Titans prioritize development of Will Levis, offense in hiring Brian Callahan

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The Tennessee Titans’ offense was a disaster this past season, accentuated by one of the worst pass-protecting offensive lines in football. It’s been a unit in regression for three straight years, since Arthur Smith’s departure as offensive coordinator. It played a role in Mike Vrabel’s stunning firing after six seasons earlier this month. 

There’s hope for the future, though. Will Levis, a second-round draft pick last spring, flashed as the team’s long-term quarterback in an abbreviated rookie season. 

Now, Tennessee has the guy who appears best positioned to develop him properly. 

The Titans are reportedly finalizing a deal with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to be the team’s next coach. It’s clear Tennessee didn’t want to waste any time after bringing in the 39-year-old assistant for an in-person interview Monday. He reportedly had second interviews scheduled with other interested teams this week. 

Of the offensive-minded candidates the Titans interviewed in their coaching search — Giants’ Mike Kafka, Panthers’ Thomas Brown, Texans’ Bobby Slowik, Eagles’ Brian Johnson, former Stanford coach David Shaw were the others — none have the quarterback resume that Callahan has. He’d been in Cincinnati since Day 1 with Joe Burrow, helping to develop him into a franchise quarterback. He was a Broncos’ offensive assistant during Peyton Manning’s last three seasons in the NFL. He was Matthew Stafford’s position coach for two years in Detroit (2016-17). He was Derek Carr’s position coach with the Raiders, too (2018). 

But his most impressive feat of quarterback development might have been this past season, when Burrow missed seven games due to injury. Callahan played an integral role in positioning Jake Browning for success in the year of the backup quarterback. A 2019 undrafted free agent who hadn’t played a regular-season game before 2023, Browning led qualified passers with a 70.4 percent completion rate for 1,936 yards and 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions in nine appearances, including seven starts. The Bengals nearly qualified for the playoffs with Browning. 

That’s the kind of teacher the Titans are getting for Levis in Callahan. 

Of course, this hire is about much more than just Levis. He’ll need to lead the offense as a whole. He’ll need to lead the entire football team. To command the locker room. To be the kind of collaborator that controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk has mentioned repeatedly in statements. 

His role with the Bengals suggests that he could fit the mold. As a non-play calling offensive coordinator for Cincinnati — coach Zac Taylor called the shots — he was a leader in constructing the offensive game plan, playbook and adjustments. 

And as coach, he could bring a big name in to help the offensive line, the Titans’ most glaring weakness. His father, former NFL head coach Bill Callahan, has been coaching the Browns’ O-line for the last four seasons. Cleveland for years has boasted one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.

On paper, the younger Callahan’s hiring looks like a win for Tennessee. 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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