A Closer Look: Arthur Smith
Current job: Offensive coordinator for Tennessee Titans
NFL job log: Smith began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of North Carolina before being named a defensive quality control coach for the Washington Football Team in 2007, a role he held in Washington for two seasons. After another year coaching in college as a defensive assistant and administrative assistant for Ole Miss in 2010, Smith joined the Tennessee Titans organization in 2011 as a quality control coach. He worked his way up the ranks in Tennessee as an offensive quality control coach (2012), offensive line and tight ends assistant (2013), assistant tight ends coach (2014-15), tight ends coach (2016-18) and then being named offensive coordinator in 2019, a role he currently holds.
Specialty: Smith, 38, oversaw an offense that tied for second this season in total yards per game, led by 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry. He helped quarterback Ryan Tannehill become the Comeback Player of the Year a season ago after leading the league with a 117.5 passer rating. Tannehill has become one the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL the last two seasons under Smith, throwing for 33 touchdowns this season with only seven interceptions.
Smith took over as OC when Matt LaFleur left to take the head coach job in Green Bay. It was reported that LaFleur wanted to take Smith with him, but Tennessee blocked the move. Smith is considered one of the bright young offensive minds in the game today, and one of the up-and-coming play callers getting ready to run his own program.
Career highlights: Smith has gotten the most out of Tannehill the last two seasons. In 28 games under Smith, Tannehill has completed better than 67 percent of his passes for 6,561 yards with 55 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Henry has led the league in rushing each of the last two seasons with Smith running the offense.
In his first season as offensive coordinator in 2019, the Titans ranked first in the NFL in red zone efficiency (75.6 percent), third in rushing offense (138.9 yards per game), and fourth in yards per play (6.12). The Titans' percentage in the red zone was the highest since the 2013 Denver Broncos (76.1).
Smith helped the Titans advance to the AFC Championship Game in 2019 for the first time in 17 years.
Quote: "Of course I would have loved to have had him here," LaFleur told paulkuharsky.com in January of 2019. "But I knew there was no way he was going to get out of that building.
"I just have a lot of respect for him. Not only as a football coach, but as a man. I think he is of the highest character. He's a good family man; he loves his wife and kids; he's a fun guy to be around. I think he is exactly what you look for when you are trying to hire people."
Tim Twentyman's take: There's no denying the success Tennessee's offense has had the last two seasons under Smith. Henry is the game's top running back, and Tannehill has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks the last two season under Smith's tutelage. I like that Smith cut his teeth in the coaching ranks both as a defensive and offensive assistant. He knows both sides of the ball.
He certainly has staying power within the Titans organization. He's been through four coaching changes and a change in ownership in his tenure with the Titans. Smith has worked his way up the coaching ranks from quality control roles to now being one of the top young minds in the game. Smith is hoping to follow the path of other young coaches like Sean McVay, LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan to take over a team in their 30's.
Mike O'Hara's take: What stands out immediately on Smith's resume is the results in two seasons as Titans offensive coordinator and eight previous seasons as an assistant coach, mostly working with tight ends. Henry has ripped defenses apart the last two seasons – 1,540 yards rushing in 2019, 2,027 in 2020 -- but that's not a real surprise.
Tannehill's play could not have been expected. He was signed as a backup in 2019 after seven seasons with the Dolphins. Tannehill took over as the starter for the last 10 games of 2019 and played a limited role in the drive to the AFC Championship. He has been an equal partner with Henry in the Titans' rise to AFC South title this season with 33 TD passes, seven interceptions and seven rushing TDs. He has spread the ball around to receivers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis to give the offense balance.