I'm not usually one to look back and say "I told you so", but for once, I'd like to do just that. Stephen Tulloch, despite being an absolute force against the run and one of the most sure tacklers in the league, was signed for the low-low price of $3.25 mm last year by the Detroit Lions, re-uniting him with Jim Schwartz and some might say lighting a fire under him to elevate his game.
Well, the Lions got their moneys' worth, Tulloch was not only his usual, dominant self against the run, he stepped up his game against the pass as well, allowing just 8.1 yards per catch, which was good for second in the league. Now, the artist formerly known as Tully is set to hit the market again, I have doubts that the Titans will make a move to bring him back given the emergence of Colin McCarthy at inside linebacker, but in retrospect, I don't think the idea to just let him walk was a great idea.
Also, Tulloch finally forced his first turnover this year for whatever that's worth. I know that we liked to dog him for never recording a pick or forcing a fumble, but I've always thought of turnovers as more of a stat that rides a lot on consequences and has less to do with the player than the situation. Some guys are rather adept at taking the football away from the other team, but mostly I see turnovers as a consequential stat. For instance, Vince Wilfork had more interceptions this year than Jordan Babineaux. Does this mean that Wilfork was better in pass coverage? No, of course not, but he happened to be in the right place at the right time and ended up with a couple of hilarious picks.
Back to the main point, I think there's a lesson to be learned here. Tulloch was a player who, admittedly, had his flaws. He was just not very good in pass coverage last year. However, he did one thing better than a lot of current NFL players, was available for a very low cost, low risk contract, has remained extremely healthy and durable throughout his career, and is entering his prime years. Imagine if you will an alternate reality where Barret Ruud never gets to don the two-toned blue because Tulloch is brought back for a similar deal to the one that landed him in Detroit. Well, call me crazy but I think the Titans probably would have made the playoffs. Tulloch is the top free-agent inside linebacker in football this year, by all accounts, he had a really, really good year and worked hard to improve on a major shortcoming in his game. Whoever signs him is going to get a heck of a football player. In any case, there's not a really crucial need at inside linebacker right now, I seriously doubt the Titans even make an attempt to sign Tulloch back, as he will also probably command a pretty big contract after that monster year.
All in all, there's no real groundbreaking point to be taken from all of this, a lot of it is just about recognizing what could have been and about how much I actually missed Tulloch in the middle of the defense this year. However, hindsight is 20/20 as they say, here's hoping that Colin McCarthy can elevate his game above and beyond Tulloch's level.