I got the chance to sit down with Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator, Mike Heimerdinger, after Thursday's practice.
Heimerdinger enters his third season as "O" Coordinator for the second go-around with the Titans. He served on the staff as OC between 2000-2004.
The two stops in between Tennessee were, New York Jets in 2005 and Denver Broncos in '06 and '07.
While on his watch, the Titans offense has produced an NFL Co-MVP quarterback in Steve McNair (2003) and last years Offensive Player of the Year in running back Chris Johnson.
TitanInsider: How different has this time around been from the first, with the Titans?
Mike Heimerdinger: There hasn't been much difference with the daily work, I know Jeff's schedule and what he wants. The first year back was a little bit different because it was a new group of guys that we had to teach how we wanted things done. I think they have a pretty good feel how we want things done now and it has all melted together. (Laughter)
TitanInsider: Did you cringe when your star running back professed to the world he wanted to rush for 2,500 yards this season?
Mike Heimerdinger: No, because I think everybody sets goals, and if that's what his goal is. Last year he said he was going to run for 2,000 and I thought he was on drugs when he said that but he proved it. Now, 2,500 is a pretty high standard but that doesn't put any pressure on me, it's all on CJ. (As he chuckles)
TitanInsider: When you hear people say that the offense is going to have to open up more with the passing game to help out the running game for CJ, do you agree?
Mike Heimerdinger: I think we are. First of all, I don't agree with that and secondly I haven't heard anyone say that because I don't listen to shows or read anything when the season starts but I'm sure those are the comments. I've always been a guy whatever it takes to do to win, I don't care if we got one more point and only 100 yards as long as we win. I would have to laugh at that, like last week, we had 52 plays and I called 32 passes. We're never going to be the "greatest show on turf", I'm never going to throw it 52 times. That's not what Jeff believes in or how we're built but 32 to 52 ratio is still pretty strong for calling passes. The only reason he didn't have 100-yards is, Ringer was in for that long run instead of him. We were resting him and I happened to call that play. We didn't stay on the field and covert third downs in the second-half, we had five and we were 0-5 and that was the difference in the game.
TitanInsider: Speaking of Javon Ringer, why has he had success in a limited role?
Mike Heimerdinger: I think he hits the hole good and his vision is good. One of the things that Javon does a great job of when he runs, he creates holes. He hits it so hard that he makes the defense flow and they gotta go, and he gets his cut-back lanes or stays in it. He's also a surprise at how fast he is, I don't think people realize he has that quickness.
TitanInsider: Things really came together in year five for Steve McNair's career, this is Vince Young's fifth year, where is he right now in his progression at quarterback?
Mike Heimerdinger: I think you're talking about two completely different people. Steve came out of college throwing the ball 75 times a game (laughing), and there wasn't much Steve hadn't seen, Vince didn't do that in college. I had to get Steve to throw the ball downfield. He was taught don't take any chances, and it's not hard to get a quarterback to throw the ball downfield. Vince has had two changes in his career with coordinators. I've asked him to different things than Norm (Chow) probably did. I know people say it's the fifth year all the time but you have to remember he missed a year. He and I have only been together 14 games now, it's not even two years. Part of calling plays, is getting the feel of what your quarterback likes in what situations and what he likes to do in crucial situations. Last year was like a feel-out thing for us, because we didn't do anything the year before when everything fell apart. He's still growing, his background is nothing close to what Steve had coming into this league. Steve technique wise had done it, when you're throwing 60 times every game and Vince's growth has had some roadblocks.
TitanInsider: I realize Kenny Britt may start this week, but what will it take for him to see more action every week?
Mike Heimerdinger: I think Kenny has had three good weeks of practice. But up until that time, I thought he needed to practice better and not have as many missed assignments. After Oakland everybody told me he didn't have a good game because he didn't have a catch, but in that game plan we didn't throw left. Our reads weren't going to No.21 [Nnamdi Asomugha]. We did what everybody else in the league does and not throw at that guy, and that's where Kenny got stuck a few times on the left. But he played a pretty good game, he had two big blocks for CJ on runs that were a big difference. He actually played pretty good, sometimes people just look at catches. He is going to get his chance to play consistent now and we'll see what he does, and if does good then he'll get more playing time. Up until this point, it was more about what he did in practice.
TitanInsider: Jared Cook has had flashes, what does he need to show you that he's getting better?
Mike Heimerdinger: Cookie is in a tough situation. Last week I got him on the field because Denver was going to play us in a lot of man-to-man, and he gave us good matchups against the strong safety. Actually, half way through the game, they switched to three-deep zone because he was a tough matchup for them. I still don't know if Cook is the guy in blocking at the line of scrimmage, but he's going to rotate in there and he'll be there. We have a package for Cook every week. I had one against the Raiders because they never play zone, and they switched to zone. I had Cookie out there, but four times he was matched up against No. 21. I don't want a receiver matched up against that guy, I sure don't want Cookie matched up against him. A little of it depends on our matchups. We have a package for him every week, it just depends on what the defense gives us.
TitanInsider: Do you still have aspirations to be a head coach in this league?
Mike Heimerdinger: Yeah, I would like to have that opportunity and that chance to see what I could do. When I got in this league that was always my goal to be a head coach. Shoot, they may say I'm too old now. I'm not sure what it takes anymore. One year there were ten openings and we were in the AFC Chamionship game and I had the MVP and couldn't get an interview. The next year we didn't win a lot of games and there were ten openings and they said you weren't winning. So, you have to be in the right spot and the right situation and hopefully that happens and if doesn't I still have a good job.