Too Simple To Just Match Up Titans' Candidates With Stats

Aaron Glenn
  Aaron Glenn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gauging the loud segment of public reaction, coaching fortunes were moving like Wall Street tickers over Super Wild Card Weekend.

The Texans' offense was fantastic, so Bobby Slowik’s candidacy shot up in the public eye. And Houston took apart Cleveland, which Twitter said could explain why there hasn’t been so much as a mention of Jim Schwartz.

Dallas’ defense failed on a large scale in a loss to the Packers, bruising Dan Quinn’s chances

The Lions' rise continued, and so did Ben Johnson’s ascent but Miami’s offense sputtered again and Frank Smith’s name didn’t gain any traction.

Single games shouldn’t sway teams conducting interviews. It's much more about large bodies of work, but even unit production isn't a must-have when it comes to identifying a new coach.

Slowik’s done a fine job with C.J. Stroud, which makes him an intriguing candidate, and Johnson’s helped turn Jared Goff into more than most thought he could be, with the Lions third in offense this year and fifth a year ago.

Those bigger chunks are more meaningful, as is Dallas finishing fifth in defense this year and sixth last year (sixth and fifth in scoring defense). That’s way more significant for Quinn than a one-game aberration that fits in with the Cowboy’s long-standing playoff failures.

For others, the numbers don’t even tell that much of the story.

When Job Robinson hired Mike Vrabel in 2018 he wanted a leader of men and it’s hard to argue that he didn’t find one. Vrabel’s year as the Texans defensive coordinator that followed three as a position coach didn’t help produce a great statistical unit.

But Vrabel arrived, established a culture, made a surprising second-year run to the AFC Championship Game, and posted a 41-24 regular-season record in his first four years before things went south.

He outlasted and outperformed the other coaches hired in 2018: Jon Gruden, Matt Nagy, Pat Shurmer, Steve Wilks, Frank Reich and Matt Patricia.

You can be critical of Aaron Glenn’s Detroit defense now.

But it’s a complementary piece of a team that’s having great success.

In an NFLPA survey run during the 2023 regular season, 774 defensive players scored their coordinator on a scale of 1-10 and Glenn came out as the top-rated guy in the NFL.

In a recent conversation with reporters on the Lions beat he talked about how much his style has grown over the last two seasons.

“No. 1 as a play-caller, No. 2 of understanding the big picture from, not just a coordinator perspective, but from a head coach. And Dan (Campbell) does a really good job of filling me in and allowing me to (give) my thoughts to him on different situations that are happening and how would I handle it. So, just hats off to him. And it’s a reason why, that you have a coaching staff like we do. With even our younger guys are ascending because of the way that he operates.

“And a lot of that comes from how coach (Sean) Payton used to handle us back in New Orleans. So, man, there are a lot of different ways that I’ve grown. It’s too much to actually sit here and talk about, but understanding how to collaborate with the GM, understanding how to speak with your owner and more or less, understanding how to relate with your players, which is not an issue for me at all, because I’m just going to be myself. And I think that’s one thing that the players see is listen, I’m no fake. And the thing that players do, they can point out a fake and there’s nothing fake about me.”

I'm not hoping it's Glenn. I want Johnson or Brian Callahan to be the Titans' next coach.

If they wind up with a defensive guy I hope it's Mike Macdonald.

But I'm all for the wide new approach, including a conversation with Thomas Brown, the Panthers' offensive coordinator. Carolina gained the fewest yards in the NFL and tied for the fewest points. Brown worked under an offensive coach who was fired during the season under a terrible ownership situation. But before that he spent three years on Sean McVay's staff, and McVay's disciples have had success.

You can’t just take the offensive coordinator from the best offense and presume that’s the guy. That would be Smith of the Dolphins, who’s got some appeal but is hardly the mastermind of the Miami offense, where Mike McDaniel is the architect of a system that has proven to be less than physical enough so far. (Smith also won the NFLPA best coordinator vote.)

Kuharsky megaphoneSimilarly, there are reasons the coordinator of the NFL’s top defense, Cleveland, hasn’t even gotten an interview so far in this cycle.

Schwartz is an excellent defensive coach, but something is up when a guy who’s coordinated well for three teams in seven years since he was head coach of the Lions – who he did take to the playoffs – has had just three head coaching interviews since, with the Cardinals, Giants and Browns.

I'm not filled with faith that the Titans get this right.

But it's too soon for any of that.

A guy doesn't have to be coaching a unit with great statistical success to get to Nashville and be a good head coach. 

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