The 57-20 loss suffered by the Titans at the hands of the 7-1 Chicago Bears on Sunday merely compounded the fact that this team is full of holes. Throughout the offseason the front office failed to address needs that were not just big, they were gaping and in one forgettable afternoon at L.P Field they were exploited in the most brutal of fashions by an unforgiving Chicago team. Let’s not sugar coat this, the Titans are as bad as it gets in the NFL right now. The 3 victories the team has garnered are complete misnomers. The Bills and Lions dropped 30 plus points on them as the Titans won shootouts. The win over the Steelers on Thursday Night Football turned out to be fools gold. The offence moved the chains, the defence bent, but rarely broke, and then the Titans reverted to type and have stank ever since. It’s not a great time to be a Titan fan right now.
Firstly the blame has to lie on the field of play. Broken tackles, taking plays off and a basic failure to execute are all things that a coach cannot affect from the sidelines, at least from a physical standpoint. The players have massively under achieved this season, that much is clear, but ownership and the front office has to take a large slice of accountability for what is ailing this ball club right now. Owner Bud Adams has spoken in the wake of Sunday’s debacle about making changes and looking at the organisation from top to bottom. His goal is to make the Titans a “play off and championship calibre team”. This from a man who stopped the organisation dead in it’s tracks this May and decided to enter the race for Peyton Manning. The front office (after having used the 8th overall pick in 2011 to select Jake Locker) wanted no part of this, and were basically passengers while Adams lusted after Manning and offered him a job for life in the Titans front office. When Manning promptly (and correctly) opted for Denver it was Mike Munchak and his staff’s job to pick up the pieces with Locker and Matt Hasselbeck. I imagine it’s relatively hard to convince a player that he is THE guy, when you spent the off season chasing someone that the guy who signs your pay cheque believed to be better.
Adams forlorn chase of Manning did more than affect the QB situation in Nashville. It completely derailed the whole offseason on the recruitment side too. The front office pairing of Mike Reinfeldt and newly promoted GM Ruston Webster cannot be held responsible for the Manning saga. Bud Adams owns the team, and what he says goes. They were in an impossible situation and their hands were tied. They are culpable for how the roster has been shaped after that. How can a team with a HALL OF FAME offensive lineman as its head coach not have a recognised centre on its 53 man roster. How does that need not get addressed after a season where Chris Johnson went from being the best back in the NFL to a (rightly or wrongly) laughing stock in 2011? (due in large part to terrible offensive line play). Who made the decision to firstly franchise then pay Michael Griffin? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and at the time I was quite happy that Griffin was extended. But he has just been terrible this season. Truly awful. Watch any highlight package of any Titans game this season and you will see him haplessly biting on play fakes, or being torched deep by a laundry list of wide receivers and tight ends. His latest trick this week was being carried 10 yards on Matt Forte’s back while the Bears runner gashed us for yet another big gain. Griffin’s struggles only make it harder to watch Cortland Finnegan becoming arguably the best slot corner in the league for the Rams. They paid the wrong defensive back and worst of all it’s not even close.
Looking back at the draft, the first for new GM Ruston Webster, you’d have to say it has been a failure. Why did a team with no pass rush to speak off, and no offensive line worth shouting about draft a receiver in the first round? Granted, Kendall Wright looks a good prospect and actually leads all rookies in receiving, but the Titans had just extended slot man Lavelle Hawkins and 3rd year man Damian Williams made good strides last season. Can you really say that this group is any more explosive because of Wright? He has been good inside the lines, but not the deep threat you are looking for where he was drafted. A core of Britt, Washington, Williams and Hawkins with the emerging Jared Cook at tight end could have produced had the Titans drafted some O-line help or even a pass rusher to help get other teams offences off the field. No one wants Kendall Wright to produce more than I do, but a team with this many holes did not need a receiver in round 1. Webster is firmly to blame for that.
Mike Munchak is not free from blame either. His decision making has been both baffling and frustrating. How can a match up nightmare, with deep speed, like Jared Cook be such a non factor? Why wasn’t CJ getting a full load right out of the gate? Why has Jake Locker been constantly asked to win games with his arm instead of running some option plays and making use of his athletic gifts? His handling of the recent situation with Locker’s injury has been a total shambles. Firstly he stated that Jake was the starter and would play when healthy regardless of how Matty Hasselbeck performed. Then when Hasselbeck played well in relief he has been back and forth on Locker’s health and hedged his bets to the point where we have no clue what is going on. Locker has been practising for 2 weeks and still Hasselbeck plays. It’s a mess, and like the off season neither guy really knows where they stand. Munchak is simply not firm or decisive enough. Fantastic coach and Football guy but I would seriously question his ability to take this team to a “play off and championship calibre” level.
Owner Bud Adams has just turned 90. He does not have the time or patience to wait for a championship contending team. I would not at all be surprised if come 2013 the Titans have a new head coach, a new GM and 2 new coordinators. It’s not entirely out of the question that Tennessee could hold the first overall pick come the 2013 draft (they will almost certainly have a top 5 pick). I’m not sure Adams put’s that power in the hands of Webster/Munchak and co. Changes are afoot in the Music City and I for one am intrigued to see how it all plays out.
Until next time you can follow me on Twitter @NEILDONOHOE for Titans game day tweets and fantasy/betting advice.