Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has quickly earned the respect of peers around the league for his shrewd work in his first season calling plays, coming from relatively anonymity to do so. However, his rise has not surprised the Tennessee organization.
Smith was a well-regarded and well-liked assistant coach on Mike Vrabel's staff and, sources said, could have ended up calling plays on offense this season even if Matt LaFleur had remained on staff. LaFleur has enjoyed a masterful rookie season as head coach in Green Bay, with the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, but it was far from certain that he would have remained the Titans offensive coordinator had he not won out in Green Bay.
The Titans' offense bogged down in 2018 and was overly reliant on the running game at a time that has been a passing explosion in the NFL. The organization was at a crossroads with former second-overall pick Marcus Mariota as well, realizing true competition was required for him in 2019 if the downfield attack was going to evolve.
Smith was quickly promoted after LaFleur was named Packers head coach, but many in that organization, and others close to that situation around the league, believe Smith would have ended up calling plays for likely Comeback Player of the Year Ryan Tannehill anyway. Smith opened eyes with his diligence coaching the teams tight ends from 2015-18, becoming a bigger part of game-planning and conceptual discussions about the scope of the offense.