Tennessee Titans: Breaking Down the Team's Offensive Coaching Staff

Zach Law@zach_lawContributor IFebruary 20, 2012

Tennessee Titans: Breaking Down the Team's Offensive Coaching Staff

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    When looking at the Tennessee Titans' defensive coaches, a couple of things stood out. All but one of them had played in the NFL, and a bunch had played for the franchise. It's kind of intuitive, but interesting to see, that men who played a particular position are now coaching that position.

    Now it's time to take a look at the offensive coaches. In 2008 and 2009, the Titans ran the ball more than they passed. Last year, they had 200 more passing attempts than rushing attempts. You can attribute some of that shift to personnel, mainly the team picking up Matt Hasselbeck as a free agent and the QB/coach dynamic being better than the nitroglycerin years of Jeff Fisher/Vince Young.

    Even though there’s just one new coach on the offense and one guy moving from defense to offense, this will be the first full offseason for this staff.

Offensive Coodinator: Chris Palmer

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    You know a guy's been in coaching for a while when he's coached in the USFL. He has to be one of the few coaches in history who have plied his craft in the CFL, USFL, UFL and NFL. He's been a head coach in college, the NFL and, of course, the UFL.

    Twice Palmer has been involved in an expansion franchise, taking over the "new" Cleveland Browns in 1999 and moving on to be the offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans in 2002.

    He's also a member of the fraternity of men who have coached for the Houston Oilers, the Houston Texans and the Tennessee Titans.

    I can't say the fanbase was jazzed when Mike Munchak plucked Chris Palmer out of the UFL. The UFL was full of former NFL head coaches, guys like Marty Schottenheimer, Denny Green and Jim Fassel.

    Here are the highlights:

    – Wide receivers coach of the Oilers from 1990-1992, in the middle of the Run and Shoot era;

    – Quarterbacks coach of the Patriots in 1996, helping guide Drew Bledsoe to the Super Bowl;

    – Quarterbacks coach of the Jaguars in 1997-1998, helping develop Mark Brunell;

    – Quarterbacks coach of the Giants from 2007-2009, helping the team to a Super Bowl victory.

    Palmer was a quarterback at Southern Connecticut State (go Owls!) before starting his coaching career. He had a tough task, what with the short training camp and attempting to juggle a traditional pocket passer in Matt Hasselbeck with the mobile skills of rookie Jake Locker.

    The passing game was a success, especially considering that Kenny Britt only played a little more than two games. The run game continued its free fall from the heights of 2009.

    The key decision, and something that I wrote about in my first Bleacher Report article, will be the starting quarterback for 2012. Both players will benefit from a full training camp. Getting back a fully operational Kenny Britt and having Chris Johnson at his 2010 production (nevermind 2009) means they'll have something intriguing.

QB/Passing Game: Dowell Loggains

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    Loggains enters his fifth season coaching for the Titans and third as QB coach. He's the up-and-comer on the offensive staff.

    If you want to highlight a coach who started from the bottom, it's Loggains. He was a coaching administrative assistant for two years before joining the staff as offensive quality control coach.

    Loggains is one of the rare Titans coaches with no NFL experience. He was a quarterback and holder at the University of Arkansas. Loggains has a career 192.4 rating as a college quarterback. He attempted and completed one pass.

    According to scout.com, Loggain's playing height and weight was 5'5" and 165 pounds. That explains why he was the holder on extra point and field-goal attempts.

    Jay Cutler lobbied for Loggains to move to Chicago two years ago, and the team made a push for him this offseason. The move would be a lateral one, and the Titans denied a request for an interview.

    It's going to take an offensive coordinator job offer to move the 31-year-old coach, and that position may be open in a year or two if/when Chris Palmer decides to move on.

Wide Receivers: Dave Ragone

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    Dave Ragone was not a wide receiver in college/the NFL. It's a world gone mad. Continuing the trend of coaches who played or coached in Houston, Ragone was a backup QB for the Houston Texans from 2003-2005.

    He was the quarterbacks coach for the Hartford Colonials under Chris Palmer. Palmer brought Ragone along and he took over the wide receivers position.

    If anyone's going to know what it takes to be a quality wideout, it's a former quarterback.

    Look at the results. Kenny Britt put up numbers that were on pace to rival what Calvin Johnson did last year, and less than halfway through the third game, he was done. Nate Washington finally put it all together, playing through injuries to achieve his first 1,000-yard season.

    Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins need to show that same kind of growth in 2012.

Running Backs: Jim Skipper

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    And now for something completely different.

    Jim Skipper's been a football coach longer than Loggains and Ragone have been alive. Skipper was a defensive back and kick returner during his collegiate years at Whittier College. He transitioned to RB coach in 1979 at the University of the Pacific and has held that position every year since, with one exception.

    He was the head coach of the San Francisco Demons of the XFL in 2001. The Demons were unable to win the one and only Million Dollar Game, which is what the championship game was called.

    That one year did not slow down Skipper's career, as he hooked up with the Carolina Panthers, where he coached the likes of Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. He carried the nebulous title of assistant head coach for the last five years.

    The Panthers have been a consistent rushing force. The Titans were not so fortunate last year. The team finished 30th in rushing attempts (makes sense considering what you're about to read), 31st in yards, 26th in touchdowns and 29th in yards per attempt. (We'll get to the offensive line woes shortly.)

    Skipper has a long career of successfully shepherding the run game, so we'll see what happens in year two. He and Chris Johnson need to work together a lot during the offseason. The Titans had four top-10 rushing seasons before 2011.

    Between that trend and Skipper's career to date, signs are good that 2012 will be a reversal of 2011's misery.

