Titans promote Kelly to coordinator, hire 1st female coach
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By TERESA M. WALKER
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel says he looked at a lot of candidates in shaking up his coaching staff.
Staying in-house and promoting Tim Kelly from passing game coordinator to offensive coordinator after one season as the "right fit."
And Vrabel did hire one of those who interviewed for that coordinator job in Charles London, now Tennessee's new pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, in a flurry of moves announced Tuesday.
"What Tim ultimately was able to do was be able to provide some familiarity and some carryover to what we were doing because I don't think everything's broken," Vrabel said. "I don't. I don't believe that. ... I've seen him call games in this league against us, felt like he has a great feel for the game."
Kelly replaces Todd Downing, who was fired after two seasons. Before joining the Titans for the 2022 season, Kelly worked with the Houston Texans between 2014 and 2021 with the last three seasons as offensive coordinator.
The Titans ranked 28th in scoring an average of 17.5 points a game despite ranking sixth once Tennessee got inside an opponent's 20.
The Titans ranked 30th in passing with Ryan Tannehill missing five games and ending the season on injured reserve.
Whether the Titans keep Tannehill, who has a year left on his deal and turns 35 this July, is just one of the upcoming decisions to be made.
Vrabel said Tannehill is in the building every day and is "excited about where things are headed."
"Other than that, I don't know what to tell you," Vrabel said. "We've got to get ready here to add a lot of pieces and find ways to do that."
An offensive assistant for quality control under then-Titans coach Mike Munchak in 2011, London worked with Kelly in Houston coaching running backs between 2014 and 2017.
He coached running backs in Chicago before spending the past two seasons coaching Atlanta quarterbacks for former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. The Titans had their best offensive production in 2020 in Smith's last season as coordinator.
London also interviewed last month for Washington's offensive coordinator vacancy.
"Some of this stuff is going to be consistent, but there will be a lot that will force us all to learn and to grow," Vrabel said.
The Titans hired former NFL player Chris Harris as their new defensive passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach among their moves announced Tuesday.
Vrabel also has hired the franchise's first full-time female coaching assistant, adding Lori Locust as defensive quality control coach from Tampa Bay along with Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech's defensive coordinator the past two seasons, in the same position.
Locust joins scout Mical Johnson, the team's first full-time female scout hired in June 2021.
Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk also hired the franchise's first Black general manager last month in Ran Carthon.
Vrabel said he thought Locust's knowledge was excellent and enjoyed their meetings at last week's Senior Bowl. Locust primarily will work with Ryan Crow coaching outside linebackers.
"She's done it," Vrabel said. "She's got experience in this league and excited to be able to bring (her) on. They ran great defenses in Tampa."
Locust spent the past four seasons as assistant defensive line coach for Tampa Bay, including the Buccaneers' Super Bowl victory in the 2020 season. She was an assistant defensive line coach in the Alliance of American Football and a coaching intern with the Baltimore Ravens during their 2018 training camp.
Tony Dews is switching from coaching running backs and two-time NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry to tight ends, while Luke Steckel moves from coaching tight ends to the Titans' new run game analyst. Quarterbacks coach Pat O'Hara now is the passing game analyst.
Jason Houghtaling takes over as offensive line coach. Tennessee still must hire a running backs coach.
Harris played eight seasons in the NFL and has spent the past nine as a coach. He spent the past three seasons coaching Washington's defensive backs. He also has coached with the Chargers and started as a coach in 2013 with Chicago where Harris started his NFL career in 2005.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker
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Updated February 7, 2023