Sometimes, you just know.
It doesn’t take a brilliant football mind to see it. Just watch for yourself. Watch the Tennessee Titans every Sunday — watch them fail to close out bad team after bad team in the second half. Watch them find ways to win those games.
And then watch them against the NFL’s elite.
A 41-7 loss against the Bills. A 35-10 loss against the Eagles. A 20-16 loss against the Bengals. That weird 20-17 overtime loss to the Chiefs sure feels like an outlier.
The Titans have beaten exactly one team with a winning record (Washington).
Do we really think this team can win a playoff game? Because they are going to the playoffs, no matter how down you are on them. The AFC South is so dreadful that the Titans are going to sleepwalk their way to a division crown with nine or ten wins.
Yet it almost feels like the Titans are falling apart — while also on their way to an inevitable No. 4 seed in the AFC.
“I think we are at a crossroads,” Mike Vrabel said after the loss to the Eagles. “I told the team I think we are at a crossroads at kind of how we want to continue down this season.”
Crossroads would seem to imply that you can go one way or the other, but can the Titans really turn it on and make a run? The Taylor Lewan injury and some flat out bad draft picks have the offensive line in shambles. Tennessee has perhaps the worst set of receivers in the league. The defense has been strong, but the injuries are piling up and the ‘next man up’ mentality can only get you so far.
Teams know Derrick Henry is coming at them. The problem is the offensive line can’t do anything for him, and outside of Treylon Burks, there’s not much else to be afraid of. And we know offensive coordinator Todd Downing isn’t going to change his approach. It’ll be run, run, pass until the bitter end, as it was yesterday.
“We have to come to work with greater energy and greater resolve to prepare to win a football game against a division opponent,” Vrabel said. “It sucks losing, it sucks getting beat the way we did but we have to make a decision, how much are we willing to invest and trust in what the coaches are doing, trust in what each of the players are doing. I think it’s a critical time for us.”
Critical time indeed, Mike. The difference this time around is that the Titans simply don’t have the personnel to make something happen. Last year, you had an elite threat out wide capable of taking over the game offensively. This year, you’ve got a rookie No. 1, a complete non-factor in Robert Woods, and a bunch of practice squad level players.
Making matters worse, you’ve got one of the worst pass blocking offensive lines in the entire NFL, making things virtually impossible for Ryan Tannehill. That all adds up to the 29th ranked offense in the league.
Call it a crossroads moment if you want, I’ll call it a moment of clarity. The Titans aren’t going to go beat an elite offense, period. They just don’t have the firepower to do it anymore. The Henry-centered attack worked with an offensive line that could move people and a couple of vertical threats to attract attention. It doesn’t work with the current personnel.
To be fair, what’s Vrabel supposed to say? He’s only playing with the cards he’s been dealt. Injuries haven’t helped, but personnel issues were there long before the injury report started to pile up.
This team isn’t bad, but they aren’t good either, and in some ways that’s the worst place you can possibly be in the NFL. At some point, Jon Robinson is going to have to abandon the current blueprint, or it will become his head on the chopping block.
The Titans end with the Jaguars twice, the Texans, Chargers and Cowboys. They’ll win at least two of those, clinching the worst division in all of football. They’ll host a playoff game, where they’ll have a chance to prove me wrong. But right now, another first round exit feels inevitable.