There's an alarming trend Brian Callahan will have to avoid to win with Tennessee Titans

The 21st century has not been kind to men making the transition from the MVP-caliber quarterback right-hand man to head coach.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees played for 19 offensive coordinators. Eight of those coordinators went on to become head coaches — and combined to lose 82 more games than they won during 34 full or partial seasons in charge.

More recently, no team looking for a head coach has dared to hire a coordinator who worked with Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson, and former Josh Allen coordinator Brian Daboll has a losing record through two seasons with the Giants.

The most recent coach who successfully transitioned from assisting an MVP-caliber quarterback into being a head coach was Andy Reid — in 1999.

Tennessee Titans coach Brian Callahan, fresh off a four-year stint coaching superstar quarterback Joe Burrow, has thought about this.

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"I had enough experiences with good players that I realized that they all operate differently," Callahan told The Tennessean. "That’s probably one of the reasons why I think we were able to build around Joe is that we were able to let Joe be Joe and gave him the things he was good at. He’s not going to be Peyton when it comes to the theatrics. It’s just not him. But I think you can get stuck in that mode trying to make somebody something that they’re not.

"I can see how that could happen pretty quickly where, if you’ve been with Tom Brady for 20 years, you try to find Tom. Well, there’s only one of Tom."

Quarterbacks: Found, not made

That disconnect Callahan's talking about — that fundamental mistake a coach can make when he tries to treat every quarterback he coaches like the Hall of Famer he used to know — former Brees coordinator and Miami Dolphins coach Cam Cameron calls that "the trap."

"Sometimes we as coaches can fall into the trap of thinking that we 'made' that quarterback," Cameron told The Tennessean. "I don’t think I ever felt that way. But it’s a trap you can fall into. And then when you get a head coaching job, you just think, ‘OK, good, I’ll just make another quarterback.’ That ain’t the case."

Sure, some coaches are better at "making" quarterbacks than others. But star-making is an entirely different conversation. Reid, for example, coached Donovan McNabb and Alex Smith to nine Pro Bowls and 11 playoff appearances. But Mahomes' transcendence is something else entirely.

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Reid isn't a different coach with Mahomes. Mahomes is just the best quarterback he has ever coached. And now they've got a dynasty on their hands.

It's hard not to look at Callahan's time with Burrow through a similar lens. In Callahan's five years in Cincinnati, the Bengals posted a 34-24-1 record (counting playoffs) when Burrow started, and an 8-22 record when he didn't. Burrow obviously isn't the only reason the Bengals went from worst-to-first in the AFC so quickly, but it would be naive to ignore just how good he is.

"Outside of maybe one guy, you could argue Joe’s as good as any quarterback in football," Callahan told The Tennessean. "And that’s OK. That’s a good thing. It didn’t bother me one bit. We had a really good quarterback. And I had no stress about that. Because ultimately opportunities come from success. If we have success, these opportunities are going to come for everybody involved."

How Brian Callahan plans to avoid 'the trap'

Burrow wasn't the first great quarterback Callahan coached. He worked with Manning as an offensive assistant in Denver and with Matthew Stafford as Detroit's quarterbacks coach. Early on in his time with Detroit, Callahan says he learned the most valuable lesson of his coaching career.

No two quarterbacks are stars for the same reason.

"Matthew was never going to be Peyton," Callahan said. "Matthew was Matthew, and Matthew was plenty good enough. I learned a lot about trying to make somebody play in a manner that wasn’t really who they are. I think what can happen, because I saw how it can happen, is you spend all these years with one particular guy, and you think, 'Everything needs to be like that.’ The answer is, it doesn’t."

Had Callahan jumped straight from working with Manning to being Burrow's offensive coordinator, he says he might've fallen into the trap. When it comes to traits like processing, accuracy and positional awareness, Callahan says he sees Burrow as being as similar to Manning as possible. But their personalities are totally opposite. So Callahan treated Burrow as his own person. Just as he had with Stafford and in his one year with Derek Carr in Oakland.

Now the process repeats itself. Titans quarterback Will Levis told The Tennessean he sees similarities between himself and Burrow. They move in the pocket a similar way. They use different arm angles and throw from different platforms similarly, too.

But Callahan isn't going to treat Levis like he's Burrow. Or Manning. Or anyone else other than Levis. The plan is to identify Levis' strengths, build a roster around them and win because of those talents, whether they're as impressive as Burrow's or not.

"It forces you to look at things differently from a schematic perspective," Callahan says about not having a star quarterback. "It’s not always just, ‘We’re going to line up and win because we’re better.’ It challenges coaches to do different things. You see people be a little bit more creative in their approach and how they deploy their roster when you don’t have that Hall of Fame-caliber player."

Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at Follow Nick on X, the platform formerly called Twitter, @nicksuss.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: How Tennessee Titans coach Brian Callahan can avoid coordinator 'trap'