Mularkey staff and fix the issues on the offensive side of the ball.
Jim Bob Cooter
Regionally, the name alone will make him a hit, but not only that will garner Cooter favor with the Titans faithful. Cooter was also a quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers. As a backup, he only appeared in three games but went on to become a graduate assistant for the school for two seasons. Hailing from Fayetteville, Tennessee, coming home may be just what the doctor ordered.
Cooter spent time as an NFL offensive assistant from 2009-2015 with the Colts, Chiefs, Broncos and Lions before Detroit ultimately promoted him to offensive coordinator during the 2015 season after the departure of then offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi. Cooter took advantage of this opportunity and led Matthew Stafford to two of his most productive seasons. From 2009-2014 without Cooter, Stafford completed 60% of his throws and had an 83.9 passer rating. After Week 8 of 2015 when Cooter took the reins, Stafford has jumped those numbers to 66% and 83.9, respectively.
While Cooter’s teams have struggled in the run game(76.3 yards per game for last in the league), they have excelled in the weakest area of the Titans offense, the passing game. A competent run game and philosophy is already in place so adding Cooter’s passing expertise could be a perfect marriage. It may be difficult to do, however. 2017 Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell was let go this offseason leaving Cooter as a free agent, of sorts. Some rumors point to Matt Patricia, Patriots defensive coordinator, taking the Detroit job and possibly retaining Cooter as offensive coordinator. If this is not the case, look for Robinson to heavily consider Cooter as a replacement for Terry Robiskie.
The Eagles offense was one of the most effective in the NFL Regular Season and while all the credit for that success cannot go directly to DeFilippo, a majority of the development of Carson Wentz can. Wentz exploded in his second year under the Eagles staff to become an MVP candidate. Tapping into Wentz’ mobility, creativity and accuracy while also keeping things simple for the second-year quarterback is exactly what the Titans need for Mariota. Some would say Mariota’s development has been hindered by an old-school, stubborn staff and this would counteract that immediately. The Eagles combine traditional west coast principles from the Andy Reid playbook and mix them with modern spread looks that give NFL defenses fits. We saw the Titans execute a miraculous comeback by adopting this kind of spread-west coast mixture in the second half of the wildcard matchup with the Chiefs.
DeFilippo has only had one year of offensive coordinator experience when he took that position with the Cleveland Browns in 2015. He was let go after one season when head coach Mike Pettine was fired. It is fair to say that DeFilippo has not had a real shot to showcase what he can do when given a cupboard full of offensive talent. He is currently interviewing for head coaching positions which tells the story of how he is viewed around the league. He was considered a front-runner for the Chicago Bears job before it went to Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. His lack of experience as a coordinator may hinder his ability to make a huge jump from quarterback coach to head coach right now. What better way to showcase your talent as a coach than to fix a broken Titans offense that only scored 12 offensive touchdowns all season and put Mariota’s development back on track. This could be a mutually beneficial outcome for all parties involved.
Most will remember Byron Leftwich as a gritty quarterback for Marshall. His name often invokes memories of his offensive line carrying him down the field during a two-minute drill after an injury rendered him immobile. Leftwich broke his shin in the early stages of a 2002 MAC regular season game. Most would have called it quits, but not Leftwich. He returned early in the fourth quarter and ended up throwing for 300 yards in the game. This is the type of leader and mentality needed to groom Mariota and take him to his next evolution as a quarterback.
Pick things up in 2018 and Leftwich is now the quarterback coach for the Arizona Cardinals. He was hired full time in May of 2016 as an intern but took over full time on January 27, 2017. While he is relatively new to coaching, most in the league have praised his ability to get Blaine Gabbert to play decently. Leftwich has gobs of NFL knowledge after a nine-year career and has the track record to command respect in any coaching room. With Bruce Arians heading off into the sunset as the Cardinals head coach, displaced members of his staff may be looking for work.
He is an up and coming talent that may not be ready right now but could be a worthy investment for the future for Mike Mularkey to groom into a great offensive coordinator.