It is hard to imagine a worse debut for Todd Downing as the offensive play-caller for the Titans than what we saw yesterday. He took over an offense that was one of the best in the league last year that also added a stud wide receiver in Julio Jones. Now, Jones did more to hurt the team than help it yesterday, but the issues with Downing were still there.
The biggest issue, as Steven Ruiz pointed out over at the Ringer, was the lack of play-action passes called. That was the calling card of this offense with Arthur Smith calling the plays. It is no doubt where Ryan Tannehill is the most effective, but Downing only called it on 7.3% of Tannehill’s dropbacks yesterday according to Next Gen Stats. That was the lowest for Tannehill dating all the way back to his time with the Dolphins.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, how effective could play action be when the team was down so big and they aren’t running the ball very much. That would be a logical thought except when the Titans got the ball back down 31-13 with 8:25 left in the third quarter Downing called five(!) straight run plays. He also called a run on 2 of the first 3 plays when they got the ball back down 38-13 with 3:06 left in the third quarter.
You also might be thinking to yourself, yeah but how effective is play-action when the run game isn’t really working. Again, that seems like a really logical thought, but there have been multiple articles written, including this one, that show that the success of the rushing game and the success of play-action passes really isn’t correlated.
This seems like an obvious place for Downing to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid). Tannehill is at his best in the play-action passing game. That is an indisputable fact. Calling those plays should be the easiest thing of all time.
Plenty of people are ready to run Downing out of town after one game. I’m not there, but you better believe I will be keeping an eye on how he adjusts after this disaster of a game.