NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During the offseason, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak gathered his coaches around for a simple mission: make in-game communication between player and coach — as well as between player and player — as simple as possible.
While installing a new offense, first-year offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains feels getting in and out of the offensive huddle as quickly as possible is paramount for reading opposing defenses and getting players set, especially for third-year quarterback Jake Locker.
“You cut out as much mental clutter as possible,” said Loggains, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach. “Some of the play calls are still long, but I feel like we have done a good job streamlining it and making the verbiage as small as possible.”
In other words, less is more when it comes to signaling plays to the quarterback and having him relay the information in a more concise manner than the past two seasons under former offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who was fired with five games remaining in an eventual 6-10 season last year. Loggains was inserted as interim offensive coordinator before taking over the role full-time.
“When you start with terminology, just like when you are learning a language, the simpler you can make it, the better it is to communicate,” Munchak said. “We have spent a lot of time in this offseason fixing that, especially on the offensive side of the ball. There are times when you realize that the plays are too long. There are too many words. There are easier ways to do things.”
In layman’s terms, the offensive coordinator and quarterback will not define — or “tag” — each player’s particular role for each play, but rather be more conceptual by nature in understanding the goal of that particular play.
“It’s just not telling each guy what he has all the time,” Locker said of relaying the play to his teammates. “We are doing more content stuff. So, hey, this is a concept, so no matter where you are lined up, the guys will end up in the same spot (during the play). That’s kind of the idea of it.”
All this is designed to make Locker’s job easier. After all, he hasn’t exactly emerged as the franchise quarterback that his No. 8 overall draft selection in 2011 would warrant. He played sparingly as a rookie behind starter Matt Hasselbeck, and then last year got the starting nod but missed five games because of an injury to his non-throwing left shoulder. When he did play last year, he completed only 56 percent of his passes, threw 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He finished with a paltry passer rating of 74.0.
Then again, the Titans this season will feature a wealth of offensive threats, including running backs Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene, tight end Delanie Walker and receivers Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Justin Hunter. The new offense is designed to get the ball to each playmaker in situations where they can be most productive through their individual skill set.
“You can pick and choose your spots, so when the guys hear it, they can picture it,” quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. “That’s the most important thing. Can you create a picture in their mind by using less words to do it? And it puts ownership on other guys without all the words to learn it on their own a little bit. It’s beneficial for sure.”
Unlike he has the past two seasons, Locker will not be wearing a wrist band this season that has plays written on it. That, too, is by design.
“The thing about the wrist band, I think the quarterback should know the game plan well enough where if the headset goes out, he should be able to call the plays based on the personnel,” Loggains said.
That’s fine with Locker, who figures communication between quarterback and offensive coordinator is the key.
The offense is no longer playing a game of “tag” when it comes to getting the players into proper position for each play.
“When you are tagging it, you are usually tagging other players, so all you have to do is listen,” Ragone said. “When you don’t tag as much, now guys have to understand concepts. So, they hear a word, they have to picture all five spots they are going to be, so the onus comes back a little bit on them and, obviously, us to teach it to them.”
Ultimately, though, the basics will remain the same for the Titans’ offense.
Munchak and Loggains have been steadfast that it will be “run first” behind the lead of Johnson, who has rushed for 6,888 yards in five seasons, including 1,228 last year.
“People won’t know until they watch us play how different it is,” Munchak said of the new offense. “It’s not crazy or like we are starting over.”