Smith described the process of getting the new job as a “whirlwind” and noted that his family remains in Nashville (H/T Ben Arthur of the Tennessean).
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Smith said. “It feels like I’ve been going full throttle since July, which I guess I have. But it’s awesome. The transition has been great. It’s easy because we’re in Nashville. My family is still here and the kids are, as they’re in school. If I have to pop back in at night, it’s easy to get in the car or there are a million flights from Atlanta to Nashville.”
Former Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who has taken the same position with the Falcons under Smith, actually reached out to his former coaching staff mate before he got the job in Atlanta, as Pees was looking to come out of retirement.
“He reached out to me,” Smith said. “He said, ‘Retirement is not for me.’ So before I went on the interviews, I called him up and said, ‘Hey, is that what you really want to do?’ He said, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ So it was nice because (being) a first-time head coach and calling plays, you need someone experienced on that sideline. So that was huge for us.
“He’s the best,” Smith continued. “I feel really fortunate because it alleviates a lot of headaches you’re going to have early on. There’s so much trust that he’s got things covered on that side of the ball. … You don’t feel like you have to micromanage anything that’s going on over there.”
Smith revealed that he knew the season-ending interception thrown by Ryan Tannehill was probably the last play of his Titans tenure, something that wasn’t easy to take.
“There was a sadness when you see the interception,” Smith admitted. “In my gut, I knew I was probably gone too. I was like, ‘Damn, that’s how it ended.’”
Titans running back Derrick Henry bought gifts for his offensive lineman after his 2,000-yard season, but Smith said he has yet to receive one for himself and joked that it might have gotten lost in the mail.
And speaking of offensive linemen, Smith also admitted that he didn’t believe Taylor Lewan when the left tackle first told him he had suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6 versus the Houston Texans.
“That was the funniest thing. [Taylor] comes out there, ice pack on the knee, and I didn’t want to believe him because he was like ‘I’m done,’ and I’m like ‘he’s told me he was done before, so…’ I was just trying to be really optimistic,” Smith said.
In the wake of Smith leaving for Atlanta, the Titans promoted tight ends coach Todd Downing to offensive coordinator. There’s no question he’ll have big shoes to fill after all of the success Smith had over the past two years.