Callahan appeared to be Tennessee’s choice from the start to become its sixth coach. After spending five seasons in Cincinnati, Callahan was the first candidate Tennessee submitted a request to interview and the first the Titans met with virtually and in person.
Taking a closer look, Titans reporter Turron Davenport answers some of the big questions surrounding the hire, national reporter Dan Graziano dishes on what he’s hearing about Callahan and draft analyst Matt Miller spins it forward to the draft. Finally, front office analyst Mike Tannenbaum grades the Titans’ hire.
Why did the Titans go with Callahan?
Davenport: Callahan’s track record of success dates back to his time with the Denver Broncos as an offensive assistant under Gary Kubiak which included the Super Bowl 50 victory with quarterback Peyton Manning. Although he didn’t call plays for the Bengals as the offensive coordinator, Callahan was responsible for orchestrating the game plan and implementing the offense, according to Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor. Callahan’s ability to find success despite having issues along the offensive line should bode well for the Titans, who have shortcomings there as well. After having four offensive coordinators in six seasons under Mike Vrabel, the Titans were desperately in need of stability, so bringing in Callahan ensures they’ll have the same scheme over the time he’s in Tennessee.
How does this impact quarterback Will Levis?
Davenport: Levis will be the next in a long line of quarterbacks looking to be coached up by Callahan. Former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had back-to-back 4,000-plus-yard passing seasons in 2016 and 2017 with Callahan as his position coach. Callahan’s next stop with the Raiders helped Derek Carr reach his first career 4,000-yard passing season. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw for at least 4,400 yards in his two full seasons with Callahan as the offensive coordinator.
Callahan will provide stability for Levis, who will be learning his fourth offense in four seasons, heading into Year 2 after he was taken in the second round of the 2023 draft. There will be some crossover for Levis since Callahan’s offense will be similar to what Taylor ran with the Bengals. Taylor and Levis’ offensive coordinator Liam Coen worked together for one season with the Rams. It might be wise for Callahan to consider Coen as the offensive coordinator and to retain current Titans quarterbacks coach/pass game coordinator Charles London to offer continuity for Levis in his second season.
Does this signal a new direction for the Titans with an offensive head coach?
Davenport: The Titans are getting one of the bright young offensive minds in the NFL. The Bengals’ offense was seventh in points per game (26.1), eighth in yards per game (360.5) and fifth in passing yards per game (265) with Callahan as the coordinator. Outside of 2020, Tennessee surpassed that scoring average only once in six seasons under the previous regime. Callahan’s offense will include a more pass-reliant scheme, which is a change for the Titans’ run-heavy offenses that revolved around pending free agent running back Derrick Henry.
What are you hearing around the league on the hire?
Graziano: Callahan wasn’t the playcaller in Cincinnati, but as has been pointed out to me several times, Taylor wasn’t the playcaller in Los Angeles before the Bengals hired him — and things seem to have worked out pretty well for him as a head coach. Callahan has been with Taylor since he got the Bengals job in 2019, and people in Cincinnati say Callahan has had a great deal of responsibility for game-planning and administrative elements of the offense. He gets a lot of credit for his work with Jake Browningwho has been a Bengals backup quarterback for three years and performed well following Joe Burrow’s season-ending wrist injury.
There will be a lot of speculation about whether Callahan’s father, former Raiders coach Bill Callahan, will join him in Tennessee. The elder Callahan is viewed as one of the top offensive line coaches in the league and currently occupies that position with the Browns.
Callahan had two elite receivers in Cincinnati. Which pass-catcher would fit best with Tennessee in Round 1 of the draft?
Miller: At No. 7 overall, the Titans might not have their choice of the top three wideouts, with multiple teams needing pass-catching help ahead of them in the draft order. But they do have a great chance to land either LSU’s Malik Nabers or Washington’s Rome Odunzewith Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. likely off the board in the top five.
If available, Nabers is probably the best fit, thanks to his game-changing yards-after-catch ability that allowed him to average 17.6 yards per catch and get 14 scores in 2023. He reminds me of Stefon Diggs. Considering DeAndre Hopkins will be 32 years old next season, the Titans’ wide receiver room needs work, and either Nabers or Odunze would be a great addition. But the speed and agility of Nabers combined with Levis’ arm strength could turn the Tennessee offense around in 2024.
If Tennessee doesn’t go WR in the first round, it might consider filling needs on the offensive line or at cornerback.
How would you grade this hire?
Tannenbaum: B+. It’s a strong hire when you look through the lens of quarterback development and the outstanding play of Burrow in Cincinnati. Titans fans should be excited Levis will now benefit from learning under Callahan, who will emphasize technique and fundamentals. In addition to Burrow, Stafford and Manning, Callahan has worked with many other quarterbacks as well.