Historic Run of Continuity Ends as Tennessee Titans Hire Cincinnati Bengals OC Brian Callahan

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan is leaving to become the head coach of the Tennessee Titans. Who will replace him?

CINCINNATI — The Tennessee Titans are hiring Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to be their head coach, a team source has confirmed.

The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero was first to report the hiring.

The move ends the Bengals’ run as the team with the most continuity in the top spots on the staff, with head coach Zac Taylor, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, and Callahan all having been together in Cincinnati since 2019. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons has been with the Bengals since 2003.

Titans Hire Bengals Offensive Coordinator Brian Callahan

Callahan interviewed with the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals last year. However, he was an especially hot candidate this offseason, doing virtual interviews with the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers, and Carolina Panthers in addition to the Titans.

The Panthers and Falcons had scheduled in-person interviews with Callahan this week, but the Titans moved quickly to make the 39-year-old Callahan the 17th head coach in franchise history. Callahan replaces Mike Vrabel, who coached Tennessee for six seasons but was fired after back-to-back losing campaigns.

One of the reasons Callahan was such a popular target this offseason was the job he did with backup quarterback Jake Browning after starter Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 10.

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Browning, whose NFL experience before Burrow’s injury consisted of three snaps in mop-up duty in the season-opening loss at Cleveland, went 4-3 as a starter and kept the Bengals in the playoff race until Week 17.

Browning and Taylor leaned into a more run-centric offense, playing to Browning’s strengths with a lot of naked bootlegs and screens. Browning went 3-1 in his first four starts while putting up historic numbers for a quarterback making such starts.

Callahan, who was the quarterbacks coach for then-Oakland Raiders (2018) and Detroit Lions (2016-17) and was an offensive assistant with the Denver Broncos (2010-15) before joining Taylor in Cincinnati, also played a large role in the development of Burrow after the Bengals selected him with the first pick in 2020.

Asked about Callahan’s role in Burrow’s ascent, Taylor said his offensive coordinator’s value went far beyond that.

“Not only Joe, but our entire offense,” Taylor said earlier this month. “He has helped develop every position we have. He’s invaluable. There’s really not enough things I can say about him. If someone just followed us for a week, they would be, ‘Oh, no wonder everyone is so high on Brian.’ So it’s just a matter of opportunity and getting to talk to the right people. I have no doubt he’ll be successful.”

Beyond his own merits, Callahan is expected to add the best offensive line coach in the league to his staff, his father, Bill Callahan. Bill currently works for the Cleveland Browns, but it’s hard to imagine that team — already in the middle of offensive staff changes — denying him a chance to work with his son in Nashville.

For the Bengals, the succession plan has long been in place. They didn’t expect to get this far down the road without losing one of their coordinators, or both, after both became attractive candidates following the run to Super Bowl LVI in 2021.

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Quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher is expected to step into the offensive coordinator position if he doesn’t land a new opportunity. Pitcher has interviewed with the Saints for their offensive coordinator position, which would involve calling plays.

He also has interviews lined up for play-calling offensive coordinator positions with the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders.

In Cincinnati, Pitcher would be in the same role as Callahan, coordinating the offensive but not calling plays.

It’s worth noting that Pitcher is one of the few holdovers from the Marvin Lewis era coaching staff. Lewis gave Pitcher his start in NFL coaching in 2017, hiring him away from the Indianapolis Colts personnel department. And with Lewis reportedly set to join Antonio Pierce’s staff in Las Vegas, that’s a connection to watch.

If Pitcher were to land a play-calling job elsewhere, the Bengals likely would promote wide receivers coach Troy Walters to offensive coordinator.

Cincinnati and Tennessee have played each of the last four seasons, including the Divisional Round road upset of the No. 1 seed in the 2021 playoffs. They will meet again in Nashville in 2024.

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