Jon Robinson took over as the GM of the Tennessee Titans in January of 2016. At that time the Titans had arguably the worst roster in the NFL. They were easily the worst team in the league at the end of the 2015 season. He walked into a huge mess.
Robinson has done a lot of things very well. The roster is WAAAAY more talented from 1-53 than it was when he got here. There is no arguing that. He deserves a lot of credit for that, but maybe he isn’t actually the second coming that some fans, myself included, have hailed him to be.
First, let’s talk about the good things Robinson has done in his time as the GM because there is a lot of good. He pulled off the trade with the Rams for the #1 pick. That netted the Titans 2 second round picks in 2016, a third round pick in 2016, a first round pick in 2017 and a third round pick in 2017. Now, we will talk more about the players he turned those picks into, but that was a good return.
That same offseason he acquired DeMarco Murray from the Eagles without losing a draft pick (he just swapped 4th round picks with Philadelphia). Murray was great in 2016. They don’t come close to winning 9 games in that season without him. He wasn’t good in 2017, but for the price, that was a really good acquisition.
The 2016 free agent class included, on the positive side, Rishard Matthews and Ben Jones. The Titans were in desperate need of offensive weapons then (and now). Matthews came in and was the Titans most consistent receiver in 2016 and 2017 before quitting on the team this season.
Jones isn’t playing well right now, but he was good in 2016. In case you have forgotten, the interior of the Titans offensive line in 2015 made the current group look like Hall of Famers. They needed someone to come in and solidify that group. Jones did just that in 2016.
The Titans 2016 draft class included, again on the positive side, Jack Conklin and Kevin Byard. Conklin and Byard have both been All-Pro in their career. There is nothing else that needs to be said about that.
Before you come at me with pitchforks, you have to put Derrick Henry and Tajae Sharpe in the yet to be determined camp. Sharpe is whatever. Henry was a second round pick. He needs to do more before I put him in the positive camp. If he plays out his contract in the same manner we have seen him so far he goes in the negative camp.
The 2017 free agent class had one positive- Logan Ryan. The secondary was a mess before Robinson rebuilt that group with Ryan and first round draft pick Adoree Jackson (another positive). The only other definitive positive from the 2017 draft at this point is Jayon Brown. While he isn’t great, he was a 5th round pick. That looks like a steal.
The jury is still out on Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Jonnu Smith.
Now, let’s talk about the negatives. The 2016 free agent class included Brice McCain and Valentino, don’t call me Antwon, Blake. Those guys were a liability whenever they were on the field. Now, I get that you can only fix so many things at once, but that 2016 secondary was abysmal.
The second round of the 2016 draft is close to being a full on disaster. Kevin Dodd is one of the 5 worst picks in Titans history, and not just because it didn’t work out. Dodd just didn’t project well as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. It was just a bad pick. Then you have Austin Johnson. He is still here, and while he hasn’t been bad, how often do you hear his name called on a Sunday? Johnson is nothing more than a rotational guy. You need more than that out of a second round pick. I gave my thoughts on Henry above.
The 2017 free agent class was bad outside of Ryan. Sylvester Williams was a bad signing from day one. He wasn’t good coming out of college, he wasn’t good in Denver and he wasn’t good here. That seems like a pretty easy one to see coming.
Johnathan Cyprien wasn’t good in the way that they used him in 2017. We thought he would basically be a nickel linebacker when he was signed, but they ended up using him in deep coverage too much last year. Maybe you can’t put that on Robinson, but it seems like Robinson would need to know how a player is going to be used in the defense before targeting him in free agency.
Robinson signed Malcolm Butler to a 5-year $61.25 million deal before the 2018 season. That signing looks like an absolute disaster right now. Teams are targeting him week in and week out all over the field and he is doing nothing to stop them. The Titans can’t reasonably move on from Butler until after the 2020 season. That feels brutal right now.
There are issues beyond the guys that have been signed and/or drafted. There are things that Robinson has failed to address. They win the division last year if they have a competent back-up quarterback. It was obvious in the offseason that Matt Cassel couldn’t cut it. It seems like they were really planning on Alex Tanney beating out Cassel in camp. That didn’t happen as Tanney regressed in a huge way. Even with that being said, there should have been a contingency plan.
When you look at this year, there are a couple glaring holes. The Titans don’t have enough playmakers on offense. Of course it looked a lot different when they had Delanie Walker and Matthews, but even with those guys, we talked all offseason about their need to add some help at wide receiver. Look at the Ravens. They were bad at receiver last year and went out and signed Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. They went from averaging 189 yards per game passing in 2017 to 284 this season. Robinson added Michael Campanaro and Nick Williams during the offseason. It simply wasn’t enough.
The interior offensive line is also still a major issue. They had been good in pass protection before yesterday, but they haven’t been able to get a push in the run game. Quinton Spain, the guy that supposedly didn’t fit this offense, has the best PFF grade at 70. Josh Kline, who Robinson gave a 4-year $26 million contract to this offseason, currently grades out at 55. Yikes! Ben Jones, who the writing was on the wall about in 2017, grades out at 64.1. Can those guys rally and play better this season? If they don’t, this team isn’t winning more than 7 or 8 games.
So there are both sides of the coin. I still fall into the camp that the positives outweigh the negatives at this point. What say you?