Zach Lyons is a NFL Senior Contributor for Broadway Sports. He is also Co-Host of the wildly popular, award winning, and world renowned podcast, “A Football & Other F Words”, new episodes released every Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts.. He’s also a co-host for Nashville’s first ever football only show with a global reach, “A Football Show”. “A Football Show” airs LIVE every Monday and Thursday at 1p CST. Subscribe and turn on notifications here.
For the third week in a row, the Tennessee Titans got thoroughly outplayed and outclassed. I haven’t seen a Titans team play so lifeless and defeated like this in a long time. Quite frankly they’re not “Tennessee Tough”, and yes I about puked even writing that.
There are a myriad of issues plaguing this team. Right now the biggest road block to success is their lack of mental toughness. Ever since the Kansas City game where they played a tough, physical match up down to the wire, this team has been floating listlessly every week.
The defense has lost their MVP in Denico Autry and have yet to recover. This week they had to put David Long, who was playing at a high level, on IR, and also couldn’t get Kristian Fulton healthy enough to find the field. Both of those players were sorely missed.
There will be a lot of time for me to break down the game this week, after all I do have three shows. So, I wanted to turn my attention to something that has bothered me since a little after the Green Bay game, and that’s this staff, from head coach on down, excusing the inexcusable. Specifically with two people: Todd Downing and Dennis Daley.
You can call me callous or heartless if you want, but in all honesty, play calling issues aside, Todd Downing should not have a job after being arrested for a DUI. I don’t care if he was the greatest play caller on the planet, he shouldn’t be employed.
What’s even worse, he’s not even close to the greatest play caller on the planet. While the loss to the Jaguars is not all on his play calling, ever since he took over duties in 2021 we have seen he is not capable of, in 90% of the games called, putting together cohesive, consistent play sequencing and calling.
Now combine the data we have before us with his stint in Tennessee with what we all know and saw in Oakland, he just doesn’t have it. From an outsiders perspective Downing seems like a genuinely nice guy, but that doesn’t change the fact he is routinely in over his head.
His play calling is absolutely predictable. Literally, defenses are predicting players fairly easily and on a regular basis. Then combine that with his feel for the game. In the most inopportune times he has called the weirdest trick plays, and they have cost this team momentum, and sometimes the game. The one versus the Jaguars killed all momentum, after a massive play from the defense in the prior drive.
- The Chig Jet Sweep (Giants): 3rd and 1, for -4 yards
- The Malik End Around (Colts): 1st and 10, lost fumble
- The Malik Willis Failed Handoff (Broncos): 3rd and 2, lost fumble
- The Failed Direct Snap (Jaguars): 1st and 10, lost fumble
Let me be very clear, the first three turnovers were not Downing’s fault, and those first three turnovers are what really put the Titans behind the Jaguars, combined with the awful defensive performance. The problem is that Downing couldn’t ever overcome those coming out at the half.
They were too far behind the 8-ball, and Downing isn’t a good enough offensive coordinator to bring this team back into it, and that is his fault. He went away from Henry around the midway point of the 2nd quarter and never really went back to that well enough. In fact Henry entered halftime with 14 carries. He only got three entire carries in the second half.
That’s a travesty. Look I know its hard to run an offense when you only are able to play with 3.5 offensive linemen most games, but in Oakland he had a top-5 pass blocking offensive line, and he still was out of his depth.
Its just a fact at this point, Todd Downing is below average at play calling. What’s even worse is that you have Tim Kelly in the wings, and firing Downing to transition to Kelly would be such a simple move. Will it make anything better? Who knows, but it can’t be worse with him calling plays.
You have Tim Kelly, you have fans wanting his head, and the DUI happens, and the team still sticks by him? They’ll fire Jon Robinson, and understandably so, but when they have such an easy public relations win, that also could possibly make the team better, they sit on their hands.
It’s inexcusable. If the mantra is “Coach better, Play Better”. Coach better comes first, and if the offense continually struggles because the coaching is not better, you have to fire him, and make a change.
People will point to the team standing beside Bowen and making him full on DC as an example as to why Downing should get another chance. For those that don’t recall, Bowen was considered by many the de facto Defensive Coordinator in 2020. It was a terrible unit that was historically bad. The message in-season was not having an actual DC wasn’t an issue.
The message from the players was a lack of communication on and off the field, and having no clue who on the staff was their actual leader. It was a fiasco. The message from Vrabel were the players were not executing. So, they officially named Bowen DC, got some new players, and he rolled with this defenses and for most of the last two seasons the best unit the Titans have had by far.
