Why Titans would be a good fit for Chip Kelly
Chip Kelly’s dismissal from the Philadelphia Eagles has opened up an opportunity for a few teams to look at him as their next head coach. Already there has been media speculation about the possibility of Kelly landing with the Niners, who fired coach Jim Tomsula on Sunday, or the Colts, who are expected to part ways with Chuck Pagano, whose contract is up. It wouldn’t be a surprise if chatter emerged about Kelly going to Cleveland, potentially to coach his one-time commitment to Oregon, Johnny Manziel.
But the fit that might make the most sense is the Tennessee Titans. Here are a few reasons why:
1. He’d be reunited with Marcus Mariota
It’s rare for a head-coaching position to come open where there is a young, promising franchise quarterback already in place, but that is the case in Tennessee with 2015 No. 2 overall pick Mariota. (It’ll also be true of Indianapolis with Andrew Luck, if Pagano doesn’t return.) The fit is even more unique in that Kelly was Mariota’s coach at Oregon.
Despite a somewhat inconsistent rookie year, Mariota has shown enough to suggest he’ll be a quality player in the NFL. Mariota finished No. 21 among QBs in both overall and pure passing grade, flashing a lot of ability but also showing a lack of consistency common for a rookie passer.
He struggled downfield in particular, where he was accurate on just 20.4 percent of passes (last in the league) and is one of just two QBs with more picks than TDs at that depth (three and five, respectively). However, Mariota has been above-average under pressure, with an accuracy rate of 67 percent and six TDs compared to just three picks. Although he’s been a little tentative on occasion, taking sacks on 26.2 percent of snaps under pressure (most in the NFL), he’s done well overall with a muddy pocket.
And while the value Kelly places on mobile quarterbacks has been overstated, at least at the NFL level (none of the QBs he brought in were runners, including Sam Bradford, for whom he traded Nick Foles this offseason), Mariota also has the obvious advantage of threatening defenses on the ground, which would improve the effectiveness of Kelly’s read-option.
2. There’s promise on the defensive side of the ball — including ideal personnel for the 3-4
One of the more intriguing aspects of Kelly’s tenure in Philadelphia was his adherence to the two-gap 3-4 his Oregon defense employed, despite the fact that the Eagles’ front seven appeared better-suited for a 4-3 scheme. Kelly is an offensive coach, but he appears to have strict requirements for the scheme of his team’s defense.
The good news in Tennessee is that the Titans have run the 3-4 for a couple of years now. Their front seven has few standout players, but Jurrell Casey is a stud, ranking fourth in the NFL among 3-4 defensive ends, with the third-highest pass-rush grade. DaQuan Jones is an excellent two-down player against the run, and Brian Orakpo is a solid edge rusher (albeit an aging one).
Also, armed with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, the Titans could very well add another star to their defense – possibly in the form of Ohio State lineman Joey Bosa.
The bottom line: The Titans have some solid pieces to work on defense, and they happen to be good fits for Kelly’s previous scheme of choice.
3. Taylor Lewan is a nice building block on the offensive line
The Eagles’ offensive line was a good fit for Kelly. Jason Peters, Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce were all excellent athletes who were good fits in Kelly’s zone-blocking scheme. Even the power plays he likes to run generally require athletic lineman who can get outside and make blocks on the perimeter.
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan is talented enough to fit Kelly’s style, and while the rest of the offensive line in Tennessee doesn’t project as a great fit (guards Chance Warmack and Jeremiah Poutasi both struggled this season, and are better suited for man-blocking schemes), his presence alone might be enough for Kelly to feel comfortable. For starters, the Titans could very well decide to use that No. 1 overall pick on a tackle, possibly Laremy Tunsil out of Ole Miss, and interior linemen are easier to find later in the draft and on affordable free-agent deals than other positions.
Mariota’s presence alone is enough to make Tennessee a good match for Kelly, but it does appear as though some other current personnel would fit well with what he likes to do. There are much more storied franchises with coaching openings this offseason, but this one might be the most appealing to one of the most popular available coaching candidates.