Titans embracing non-NFL thinking with new coaching staff

New Titans defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs was previously at Ohio State, where he coached alongside Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel. Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mike Vrabel has spent his first month as Tennessee Titans head coach preaching that players are more important than scheme, so it should come as no surprise that the Titans are wide open in what they will be known for in 2018.

The Titans clearly sought out youth, creativity and flexibility to fill Vrabel's first coaching staff. It's quite different from the 2016 and 2017 Titans, which were led by an extremely experienced, though often stubborn, coaching staff.

Experience questions remain, but the Titans hope the different perspectives from coaches who have excelled at the collegiate and non-NFL professional levels will help with bringing new ideas and comfort to a talented team. Innovation and new-age thinking could come in handy, particularly when it relates to quarterback Marcus Mariota.

"We're trying to figure out what guys can do," offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said. "If there's something we stumble upon from a college system drawing back on Marcus' background and some of these other guys' background, then we'll implement that stuff."

The newly finalized Titans coaching staff has six assistant coaches who have never coached in the NFL, including defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs and running backs coach Tony Dews.

There are another five coaches, including Vrabel and offensive line coach Keith Carter, that began their coaching career at the high school or collegiate level and have five years or less of NFL experience.

A 12th, quarterbacks coach Pat O'Hara, spent the majority of his coaching career in the Arena Football League before spending the last three seasons with the Texans.

"The right experience is important. I don't think that just experience is good," Vrabel said shortly after he was introduced as the Titans head coach. "The guys that have been coaching two or three years could be just as good as a coach that has been coaching 30 years. I want the right guys who have been through some battles that are loyal. So maybe those guys have been around 30 years, some of those guys are young coaches that you have faith in that you want to develop and have a part of your staff."

It's yet to be seen whether this will be an asset or a liability, but it is a concerted effort to distance the Titans from the style of coaching they received over the last two seasons.

Vrabel has spoke highly of the college game and he seems unafraid to embrace many collegiate templates as he creates his own culture in Tennessee.

"The NFL has the greatest farm system in the world. We pay our farm system coaches $10 million dollars to develop players. Nick Saban is our farm system, Urban Meyer is our farm system," Vrabel said. "You have to try to be creative in what you're doing, you have to cause conflict, it's what these guys are doing. They're taking great athletes and they're putting them in good positions to succeed."

Causing conflict with offensive playmakers will be a common theme for the Titans this offseason, and as Tennessee builds its philosophy don't be surprised if it pulls from some non-NFL thinking.