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When Winning Isn't Everything: Why I am Okay with the Titans' Losses

When winning is losing and losing is winning...

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

I would anticipate from the headline that this will be a fairly controversial post. As a result I am going to start this off with a few disclaimers:

This isn't about the team tanking. Both the coaches and players have a job to do and that is to go out there and try and win games. They are expected to give nothing but their best effort because that is their job.

Everything in this post is only my view point. Every sentence in this post could likely be bracketed by "in my opinion." As well it will be a bit different style of post than usual.

All I ask is that you give this a fair read and then discuss whatever points you disagree with below respectfully.

Alright, with that out of the way here is the point of the post: sometimes it's better for teams to lose than it is for them to win.

We all want what is best for the what is best for the Titans?

Mike Munchak's teams are simply awful. They can't beat teams with winning records and only occasionally beat the ones with losing records. That's not good enough to even pretend to be a Super Bowl contender, and I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that it's impossible to see Munchak leading this team to a Super Bowl.

If you believe that Munchak is the problem (or likely one of the problems) then it's understandable why you want his contract terminated at the end of the year. Most MCMers seem to have reached this point. The question then becomes, "What pushes us to that endpoint?"


That's the only thing that will do it. In Tommy Smith's pre-game press conference on Sunday he stressed what sort of organization he wants to become: a winning one (video link, couldn't find the transcript). It was that simple for Smith. I believe the only way he makes a change at coach is if he feels this organization is heading away from his stated goal.

I would argue this reason is more than enough for me to be okay with losing the last two games of the season but there's more...

Draft Position is Not Overrated

"The one thing I can say is we won't be trapped in the middle...We will not be stuck in no man's land, that's for sure."

That quote is from Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri (one link here). See, Ujiri realizes that in basketball you need to be on either end of the success spectrum. Either your team is competing for the championship or your team is looking at a top 10 pick. In basketball the path to success usually starts at the bottom. Ujiri's quote reinforces that the teams in the middle are the ones that never go anywhere.

Now obviously the thinking doesn't apply perfectly to football. Basketball teams are changed by one major addition to the starting five players while football has much more emphasis on fielding a complete roster. Still I think there is enough of a comparison that the point translates to the gridiron.

Some will say that it doesn't matter where you pick and to some extent that's true. For instance, even if you're picking at the top of the draft you're still probably looking at only a 50-50 chance of making a good selection. The risk is relative though, as the odds of selecting a bust increase as you get farther away from the top of the draft either, so it's reasonable to want to be higher in the draft.

Even if you don't buy that, perhaps you will buy this one: I want my general manager to have the best possible opportunity to get the player he wants. When the Titans selected Jake Locker 8th overall it triggered a trade up from Jacksonville to get Blaine Gabbert and prompted Minnesota to snatch Christian Ponder at the 12th spot. Did those teams have those QBs as the top choices on their board? Or did they realize that their options were dwindling with Newton and Locker now taken? We'll never know. After its done, every team claims that the draft played out perfectly for them and that they miraculously landed every single player they wanted.

What I know is that I want my team to be the one with the choice. Many teams have similar needs. Whether its at QB, DE, MLB or any other position, I want the Titans to be in position to select the top choice on their board.

At the end of the day we are all left to hope that the general manager makes a smart selection. If your team employs Matt Millen, you are likely to be unhappy no matter how high your team is picking in the draft. All I want from draft position is to make the general manager's job easier. Give him more options.

Also worth noting that this exact situation will continue to play out each round. It is a tremendous advantage to sit near the top of each round and pick over any players you may have had highly ranked that dropped lower than anticipated.

Winning and Illusions

Sometimes when a team goes on a late season run organizations start to incorrectly believe they're on the right track. That goes against conventional thinking that winning means you're doing things right, but bear with me.

First, we've seen this story before. In 2009 the Titans started off 0-6, shockingly didn't fire Jeff Fisher and then perhaps even more shockingly won 8 of their remaining ten games to finish 8-8 and narrowly out of the playoffs. Believing they were on the right track, the team kept Fisher and most of the roster intact and then promptly fell apart in 2010, finishing 6-10. Now a two-game win streak to finish off the year would be very different than Fisher's 2009 season, but I do not want this team under any illusion that what they are doing is good enough for success.

Look at the Jacksonville Jaguars roster right now. That is a team nearly devoid of talent and their overall depth is extremely weak. With their late season surge you have to wonder how much roster change that team will go through (this of course being relative to the amount of roster change each NFL team undergoes each offseason). Will they be more inclined to stick with some players they originally thought weren't going to be productive? Jacksonville fans better hope GM David Caldwell doesn't fall into that trap. Their wins came against Houston (twice), Tennessee and Cleveland.

Wins Have a Lack of Positive Outcomes Right Now

When I started writing this I figured it would be a good idea to include some of the benefits wins have on the fans.

The problem is I'm not really sure there are that many (feel free to add them below).

It's definitely more fun to watch a victory if you're sitting at LP Field in the cold weather. This applies to many people in our online community. This effect will vary by person though. While I will obviously not be attending the last home game in person, I know that for myself right now I watch the Titans because I'm interested in player development. Apathy has hit me pretty hard. A win or loss right now elicits a "meh" reaction. What I am more interested in seeing is Kendall Wright continually making plays, or Jurrell Casey taking on two offensive linemen en route to the QB. I watch because I love this team and still want to see how things are going to turn out.

We don't know what's going to happen these last two games, but if they end up being losses I think there are a lot of positive outcomes for Titans fans.