The immediate future of the Tennessee Titans’ offense likely will bear a striking resemblance to the recent past.
“Probably not three days go by in a row when I don’t think about [Mike Heimerdinger],” Dowell Loggains said. “We were extremely close. I considered him my mentor. I looked up to him. He took me under his wing when I was the quality control guy and I had the opportunity to coach the quarterbacks under him.
“I learned a lot of football from him and I miss him a lot.”
Loggains was promoted to offensive coordinator Monday evening immediately after coach Mike Munchak fired Chris Palmer. Heimerdinger held the same position with the Titans twice, from 2000-04 and again from 2008-10.
When he became head coach following the 2010 season, Munchak opted not to retain Heimerdinger, who died 14 months ago from cancer, but the decision to turn over the game-planning and play-calling duties on offense to Loggains signaled a clear return to much of Heimerdinger’s way of thinking.
“They worked side-by-side and [Heimerdinger] really trusted him and believed in his ideas and thoughts,” Munchak said. “Even before Dinger got sick and needed more help, [Loggains] was really with him a lot on the passing game and first and second down, third down. He came up with a lot of ideas. So it’s something he’s very comfortable in.”
Tennessee’s offensive and defensive coordinators are only available to the media on Thursdays and after games, so Loggains’ comments Thursday were his first since the shake-up on the staff. He talked about the need to create one-on-one matchups and for players to win those matchups, a line of thinking that was at the heart of Heimerdinger’s approach.
With that philosophy, running back Chris Johnson set a franchise record of 2,006 rushing yards and and NFL record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage in 2009.
“[Loggains] was here with Heimerdinger, so I know he learned a lot of good stuff from Heimerdinger,” Johnson said. “Once we get in a game situation we’ll see how everything flows.”
Loggains came to the Titans as a coaching administrative assistant in 2006, was promoted to offensive quality control coach two years later when Heimerdinger came back to the franchise and then was elevated to quarterbacks coach in 2010, Heimerdinger’s final season.
At 32 years old, he is now one of the league’s youngest coordinators and in his first game he gets to match wits with Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is 65 and has guided some of the most successful defenses of the last 25 years. Since 1981 he has been the defensive coordinator for seven different franchises and 13 times since 1988 his units have finished among the top 10.
“I know [Loggains] is a hell of a coach,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak, who worked with Heimerdinger in Denver, said. “That’s a great opportunity for him. I know [Heimerdinger] thought the world of him, and obviously [Munchak] does too to give him this opportunity.”
Under Heimerdinger, the Titans scored 435 points in 2003. That’s the highest single-season total of the last 50 years. When he came back to the team in 2008 after stops with the New York Jets and Denver Broncos, the team scored 375, an increase of 74 over the previous season.
Only once in eight seasons did the offense not produce more than 5,000 total yards, and twice (2001 and 2003) it finished among the top 10 in the NFL.
“It’s exciting just to see the kind of plays that we’re bringing to the table and the things we’re practicing,” tight end Jared Cook said. “It’s kind of like Dinger’s offense. It has a lot of Dinger in it, which is pretty cool.”
Now is Loggains’ chance, though, to make a name for himself.
“I have confidence in my own ability, and I’ve been fortunate to be around some really good football coaches and I’ve had an opportunity to learn from a lot of good people,” he said. “[Heimerdinger], I would consider probably one of my biggest mentors outside of a couple guys here with [Jeff] Fisher, [Jim] Schwartz and [Munchak].
“… There’s definitely a thought process and an offensive philosophy that Dinger and I did share.”