TAMPA, Fla. – Shane Bowen is a good coach who deserves a chance to prove himself as defensive coordinator.
At least that's what Titans safety Kevin Byard thinks after learning the news of Bowen's promotion, and hearing the mixed reaction since.
Last week, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel elevated Bowen to defensive coordinator after he led the defense a year ago as outside linebackers coach.
Byard on Wednesday expressed confidence in Bowen, and thinks he deserves a chance.
"At the end of the day, I think Shane is a good coach," Byard said. "And I think it is kind of unfair for a guy to get a promotion to a new job and everybody just pounds on him as if he's a bad coach. I really do think he's a great coach.
"And I think if you look at the situation for us this past year as is relates to our defensive performance, I am real big on accountability. I am not going to be one of those guys, because I didn't have my best year statistically, to say, 'Hey, it's the defensive coordinator's fault, or it's because of this or that. I am always going to look at myself first. And I think when you look at our entire defense as a whole last year, it is everybody's fault we didn't play better. It is not one person's fault. It is not Shane Bowen's fault. It is everybody who had their hand in the pot, from the front seven to the back end to everybody. We all could have done better.
"I think Shane is going to do a good job next year, and I am excited to see how us as a defense, we take the lessons we learned from this year and fix those and have a better season. This is a game-to-game, year-to-year league, and if we put a better performance out there next year, everybody will be saying how Shane is a really good coach and I am proud of how he stepped up."
Bowen just finished his third season as the outside linebackers coach with the Titans, and his sixth season coaching in the NFL.
With Bowen as the defensive play-caller last year, the Titans finished seventh in the NFL in takeaways with 23, which tied for the most by a Titans defense since 2013. Those 23 takeaways led to 71 of the 491 points scored by the Titans this season, a total that ranked fourth highest in the NFL. Also, the Titans ranked seventh in the NFL with 15 interceptions, the Titans since 2012 (19).
But the defense did struggle mightily in 2020 on third-down, finishing last in the NFL, while failing to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks following an offseason without an offseason program, OTAs or a minicamp. The Titans finished the year ranked 28th in total defense (19th vs the run, 29th vs the pass) while managing just 15 sacks during the regular season. The Titans tallied nine sacks in the team's final two games in 2020 and the defense played well enough for the team to win in the playoff loss to the Ravens, allowing just 20 points. The Titans will look to build on that momentum in 2021.
Byard believes Bowen should be able to focus more on the defense this fall. In elevating Bowen to defensive coordinator, Vrabel also promoted Ryan Crow to outside linebackers coach.
Vrabel said at season's end Bowen was the team's play-caller on defense in 2020.
"I said before, I always felt like he was pretty much the d-coordinator even though he didn't have the title," Byard said of Bowen. "He ran all the meetings, and he ran the walk-throughs. So, he was the defensive coordinator in my eyes. I always had talks with him throughout the week about things we were running that week and what we were putting in. I would say that him actually getting the title (as defensive coordinator) should help him as far as being able to focus on the defense as a whole, just game-planning and all that stuff and not have to worry about being the position coach, and now (Ryan) can step into that role. I am excited to see how this year goes."
Byard said he expects there to be changes on the defense as far as personnel goes this offseason, too.
"I anticipate our defensive roster turning over pretty well," Byard said. "We have some free agents, and don't know if guys are going to be back or not. I anticipate we'll have some roster turnover. But at the end of the day, the numbers are what they are, and we have to improve in every statistical category that we put out there next year, whether we have new guys, guys who are back from last year.
"It is all about ownership, and owning we weren't good last year, and taking that drive and motivation into this offseason, and that is what I am doing. I am taking all of that drive and motivation and bad talk about our defense and how we are not this, and how we are not that, and I'm taking that into my offseason workouts and training and trying to be the best I can this upcoming season."
Here at Super Bowl LV, Byard is up for the prestigious NFLPA Alan Page Community Award this season.
Earlier this month, Byard was named one of five finalists for the award. Geno Atkins (Cincinnati Bengals), Hayden Hurst (Atlanta Falcons), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) and Harrison Phillips (Buffalo Bills) are the other finalists.
The winner will be announced 2:30 p.m. CST on Thursday at the NFLPA's annual Super Bowl press conference, and the honoree will receive a $100,000 donation to his foundation or charity of choice.
The Alan Page Community (APC) Award is the highest honor that the NFLPA can bestow upon a player, as it annually recognizes one player who "goes above and beyond to perform community service in his team city and/or hometown." Each of the finalists will receive an additional $10,000 for his foundation or charity of choice, with the winner being determined this week through a league-wide vote by their NFL peers.
Byard was also named the team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. Considered the league's most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
All 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LV. The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a primetime awards special to air on Saturday, on CBS.
Byard sad he's honored to be among those in consideration.
"The stuff that I do in the community, I don't do it to get any type of recognition, and I don't do it to win these awards," Byard said. "To be nominated for these types of awards, it is very humbling, and I feel good about what I am doing. It kind of makes me want to do more and do more with the platform that I have."