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Tennessee Titans: What’s Changed?

A better record for a worse team?

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans have a winning record. They are one game behind owning the division and currently sit in a wild card spot with 6 games left to play. Yet for all their success this year, to many it seems a mirage. A house of cards if you will, only propped up by the sheer lack of quality opposition.

Expectations ramp quickly in today’s world both in and outside of sports. Mularkey brought a new attitude and playing style to the Titans that brought them out of the dredges of the league and back to at least respectability. And since last year they have stuck with the plan. Stayed the course. Trusted the process.

The problem for many fans is that the process doesn’t seem to be working. Or at least not as well as they would like it to. The power running game with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry doesn’t have the pop that it had last year. The vaunted offensive line is giving up more sacks and clearing less lanes. And most importantly, the Titans’ golden child, Marcus Mariota has regressed and is currently upside down in TD/Int. ratio.

So what’s changed?

In case you missed it, MCM’s Daniel R wrote a fabulous piece earlier this week on the Titans offensive issues from philosophical standpoint. This is an absolute must read and gives a succinct voice with examples of what many fans complain about. The Titans’ tight formations, absence of no huddle, and lack of 11 personnel, combined with an insistence that you need to run the ball to win are highlighted throughout this piece.

The biggest question I have is, what has changed?

It’s not like the Titans were a “spread them out” team last year. These are fundamentally the same personnel groupings and concepts they ran last year with a lot more success. If anything, I would argue that Terry Robiskie’s play calling has actually evolved this year. There’s a number of games that he has kept the defense on their toes and opened up great series of plays for the offense with a truly multiple attack including a lot of misdirection.

So if the Titans upgraded their offensive play makers, kept the same line and scheme, why isn’t it working as well this year? Why is the exotic not smashing many mouths?

Is it simply player execution? Could Mariota really be regressing? Or is it the system that’s handcuffing him? The system can’t be responsible for sailed passes or staring down a receiver. Or can it? Can an uncomfortably within the system force the quarterback to not trust the reads and therefor play poorly?

I would offer one at least partial reason is the drop off from Anthony Fasano to Jonnu Smith is bigger than we give credit for. Repeatedly, Smith has looked like a liability in run blocking on the edge using these compressed formations the Titans like to run. If he can’t do double duty, then there’s no real advantage from a match up standpoint that Fasano offered. At some point this becomes on the coaches for continuing to force a situation that is detrimental.

I would also offer that the Titans have played a lot of very good defensive teams this year. The Titans have played 5 of the top 7 defenses in yards per play already this year in Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Not to mention Houston and Seattle not being defensive pushovers either. This could contribute to a dip in the offensive numbers as well.

So what about you? Whether you like the system or not, why do you think the production has dropped off offensively this year compared to last?