Now's the time to mess up.
Tannehill is preparing to play for his eighth offensive coordinator in 12 NFL seasons. Even though Tim Kelly was promoted from within the organization, as his predecessors Todd Downing and Arthur Smith were before him, veterans like Tannehill have to adjust to new schemes, new play calls and new expectations.
If that sounds tough for Tannehill, just imagine how it feels for younger players experiencing changes like these for the first time.
"We're learning a new offense right now," Tannehill said Wednesday. "That's our number one objective as an offense is to master this offense. Taking advantage of every rep we get. A lot of new stuff, terminology, concepts, blocking schemes, the whole thing. There are a lot of mistakes being made, but they're good mistakes. We're growing from them."
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Players are messing up early in the process of revitalizing the Titans' offense. It's natural. And necesssary.
The Titans scored fifth-fewest points and gained the third-fewest yards in the NFL last season. The response by Kelly, formerly the passing game coordinator, and new assistants like quarterbacks coach Charles London and running backs coach Justin Outten, has been to install a faster, simpler, streamlined attack that gets information to players quicker, gets players on the ball quicker, and allows the play-calling to be less predictable.
Offensive transformations don't click into place automatically. There are missed assignments, dropped snaps, players going the wrong direction. But it's all in service of working the kinks out in May and June during OTAs so by September the scheme is ingrained.
"It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight," Tannehill said. "It’s going to go into training camp as well. So we just want to limit that and shorten that as much as we can. All get on the same page and keep pushing ourselves forward. If we can get through this earlier on having most of our guys here and being able to work through some of these things in the spring, it’s really going to help us in the fall moving forward."
London likens the installation process to an advanced college course load. Instead of starting Tannehill and young quarterbacks Will Levis and Malik Willis at Tim Kelly's Offense 101, he's instructing a 300-level course. London is willing to devote extra time to meetings if his players need more coaching. But he trusts his players to learn.
Last year with the Atlanta Falcons, London helped oversee a transition from 14-year veteran Matt Ryan to free agent signee Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder. He says the big lesson was taking things slow is overrated.
"What I learned really from a rookie quarterback perspective is you’ve got to push the envelope with him," London said. "You’ve got to throw as much information at him and let him grow from there. There’s going to be some struggles and there’ll be some hiccups along the way. But I don’t think you can baby him. I think you’ve got to throw as much at him and see if it sticks each day."
Tannehill says he likes the direction the Titans' offense is taking. He said he's always been a fan of getting to the ball more quickly and finding ways to put more pressure on defenses. He said the new scheme "opens up doors" to do more, while not necessarily shutting the door on some of the areas the Titans' offense thrived in past years.
"Tim’s done a great job of allowing us to try to get in a good place," Tannehill said. "Learn to want to run efficient plays and want to be positive whenever we can. Sometimes defense makes a good call and you get stuck in a bad play, but we want to limit those situations where we’re running a play into a bad look. Some of that’s on the quarterback. Some of that’s on the blocking scheme and the players executing it. But it all works together."
Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at email@example.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans embracing 'good mistakes' to retool offensive plan