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New York Jets head coach candidate film review: Titans OC Arthur Smith

Derrick Henry, Arthur Smith
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Sam Crnic digs into the film of Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator and potential New York Jets head coach candidate Arthur Smith.

Adam Gase was never the answer to Sam Darnold’s development as a quarterback. Evidently, he wasn’t the answer to any team or offensive success, either. His tenure with the New York Jets has reached a point of inevitable failure; it’s time to move on.

A point of emphasis that the Jets should look into as they move on from Gase is deciphering what went wrong. As the leader of an offense that put up historically bad numbers from 2019-20, Gase has never proven to be the offensive guru that some claim he is. He barely improved Darnold’s statistical production in 2019 and is now overseeing major regression by the young quarterback in 2020. With Darnold now clearly regressing both mechanically and fundamentally, Gase cannot even claim to be a “quarterback whisperer.”

Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith – whose head coach candidacy was broken down in great detail here by Ben Blessington – is actually deserving of being considered a coach who gets the most out of his quarterback.

Following the lack of improvement Marcus Mariota showcased throughout his first four years, Smith was assigned with the task of fitting Ryan Tannehill into the offensive scheme. A former starting quarterback under the Gase-led Miami Dolphins, Tannehill never took the next step from decent to great while under Gase. While one could partially blame that on his inability to stay healthy, he would take that next step after leaving Gase and entering Smith’s offense in Tennessee.

An innovative play-caller with a wide variety of intriguing formations and motions, Smith can take Darnold and the rest of the Jets’ offense to the next level.

I’ll be digging into some of Arthur’s playcalling and pre-snap motioning in Week 2 and 3, discussing how Smith uses a multitude of formations to help his quarterback see the field easier.


Pre-snap motion to set up the pass

Off the bat, Smith and the Titans attack man-to-man coverage with a fade route. Motioning Adam Humphries (No. 10) to the left side of the field acts as a check for Tannehill. As the defender follows him, Tannehill can further recognize man coverage. Based upon tight end Jonnu Smith‘s (No. 81) unique blend of speed and size, Tannehill takes a shot downfield. In a league that favors the receiver in one-versus-one coverage to a great extent, there’s a high percentage for a defensive pass interference call (DPI) or completion.

Off the snap, Smith stems outside, anticipating dual-hand contact off the press. The defensive back doesn’t even lay a hand on Smith, letting him run right by. While this is a red flag of its own, the previous pre-snap motion leaves the DB alone on the weak side.

Jonnu stacks on top of his defender utilizing his impressive speed, gaining Tannehill’s attention. The DB is clearly grabbing onto Jonnu’s arm, prompting a throw from Ryan to draw the easy DPI. It is a good read from Tannehill to draw the penalty, set up by Arthur putting his quarterback in a high percentage situation with the isolation on the weak side.

Arthur helps his quarterback identify the defense in the red zone on this play:

When in the red zone, spacing is scarce, and it becomes difficult to find holes in the defense. The Jaguars send out a nickel defense with two linebackers pressing the A-gaps, showing the threat of a blitz. Tannehill has to decide whether this is a zone in which the A-gap defenders drop back or a blitz in which the linebackers rush and the coverage is man-to-man. Arthur Smith does not leave Tannehill to figure this out on his own. He helps the quarterback decipher the defense by motioning Jonnu Smith across the line. With no defender following Smith, Tannehill correctly anticipates the double A-gap defenders to drop back, thus zone coverage.

Off the snap, Tannehill looks Kalif Raymond‘s (No. 14) way on a curl route, using eye manipulation to force Myles Jack (No. 44) away from Smith. Jonnu finds just enough open area for Tannehill to look back his way and throw a strike for a touchdown.

Thanks to the motion, Tannehill was able to identify the defense’s intentions pre-snap, allowing him to form a plan even before he touched the football. Employing motion is a simple way to assist your quarterback. Forward-thinking play-callers like Smith use motion frequently, while poor, behind-the-times play-callers like Gase rarely take advantage of it.

Make life easy for your quarterback. That’s the number one priority for every offensive coach in the modern NFL. Smith excels at it. He shows yet another perfect example of helping out his quarterback on this play:

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