The Super Bowl matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles is set, and the Tennessee Titans still don't have an offensive coordinator. Those two facts may not be mutually exclusive.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel has been searching for an offensive coordinator since firing Todd Downing on Jan. 9. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Chiefs quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy are two candidates the Titans have been connected with in the search process, and the Titans will have to wait until after the Super Bowl to get significant face time with them.
The Titans' offensive coordinator search is in its fourth week and will go at least six if Vrabel waits to talk to Bieniemy and Nagy, per NFL rules. Let's examine why that makes sense, why waiting this long to make hires is so hard and what happens if the Titans wait but fail to reel in a Chiefs assistant.
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Why the Titans are waiting for Eric Bieniemy
The Chiefs have led the NFL in scoring and yardage this season. Having Patrick Mahomes at quarterback is a big reason why, but the Chiefs' offensive philosophy isn't as simple as "just let Mahomes run around." The way the offense adapted this year without deep threat Tyreek Hill to become the league's best yards-after-catch team has been impressive, and it's proof the league's best aren't content to simply rely on what worked in the past.
Bieniemy's adaptability, experience and years soaking up information from Chiefs coach Andy Reid has earned him numerous head coaching interviews, but he's never landed one, in part because Reid is the Chiefs' play-caller. The Titans have a history of hiring offensive coordinators away from teams with play-calling gurus at head coach and turning them into head coaches, as was the case when Vrabel hired Matt LaFleur away from the Rams in 2018 and turned him into the Green Bay Packers' head coach by 2019.
Why this might not work out
The timing of the NFL hiring cycle makes it difficult but not impossible for teams to hire prospective head coaches and coordinators away from teams that made the Super Bowl.
In the last 10 seasons, there have been 77 NFL head coaching changes, counting current vacancies. Only seven of the men hired for those vacancies were coordinators on teams that made the Super Bowl directly before being hired. In that same timeframe, just eight Super Bowl position coaches left their teams for offensive, defensive or special teams coordinator jobs. Two of those eight followed coworkers who'd received head coaching gigs, leaving just six assistants who departed a conference champion staff to coordinate a different team since 2013.
NFL teams are competitive, and waiting around for one or two candidates is difficult when other teams are hiring more available candidates while you wait. Hiring the ideal coordinator is the goal, but not having any good options to turn to if the ideal candidate says no is an awful situation to consider.
What happens if waiting doesn't work out?
There are still 10 offensive coordinator vacancies across the league. Some of those teams, particularly the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Commanders, are expected to make a run at Bieniemy. The Titans are the only team connected to Nagy.
The Chiefs staff isn't the only place the Titans can pull candidates from. They've shown interest in internal candidate Tim Kelly and external candidates like Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London. But they could've hired those coaches any time since Jan. 10.
The fact they haven't means they're waiting for something. So are nearly a dozen other teams. Competition will be stiff, and the Titans' question marks at quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver make the job less attractive than coaching the Dallas Cowboys or Baltimore Ravens, let alone the Chiefs.
Realistically, the Titans will need a perfect sales pitch to reel in Bieniemy and the move still might not make sense for him. Nagy might be easier to poach from Kansas City, but he also comes with the stain of being a retread.
Still, the only harm in waiting is if candidates like Kelly or London get hired this week and the Titans get shot down by Chiefs assistants. Since that seems unlikely, waiting until after the Super Bowl for a chance at making a home run hire feels like the best decision.
Nick Suss is the Titans beat writer for The Tennessean. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.
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