Tennessee Titans players are confident that Mike Munchak’s decision to change offensive coordinators will make a difference — and soon.
“I think everybody will notice a difference come Sunday,” rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright said. “So they’ll just have to wait and see.”
The offense faces a significant challenge in the first game after Dowell Loggains replaced Chris Palmer.
The Houston Texans have the best record in the NFL and their defense is sixth in yards allowed, fifth in points allowed and third in first downs allowed. Their opponents have converted just 29 percent of their third-down opportunities, the lowest percentage in the league.
The first time the teams met this season, back on Sept. 30, starting quarterback Jake Locker was knocked from the game early with a shoulder injury, and the Titans managed just 167 passing yards in a 38-14 defeat.
“Anytime you have somebody new calling the game or something, it’s probably going to look a little bit different,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “Our focus has to be on what they’ve done in the past. … We have to prepare for what we’ve seen. That’s all you can do as a staff, what they’ve been doing.”
That’s just it. The Titans want to do anything except what they have done through the first 11 games of this season.
The offense ranks in the bottom half of the league in points, passing yards and total yards. Tennessee has scored fewer than 20 points in six of their 11 games and has had a time of possession advantage just three times.
A day after the Titans managed just 19 points against Jacksonville, which has one of the NFL’s worst defenses Munchak fired Palmer. He immediately promoted Loggains, the quarterbacks coach for the past three seasons. Palmer had experience as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL and other professional leagues. Loggains never has called a game at any level.
“I think we’ve been frustrated most of the year with the offense,” Munchak said. “We’ve done some good things, but just haven’t been consistent. It seemed like it started in preseason, and we never really overcame that or really got going like I thought we would or we all thought we would. It’s tough when your expectations are higher because of the talents that you feel you have, and we’re not getting it out of them in the games.
“… We needed to do some things to make this thing different or at least give a different perspective on how to attack a team.”
No one spoke specifically about the differences following Wednesday’s workout, the first with Loggains in charge, but it was clear the move was about philosophy at least as much, if not more than personality.
While players admitted a certain amount of surprise at the switch they also seemed optimistic about what is to come over the remaining five games of this season. Tight end Jared Cook, for example, could not hide his delight when asked about alterations to the offensive that already have been made.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Cook said. “There were a lot of great areas, kind of sort of. So it’s just been a little bit cleaned up.”
Palmer’s approach was to feature the pass first and then rely on the run game to use up time as needed. He said often that he wanted to “throw to score and run to win.”
Last season, his first on the job, the Titans threw the ball 584 times, more than 100 more than the previous season and 131 more than the last time the franchise made the playoffs (2008). This season it was on pace for a similar number.
“Coach Palmer was more of the run-and-shoot, there were a lot of different options,” Locker said. “That’s not as much a part of what Coach Loggains does offensively. But you can’t go in and change everything with a week’s time to get ready for an NFL football game.”
Of course, what need to change most are the results. Tennessee is 4-7 and almost certain to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“There was something that wasn’t working and at the end of the day we’re the ones out on the filed playing, executing,” Locker said. “It’s up to us to make whatever play is called work. We weren’t able to find ways to do that this year.
“No matter who’s calling plays that has to be a focus for us.”