Titans appear ready to hire back Heimerdinger

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 10:32pm

Mike Heimerdinger’s return to the Tennessee Titans as offensive coordinator appeared imminent Wednesday night, just hours after the Denver Broncos granted permission for him to speak with his former club.

Heimerdinger, who was the Titans offensive coordinator for five seasons from 2000-04, would replace the man who replaced him, as Norm Chow was fired on Tuesday. Both Heimerdinger and Titans coach Jeff Fisher are on vacation, but barring unforeseen complications, a deal could be worked out shortly.

According to those with knowledge of the situation, some in the Broncos’ organization have already conceded that Heimerdinger will be returning to the Titans, as soon as a contract can be finalized.

Heimerdinger did not comment when contacted by The City Paper Wednesday afternoon and did not return a call on Wednesday night.

A statement from Heimerdinger’s current boss Mike Shanahan in Denver was telling on Wednesday.

“The opportunity in Tennessee would give Mike the chance to go back to an organization and work with a head coach with whom he is very familiar, handling the entire offense and having full control over game-planning and play-calling responsibilities,” Shanahan said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday granting permission.

Heimerdinger, who was the Titans offensive coordinator from 2000-04, has the title of offensive coordinator in Denver, but defers play calling to Shanahan.

Heimerdinger, 55, surfaced almost immediately as the top candidate on Tuesday when Chow was fired after a three-year run as Heimerdinger’s successor.

Heimerdinger has been in Denver the past two seasons after one year with the New York Jets where he spent 2005 as offensive coordinator. He wound up back with Shanahan and the Broncos, where he had been receivers coach before coming to Tennessee, the following season after Herman Edwards left the Jets for Kansas City and new Jets coach Eric Mangini brought in his own staff.

During Heimerdinger’s five-year run as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, the Titans offense was never ranked lower than 17th overall in total yards. That was the high-water mark for Chow’s offenses, which finished 17th in 2005, 27th in 2006 and 21st this past season, albeit with almost a completely different roster than what Heimerdinger had during his tenure.

In Heimerdinger’s best season, 2003, Tennessee finished eighth in the NFL in total offense with 5,501 total yards and scored 435 points, the most the franchise had put up since a 513-point season in 1961 in the old AFL. The Titans most productive season under Chow came in 2006 when the team scored 324 points.

The first item of business for an offense that finished last in red-zone efficiency in 2007 and had an NFL-low nine touchdown passes, will be to hasten the development of second-year quarterback Vince Young, who regressed this past season in a number of key statistical areas, compared to his 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign.

Young had just nine touchdown throws and 17 interceptions, while throwing for 2,546 yards and posting a 71.1 passer rating.

While with the Titans, Heimerdinger helped mold Steve McNair from a running quarterback relying on a short passing game into a co-Most Valuable Player in 2003, a season in which he had 24 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. Backup Billy Volek also blossomed playing for an injured McNair in 2004 with a pair of 400-yard passing games and 18 touchdown passes in just 10 games.

His return to the Titans could help a lethargic passing game, according to guard Benji Olson, one of the few players left over from Heimerdinger’s first regime.

“Dinger was very good at exploiting things the secondary and opening up the passing game,” said Olson, who is still mulling whether or not to come back for an 11th NFL season after struggling through back problems again in 2007.

Running backs coach Sherman Smith said would endorse the move of Heimerdinger coming back.

“We know his strengths as a coach. He knows the offense and knows the coaches and can help us win,” Smith said.

Efforts to reach Fisher on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

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By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

"The opportunity in Tennessee would give Mike the chance to go back to an organization and work with a head coach with whom he is very familiar, handling the entire offense and having full control over game-planning and play-calling responsibilities,” Yeeeeee Haaaa! Looks like Jeff is finally coming around. (Although if I were Mike, I'd be sure that my contract had an escape clause for tampering of the play calling!)4 the Billy "Haters"..."Backup Billy Volek also blossomed playing for an injured McNair in 2004 with a pair of 400-yard passing games and 18 touchdown passes in just 10 games.' "...a backup. No more, no less...? Remember, he put up these numbers with the same "mediocre" receivers everybody loves dog out on here.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Rocket99, I think we are about to find out. VY will have to not wear his feelings on his sleeves if Dinger does come back on board.

