Lions interview Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith for head-coaching job

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Nearing the end of their first round of coaching candidate interviews, the Detroit Lions virtually met with Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith on Tuesday. 

A former offensive lineman at North Carolina, Smith has spent the past decade with the Titans, slowly moving up the ranks while working for four different head coaches. 

Initially starting as a defensive quality control coach in 2011, Smith coached the team’s offensive line and tight ends before getting a shot to coordinate the offense in 2019. He replaced Matt LaFleur in that role after he left to become the Green Bay Packers head coach.

When Smith took over, the Titans were coming off a season where the offense ranked in the bottom-10 in both yardage and points. In two seasons, he’s transformed the unit into one of the league’s best. 

Leaning heavily on star running back Derrick Henry, the Titans finished in the top five in yards, points, red-zone success rate, third-down conversion percentage and turnovers in 2020. 

But it’s not just Henry, who became the eighth running back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Smith also took quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a castoff from Miami, and made him one of the NFL’s most efficient passers.

The 2019 comeback player of the year, Tannehill has completed better than 67% of his passes playing in Smith’s offense the past two seasons, while posting a passer rating of 110.6. The latter figure is the best in the NFL during that stretch, just ahead of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. 

ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who interviewed for the Lions general manager position last month, recently raved about Smith during an interview with Nashville radio station 102.5 The Game.

“Arthur’s on the cutting edge, man,” Riddick said. “He is always looking forward, always gonna be on the cutting edge as far as scheme, strategy, tactics, putting players in the best position to succeed. I know that’s an overused term, but as someone who has known him for a very, very long time, he wholeheartedly believes in that. He wholeheartedly believes in being interested in the overall development of players.

“He’s a very good listener, not just when it comes to talking to players about football, but just talking to players about life,” Riddick continued. “I think he’s someone who his competency and his credibility and the way he has impacted players in a positive way, it’s something that will resonate with other players. because that’s what players want. Players want to be made better, they want you to make them better because that does nothing but benefit them individually, it benefits teams. You can’t miss with Arthur Smith.”

Following the Titans’ recent postseason exit, Smith has been among the most in-demand coaches during this interview cycle. He’s talked to four other teams since Sunday — Jaguars, Falcons, Jets and Chargers. 

Smith is the sixth known candidate to interview for the Lions’ opening along with former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, New Orleans Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell and interim head coach Darrell Bevell

The Lions are also expected to meet with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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