This is no where close to a comparable situation in Downing’s case. Here’s why:
- Downing was the clear offensive coordinator last year. Bowen and Vrabel shared duties in 2020, it would seem, by the mass confusion by the players.
- Downing has been an offensive coordinator for a full season before he got the job in 2021. Bowen had never been an actual defensive coordinator.
- In Bowen’s first year as defensive coordinator the team got better. Downing made the Titans unit worse.
- In Bowen’s second year as defensive coordinator he maintained the same level of success for most of the season. In Downing’s second year as Titans offensive coordinator, he’s maintained the same level of failure for most of the season.
- During Bowen’s tenure he has had to play with elite players, and practice squad players and still was able to put together effective game-plans. During Downing’s tenure he has to play with elite players, and practice squad players and still can’t put together an effective game-plan.
Bowen has shown through 31 games that he is an effective leader, defensive coordinator, and potential head coach. Similarly we have 47 games, including the Raiders, that shows the complete opposite for Downing.
The facts are just absolutely undeniable at this point. No more excuses. Fire Todd Downing.
I am not sure there has been a more reviled player that has put on a Titans uniform. Almost unanimously from the fans up to the media Dennis Daley is the most enjoyable player to watch. He is a thief of joy, and of drives.
I don’t think I have seen as bad a pass blocker in two-tone blue and I have been Will Svitek and Jeremiah Poutasi play here. It’s totally disrespectful that Vrabel and Keith Carter this week said they have seen more good than bad when watching Daley’s tape.
It’s not only disrespectful to our intelligence, but it’s disrespectful to the other 10 players that play offense on the field with him. It’s downright emotional and physical abuse if we are being honest. I don’t know why the team all season long has stood by him.
Do they feel handcuffed because of the 2024 fifth round pick? Have zero faith in the players behind him? Does he have video of Downing and Vrabel murdering a hobo? What is it? It can’t be the excuse of the 5th round pick, that is in 2024. The guy who foolishly traded that pick away for Daley is gone. Fired.
If it’s the players behind him, I don’t believe they can be worse. I saw Keith Carter perform a miracle in 2020 with Ty Sambrailo and David Quessenberry at LT when Taylor Lewan went down with injury. Now, obviously his magic powers are no match for the dark magic of Daley, but I have to think that Radunz at least has to be better in the passing game.
They’re letting their star running back and quarterback get touched in the backfield at an alarming rate, and they’re literally trying nothing to see if they can lessen that. I am not saying Radunz or Clark can pitch shutouts, but if it means one less sack or two less pressures that can go a long way.
That’s all anyone’s asking for right now. We all know there isn’t a solution readily available that will make this offensive line suddenly be an All-Pro unit, but show us that you care. Show the team that you care.
In fact, this team routinely, as Paul Kuharsky has pointed out, practice squad defensive backs and defenders that actually get playing time. Some making the final 53 and making consecutive starts, and they’re not completely terrible.
You’d think that possibly the Titans, with Robinson gone, would maybe make moves in a similar fashion to find a solution better than Daley. However, they cut two offensive linemen, and signed *checks notes* ZERO.
When the Dolphins lost their starting OT to injury, they went out and signed Eric Fisher, even though they had back ups on their team. The Titans didn’t even workout Fisher and had around 11 weeks to do so. It was so evident after the Bills game that Daley wasn’t it. It was obvious before he even played a snap.
This team doing nothing is egregious in and of itself, but the fact the staff is trying to convince us, the fans and media, that it’s not as bad as we know it to be, is just downright evil. I’ve heard the “But what are they supposed to say?” remarks from some people about the coaches’ answers to questions about Daley. Here are some PR friendly things to say:
- We recognize his play hasn’t been up to our standards, and we are going to have to find a solution sooner rather than later.
- We can’t continue to let our QB’s blindside be a liability. While we try to coach up Daley we are going to search through free agency, practice squads, or our own roster for someone that can come in and make this team better.
It doesn’t have to be some soul-crushing, death blow from Vrabel or Carter, but just an honest assessment of the player, and admitting he’s holding them back. Right now, they’re basically saying with their words and actions that they’re okay with one player routinely ruining this offense.
Heading into the Jaguars game, Dennis Daley has allowed 36 pressures on 326 pass blocking snaps. He’s allowing a pressure every 9 pass blocking snaps. He’s also a terrible run blocker! He doesn’t do anything right.
They’re excusing the inexcusable so often, that it actually makes me laugh whenever they open up their mouth to spew whatever obvious lie comes to their head when confronted with the question of “Why”.
Remember “Coach Better, Play Better”, is the go-to phrase when they lose or underperform in wins. But I guess it’s not a requirement or a rule. Just empty words that have less meaning each and every week.