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Think Heimerdinger can whip VY into shape?

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I still think Vince has done a pretty decent job given his tenure. The unfortunate part is that now he will be back at square one, having to learn a whole new offensive system(hopefully), along with all of it's terminology. I think the best thing for him is to hit the weight room hard in the offseason, put a little more beef on those table legs. They will help him out of a lot of tough spots next season while he is developing. I think all the stuff with Vince's attitude will become a non-issue next season. He's always been a winner and hasn't had to deal with losing, so he didn't take it that well. I think this past season just taught him some humility. As for Dinger, I think the one he needs to whip into shape is Fisher, and if he is truly getting that language in his contract that has been reported about "total control" this time around (he'd be stupid not to), maybe he won't need to. Looks like Jeff might finally be turning lose of that antiquated offensive philosophy. I can only hope. I think more of a wide open type of offense will fit VY's style better anyway.

By: jwk6179 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The Titans can bring back Deimerhinger and let him have "Total Control" over the offensive, but until they get some LEGITIMATE DEEP-THREAT RECIEVERS that can actually catch a pass and open it up down field, the Titans will still have to rely on Rob Baronias and his three FG's a game.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

junebug,I am going to agree wtih you on all points but Volek. I think there is more to that story than we may ever know.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

You may be right, producer2. They only tell us what they want us to hear. Why aren't there any retired coaches on Capitol Hill?? It's all just speculation & opinions if you aren't actually an insider.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

jwk6179, that is certainly the popular consensus around here, by the fans & the media. I'm not sold on it as there were some big passing numbers put up in '04, but either way they are supposedly going to make that their number one concern during the offseason. (Not that we all haven't heard THAT before.)

By: tv8527 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I thought it was ironic that a former titan beat the colts. One trained by Heimerdinger. & Jwk you are right unless we get a good receiver we are just as screwed up this year as we were last year & lets not forget to pick up another defensive tackle in case Haynesworth goes down again

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dinger had more weapons in the past. We have no receivers and I'm not sure VY is any good at the long ball. But let's hope he changes something...anything.

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Just wat I have heard but most football people who have chimed in say VY can throw the stop routes as well as anyone, it's the down the field to a moving target he has not developed as well yet. That being said there are plenty of offenses that move the ball using timing patterns so maybe Chow was just not the right coordinator for that type of offense? It all seemed to click very well on our first offensive possesions of the past few games using that strategy but then we seemed to go away from it. Vince did not forget from the first series to the last in how to run that offense.

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

They certainly did move the ball well on their first possession of each game, then stalled afterward. It looked as if they had just enough creativity for the scripted plays, then were just lost afterward. Whose fault that was is up for debate. VY's accuracy was fine at Texas. What I saw was a guy who was not sure exactly what he was seeing yet - if you watched his release on the inaccurate throws, he looked like he wanted to pull the trigger and hesitated two or three times before he turned it loose. Kind of like golf, if your tee shot involves water, sand, woods, etc., it's very hard to just relax & turn loose an accurate shot, and it usually ends up in the woods. (At least mine does) I think once he's more acclimated to the defenses he's seeing (which aren't the same ones he saw in college) the accuracy will pick up. I know I've seen him throw some extremely accurate balls with a nice spiral on some slants and things that do require timing, he just had a more confident looking release on those throws because he wasn't confused. I heard the guys on radio yesterday dogging him about his inaccuracy out of the pocket (which was when Steve was most accurate), but he was usually out of the pocket because the play didn't go as it was drawn up, so that could be that same uncertainty causing that. Some of the misses on deep balls(which were too few and far between) were because the receiver didn't run out the route like he expected. That will improve with time for them to gel.

By: TRHJR on 12/31/69 at 6:00

V Y Learn a NEW OFFENCE !! MY WET TOWEL... he never learned the Chow offence !!! This guy can`t spell quarterback...?

By: producer2 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

and you can't spell offense

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'll bet he can spell "offense" unlike you, what a joke! Now who is the stupid one?

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Great minds think alike, producer!

By: junebugfan on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Always a good idea to use some sort of spell check when criticizing someone else's spelling. Just a thought...