Tight Ends: John Zernhelt

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    Zernhelt sure sounds like the name of a tight end. He was an offensive lineman at the University of Maryland in the '70s and coached that position for more than 20 years in college.

    Zernhelt was a college coach for 28 years before breaking through to the NFL with a one-year stint as the tight ends coach for the New York Jets. He's been with the Titans since 2006, making him a holdover from the Jeff Fisher staff. There aren’t too many of those guys.

    Fans don't get too excited about the lower-level re-signings that take place before free agency really takes off. The Titans' first offseason move was to sign Craig Stevens to an extension. Stevens doesn't move the needle on the stat sheet—nine catches all year—but he's a key blocker. Since the main pass-catching tight end Jared Cook almost never blocks, Stevens is going to be the starter. Even though he's the prototypical slow-footed blocking tight end, he did have catches of 58, 31 and 25 yards last season.

    Jared Cook is the enigma. He has Aaron Hernandez-level talent after the catch. Problem is, there were few catches as Cook struggled to learn the offense. He set the all-time franchise record with an 80-yard touchdown reception against the Browns, but Cook didn't finish with more than 59 receiving yards in another game until Week 14.

    Cook's 21-reception finish in the final three games is promising. He finished 2010 with a similar flourish, making fans wonder if the 25-year-old is going to be a consistent performer. 2012 is the final year of his rookie deal, so it's put up or shut up time. 

Offensive Line: Bruce Matthews

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    Bruce Matthews is the ultimate franchise guy. According to Pro-football-reference's Approximate Value rankings, Matthews is the best player in franchise history. If you want a coach who's played the position, take Matthews, who started at every position on the line in his 19-year career.

    He was on the line with Mike Munchak for 11 of those seasons. Munchak plucked Matthews from the Houston Texans staff.

    The common joke during the season was that two Hall of Fame linemen couldn't get the Titans' group to consistently run block. I mentioned earlier that the Titans were near the bottom in every rush statistic. Chris Johnson was hit as soon as he touched the ball way too often.

    In terms of pass blocking, the unit gets better marks. The Titans defense had 28 sacks last year, which is atrocious. The Titans' offensive line gave up 24. That's especially important with a QB like Hasselbeck, who's not a runner, and good news for Locker, as young quarterbacks need a little extra time to scan the field.

    The team had the same five starters last year as in 2010. That's probably not going to happen this year as Jake Scott is a free agent. One of the first offseason signings was backup tackle Mike Otto, who missed on his one and probably only tackle-eligible pass route last year. Michael Roos and David Stewart are set at tackle. Leroy Harris will stay at guard and Eugene Amano should remain the center.

    There have been rumors of the team picking up a center in free agency or the draft and moving Amano to guard, where he played prior to the 2010 season. There's also Kevin Matthews, Bruce's son, who was a healthy scratch all 16 weeks of 2011.

    Assistant Offensive Line: Nate Kaczor

    Nate Kaczor signed with the Titans last month. He replaces Art Valero, whose contract was not renewed. He coached 17 years at the collegiate level before taking a job as assistant special teams coach with the Jaguars, where he was for the last four years.

    Usually the Titans go after Texans coaches, so this is a first.

    Kaczor was an all-conference center at Utah State. If you want a former QB to be a coach because he knows what all the other players are supposed to do, for an offensive line coach, you want a former center.

    Offensive Assistant/Quality Control: Arthur Smith

    Arthur Smith is the final offensive assistant, in the coveted offensive assistant/quality control position. He was the defensive assistant/quality control coach last year. He has three years of quality control experience, starting with two years on the Washington Redskins staff.

    Smith played offensive line at the University of North Carolina, so that's the side of the ball where he wants to coach long-term.

Assistant Head Coach/Strength and Conditioning: Steve Watterson

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    Good luck finding a consistent explanation as to what an assistant head coach is. The position is usually a promotion given to a coach that a team does not want to be poached by another team.

    You know Steve Watterson's good because he's been with the franchise for 26 seasons.

    Players who do not make the active roster on Sunday do the kettleball workout. Watterson earned his "Art of Strength" Kettleball Instructor Certification in 2010. He's also been elected to the Natural Health's Scientific Advisory Board and in 1992 he was named Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year.

    I doubt any Titan coach has as good a resume for their position.

Special Teams: Alan Lowry

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    Another guy who's been with the franchise through one city and one name change is Alan Lowry. 2012 will be his 14th season as special teams coach. He was wide receivers coach for two years prior to that and started in 1996 as the defensive assistant/quality control. Lowry has been a special teams coach for 23 years and 2012 will be his 31st year of coaching in the NFL.

    Lowry's had a bit of success with the Titans. No play in franchise history was as big as "home run throwback," the kick-return call that led to the Music City Miracle in the 2000 wild-card win over the Buffalo Bills.

    Last year, seventh-round rookie Marc Mariani led the NFL and set a franchise record in return yards.

    Lowry was a quarterback and defensive back at the University of Texas.

    Special Teams Assistant: Chet Parlavecchio

    The final coach on the list has the longest last name and an unusual path to the pros. Parlavecchio has 20 years of high school head-coaching experience.

    How did he get to the Titans? He was a linebacker and co-captain at Penn State and played with Mike Munchak. Keep in touch with those college buddies.

    Parlavecchio spent two years in the NFL but surprisingly never played for the Oilers.

    There you have it. The Titans have a diverse mix of former Oiler, Titan and Texan players and coaches. In two years, Munchak's put his stamp on the staff. There's not a lot of turnover, so 2012 should show the rest of the league what a fully operational Tennessee Titan battle station looks like. 

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