NASHVILLE — Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel has made several adjustments to his staff, with most of the moves and promotions announced Friday utilizing assistants already within the organization.
Vrabel has moved Todd Downing from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator, and he also named outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen the team's defensive coordinator after Bowen handled the job without the title throughout the 2020 season.
Vrabel also said Luke Steckel will replace Downing in working with the tight ends, with Ryan Crow taking over Bowen's previous duties. Matt Edwards now is assistant for special teams, and the Titans added former Vanderbilt linebackers coach Kenechi Udeze as assistant defensive line coach.
The Titans coach said in a release that he spent the past two weeks evaluating his current staff and talking with others outside the team. In three seasons leading Tennessee, Vrabel is 31-21, including back-to-back playoff appearances.
"Todd did a great job with the tight ends over the last two years and had an important role in the game-planning process each week," Vrabel said. "I was impressed with the details of his teaching and the production from his group and the offense in general."
The 40-year-old Downing replaces Arthur Smith, who was hired as the Atlanta Falcons' head coach earlier this month.
He takes over an offense that ranked second in the NFL during the recently completed regular season by averaging 396.4 yards a game and ranked fourth in scoring at 30.7 points a game. All-Pro running back Derrick Henry became the eighth NFL player to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a career-high 33 touchdown passes as the Titans went 11-5 and won the AFC South for their first division title since the 2008 season. Tennessee lost its wild-card playoff game to the Baltimore Ravens.
"I am sure he will have some new ideas to implement," Vrabel said of Downing, "but the core system will be in place to build upon, which I think is important."
Bowen, 34, handled defensive meetings and in-game play-calling last season after Dean Pees retired. The Titans struggled on that side of the ball as they ranked 28th in total yards allowed per game (398.3), 29th against the pass (277.4 yards per game), 24th in points allowed (27.4 per game) and last on third-down conversions (51.8%).
However, the Titans ranked seventh in the NFL with 23 takeaways, which led to 71 points scored. They had 15 interceptions, which also was seventh in the NFL and the team's most since having 19 picks in 2012. Bowen also has coached outside linebacker Harold Landry, a second-round draft pick in 2018 whose 19 sacks since then rank second in that draft class to the Denver Broncos' Bradley Chubb (20 1/2), who was the No. 5 overall pick.
"We are going to work hard to improve that side of the ball through better coaching, improving our system and our players," Vrabel said. "I like the group we have on the defensive staff, and I am confident that we will improve."
Downing, who has been with the Titans the past two seasons, was offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders in 2017 after spending two seasons as quarterbacks coach with the team and working closely with Derek Carr.
At the time, coach Jack Del Rio chose Downing to run the offense after not renewing Bill Musgrave's contract in the wake of a 12-4 season in 2016, when the Raiders finished seventh in the league in scoring.
The Raiders' offense regressed significantly under Downing despite returning almost all of the key players from the 2016 season, falling to 16th in scoring as Carr posted his worst season outside of his rookie campaign in 2014. Del Rio and the entire staff were fired after that season.
Downing also has worked for the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams.
Steckel has been with the Titans since 2013 as assistant to the head coach. In 2014, he became an offensive assistant, helping with the running backs before moving to tight ends (2016), wide receivers (2017-18, 2020) and quarterbacks (2019). He was assistant to the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 2009 to 2012.
Crow was a defensive assistant, working with the Titans' defensive line and then outside linebackers before becoming assistant special teams coach in 2020. Edwards joined the Titans in 2018 as assistant special teams coach, and he worked with outside linebackers last season as a defensive assistant.
Udeze was at Vanderbilt last season and was a defensive analyst for LSU during the Tigers' national championship season in 2019. He started coaching in 2015 at his college alma mater, Southern California, as an assistant strength and conditioning coach before working the next three seasons on the Trojans' defensive staff.
The 20th overall pick by the Vikings in 2004, Udeze played four seasons in the NFL before leukemia ended his on-field career.