This never fails to get me fired up about next year.
Clearly I'm not the only one, either. I'm excited that the front office is excited. I'm excited that the owner is excited. I'm just excited. The win total may not jump drastically, but the 2012 Titans are going to be a special bunch and we're going to learn a lot about the direction of the franchise, take that to the bank.
Why is this year "the year"? Let's start off with the front office making pushes at some of the biggest names out there in free agency for the first time in forever.
I'm not on the "the Titans never sign elite free agents" bandwagon, never have been, there's nothing there to support it. I can understand where the sentiment comes from though, after it was hinted that the Titans were in the Mario Williams sweepstakes, everyone went bananas. Understandably so, he's arguably the best pass rusher to hit the open market since Reggie White. No one ever really said the Titans were favorites to get him either, it was a lot of reports going around that maybe they had put in a substantial offer. No visit, nothing like that, they were just somehow in it and that's all that mattered. For some, the problem with the Titans is that while they've pursued some good free agents over the years, they've never really gone all in on a player like Williams. This is understandable, I can't think of a time where it would've made a whole lot of sense (after 2008 wouldn't have been a bad place to start, but how about we just forget that season ever happened) to go out and spend huge money on someone who will undoubtedly not live up to it. This year, they made that offer. I don't know whether it was the changing of the general manager that made it happen or whether the men behind the curtain finally decided that the rebuild had gone on long enough and that it was time to get some stuff done by making a big splash in free agency, but it really had a lot of people across the fan base captivated and giddy with excitement.
Then came the Peyton Manning saga. Forget what you know about free agency crazes, this was at a whole different level. Manning became such a big lightning rod for argument that we were consistently getting several hundred comments on posts that didn't even mention his name. This was mania at its' finest. The Titans were not only putting their names in the ring for the Best Defensive Player EVER!!!, they were also in the running for the G.O.A.T. and a hometown hero. When the report came out that Williams was considering waiting on what Manning was doing sent us over the top. Here we were watching our traditionally somewhat conservative front office making power moves all across the map in an effort to bring in two of the best free agents in at least a decade. Life was good.
Well, we didn't get 'em. And it stung. But out of the ashes, I found hope. Why would a front office plunge so deep into free agency like this (even as we speak, they're probably throwing out offers to whoever will listen) if they weren't confident that this team was ready to win right now? They didn't get either of the guys they wanted, but they put in sizable offers and fought until the bitter end. Bud Adams' quote on Jake Locker only increased my excitement. Bud will never love anyone like he loved Vince, but he obviously loves what he sees in his young QB. Insert "Bud knows quarterback talent when he sees it!!!!" joke here. In any case, that's not the only reason to be excited, we already know we want to see Locker in action because whatever happens, he cannot be worse than Blaine Gabbert was. The Titans did a very un-Titan thing and signed a player who really doesn't fit their scheme very well with Kamerion Wimbley. This says two things to me. Either they don't care about fitting the scheme as much as they care about getting straight up production or they're dead serious about giving teams multiple looks on defense. Either way, that's a pretty sweet mindset to go in with. Wimbley is not a Jerry Gray lineman. He's not big and doesn't play the run well, but he does arguably the most important thing a defensive player can do; he attacks the QB. I think we'll look back on his signing very favorably at the end of this upcoming season.
Finally, we have Steve Hutchinson. Hutchinson is not the guard he was in 2007. That's something we should probably get used to hearing, it will probably be one of the most overused clichés in the business by the time training camp rolls around. Clichés exist for a reason though, he really isn't as good as he once was. That's due to age, Steve Hutchinson is old. So why on earth does a front office target an old guy who was once considered the best at his position? So they can milk one or two more good seasons out of the guy, of course. This team wants to win right now. Steve Hutchinson is not a move you make as you look five years down the road, his window to be effective is small enough that it gives us an idea of when Webster and Co. have decided that the team will be competitive. In fact, the Peyton Manning debacle only helps to further prove this point. Manning isn't going to play at a high level for all five of those seasons the Broncos signed him for, assuming the Titans offered him a similar deal, they understood as well that he would give them a huge boost for maybe a year or two, not much more.
So does the front office think that this is a Super Bowl caliber team that has a shot at a deep playoff run within the next couple of seasons? Just from looking at some of their offseason wheelings and dealings, I think one could make an excellent argument that they really do. That in itself gets me really excited to see this team take the field next year.