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New Titans head coach Brian Callahan 'can't wait to work with' quarterback Will Levis

After closing the book on the Mike Vrabel era by surprisingly firing the coach earlier in January, the Titans have hired his replacement.

Now that the process is complete, Tennessee's goal is clear: Pair quarterback Will Levis with a coach who can lead him to success. Brian Callahan arrives as the man with proof he's capable of doing just that.

"I really enjoyed getting to know him and I can't wait to get to work with him," Callahan said of Levis during the coach's introductory news conference Thursday. "He's got a lot of really special, physical talents that I'm excited to see what we can make better. Everything about him so far has been fantastic and I'm excited to get further down into it."

Callahan earned the job in part because of the work he accomplished with Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. Callahan spent the last five years serving as offensive coordinator under Zac Taylor, directing Burrow through the first four years of a career that has seen the quarterback earn AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year in Cincinnati's AFC title-winning 2021 season, and garner NFL MVP votes in 2022.

Taylor calls the plays in Cincinnati, but Callahan played an important role in developing and implementing the Bengals' scheme. Now, the Titans hope he can replicate that success with Levis and an offense in need of reinforcements. Fittingly, Callahan said Thursday he will call plays for the offense in 2024, taking a hands-on approach in his first head-coaching gig.

"Not a big one at all," Callahan said when asked if the transition from OC in Cincinnati to head coach in Tennessee would be significant. "The way we worked in Cincinnati it was very collaborative. I've been with Zac for five years working with him as the primary play-caller and me as the offensive coordinator. I feel really great about the process."

After going 6-11 in 2023, Tennessee decided it was time for a fresh start, intentionally departing from a defensive-minded coach (Vrabel) in favor of one with an offensive background. The hope is such a shift can improve Tennessee's lackluster offense, which finished 18th in total yards per game and 17th in points per game.

If the Titans intend to build around Levis, now was also the time to pair him with a coach who can help him develop. There's no guarantee Levis will become a franchise quarterback, but he showed enough flashes of potential to make Tennessee feel better about its outlook entering 2024 than it likely would have if Ryan Tannehill remained the only option.

Still, this turnaround will be about more than just coach and quarterback. Tennessee signed DeAndre Hopkins in 2023 with the hopes he'd be able to provide some much-needed help in the passing game, and while he broke 1,000 receiving yards in 17 games, it became painfully obvious he wouldn't be able to patch every crack on his own.

He's still on the roster entering 2024, but the Titans need more help. It will be up to Callahan and general manager Ran Carthon to improve this roster enough to fit the coach's vision and allow him to start on the right foot.

"I think the biggest thing that we want to do is to start is put the players we have in a great position," Callahan said about improving the roster. "Let them be able to find their roles and define what those roles are for them and put them in the matchups that we feel that are to advantage. That's a very broad and general offensive philosophy, but that's sort of the starting point.

"We want to be great detailed in the passing game. Route definition, route spacing and complete balls at a high percentage. That's always going to be the goal. The run game, we still want to be physical – don't get that part twisted. That's part of the Titans' identity for a long time and will continue to be. We'll be a physical football team and we'll be able to run the ball the way we need to win football games. That's probably the best way without going too far in the weeds."

The goal of establishing a physical running game might be tougher to achieve without Derrick Henry, who said his goodbyes to Tennessee at the end of 2023 and isn't expected to return in 2024. Replacing him is just one example of the many bullets Carthon and Callahan will need to cross off their list in 2024.

The good news: The pressure on Callahan to deliver will be low in his first season. Folks likely understand this rebuild won't happen overnight, but if Levis can take another step or two forward under Callahan, they'll be in a much better situation.

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