Where will Arthur Smith fit among coaches who call offensive plays?

Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith (left) watches as wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (19) runs a drill during an organized team activity  Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at the Titans' training facility in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith (left) watches as wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (19) runs a drill during an organized team activity Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at the Titans' training facility in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

This season, Arthur Smith will be one of 13 NFL coaches who will call offensive plays.

This sometimes can become a trouble spot for successful offensive coordinators who now tasked with overseeing entire teams. Instead of focusing on the game plan and play-calling, much more responsibility is added, which takes up even more time throughout the day.

A great example of this transition failing is Adam Gase, who successfully called plays as an offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos (2013-14) and Chicago Bears (2015). He did not fare well as the coach of both the Miami Dolphins (2016-18) and New York Jets (2019-20), compiling a combined 32-48 record with one playoff trip in five years.

Although Gase didn’t work out as a play-calling head coach, there have been others who successfully weaved play-calling and team management. Smith is banking on being a part of this particular class of coaches as opposed to those who failed at intertwining the two.

“My No. 1 job is to be the head coach of the team, so that’s all three phases and every player on the roster,” Smith said. “It’s my job to make sure I coach an entire team. I understand, for example, we talk about history and some there that have done really well and some that haven’t. Again, I understand what my job is, and my job is to coach the entire team and also do that to call plays. And there’s precedent there that it’s been done at a high level.

“I’m very confident if you hire the right people, it will be a collaborative effort, and my job, like I said, I will coach the entire team.”

Smith and Eagles coach Nick Sirianni are the new additions to the group who will coach the entire team and call offensive plays. Of the other 11, there are a few examples of coaches who have thrived.

Tier 1

Andy Reid, Chiefs: Since arriving in Kansas City, there probably hasn’t been any coach better at calling offensive plays. The Chiefs have finished no worse than second in the AFC West and have reached the playoffs in seven of Reid’s eight seasons. Kansas City won Super Bowl LIV and reached Super Bowl LV. The Chiefs have finished in the top six in total offense in each of the past four seasons, ranking first in 2018 and 2020.

Sean Payton, Saints: Payton long has been able to manage play-calling and team management. The Saints have won the NFC South for the past four seasons, with the franchise winning Super Bowl XLIV at the conclusion of the 2009 season. New Orleans ranked second (2017), eighth (2018), ninth (2019) and 12th (2020) in total offense over the past four season.

Tier 2

Sean McVay, Rams: McVay is labeled a wunderkind for being a 35-year-old coach who already has a Super Bowl trip to his name. In 2018, McVay’s offense rarely was stopped until a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. The Rams finished 11th in total offense in 2020, although McVay wanted a new quarterback and traded Jared Goff and two first-round picks for Matthew Stafford.

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers: The former Falcons offensive coordinator is 29-35, with only one winning season in four years. However, that 2019 season culminated with a trip to Super Bowl LIV, which ended in a loss to the Chiefs. Shanahan is known for his precise rushing attack and the play-action built off of it. Numerous injuries set his team back in 2020.

Matt LaFleur, Packers: When he was hired, LaFleur only had one year of play-calling experience as the Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator. Even so, he’s made doubters look silly with a 26-6 overall record in two seasons with consecutive trips to the NFC Championship game. However, LaFleur probably wants back his decision to kick a field goal late against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this year’s conference title game.

Tier 3

Kevin Stefanski, Browns: Stefanski was named the AP’s Coach of the Year in the 2020 season after guiding the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002. Cleveland finished 16th in total offense but relied heavily on its third-rated run game, which averaged 148.4 rushing yards per game.

Frank Reich, Colts: Reich has put the Colts in the playoffs twice in his three seasons with the franchise, each time as a wild-card team. Reich was forced to adjust quickly when quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly announced his retirement during the 2019 preseason. With Philip Rivers at quarterback in 2020, the Colts offense ranked 10th with an average of 378.1 total yards per game.

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden: Gruden’s Raiders appeared poised for a playoff run in 2020 when they were 6-3 after nine games. Then they collapsed, going 2-5 the rest of the way. Still, Gruden’s offense ranked eighth with an average of 383.3 yards and 10th with 27.1 points per game.

Tier 4

Matt Nagy, Bears: Is it the coach or the quarterback? The Bears’ offense has struggled, although a lot of that has been blamed on Mitchell Trubisky failing to live up to being the second overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft. Although Nagy’s offense has never registered in the top half of the league, he has taken the Bears to two playoff trips in three years. Nagy gave up play-calling duties at least at one point in mid-November.

Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals: In two seasons, Kingsbury is 13-18-1, which included a 2020 season that saw his team get out to a 6-3 start. Arizona posted the NFL’s sixth-ranked offense at 384.6 yards per game but struggled with consistency en route to five losses over its final seven games. While his offense put up numbers, Kingsbury has been criticized for game-management decisions.

Zac Taylor, Bengals: To be fair, Taylor inherited a mess in 2019. But after two seasons, Taylor is 6-25-1. In 2019, Taylor’s offense finished 26th at 323.1 yards per game. This number fell in 2020 to 29th at 319.8 yards per game, albeit with quarterback Joe Burrow tearing his ACL in late November. Very little has gone well yet in Taylor’s coaching stint.

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