The Tennessee Titans want to run the ball and play good defense. That is Mike Vrabel’s M.O. That is Jon Robinson’s M.O. It sounds great in theory, but it just doesn’t work in actuality. Look at how the last three seasons have ended:
2019 - Titans lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. The Titans were in that game until a back-breaking run from Patrick Mahomes right before halftime. That, combined with the fact that the Chiefs held Derrick Henry to 69 yards on 19 carries, led to a 35-24 loss. The margin for error with the run the ball and play defense style is that small.
2020 - Titans lose 20-13 to the Baltimore Ravens at Nissan Stadium. The Ravens hold Henry to 40 yards on 18 carries. The difference in that game? A Lamar Jackson 48-yard touchdown run right before halftime. The Titans don’t have enough weapons on the outside or a good enough quarterback to score more than 13 points. Again, margin for error, blah, blah, blah...
2021 - Titans lose to the Cincinnati Bengals as the one seed. They sack Joe Burrow nine times but can’t overcome three Ryan Tannehill interceptions. Margin for er...you get the point.
The other thing you cannot do is stack bad decisions on top of each other. You can’t miss on a first and second round pick at the same position in back to back years (Isaiah Wilson, Dillon Radunz). You can’t then miss on another first round pick in Caleb Farley who hadn’t played football in the two years prior to drafting him. You can’t hire and then retain a bad offensive coordinator in Todd Downing.
All of that is to say that building a team with a good running game and good defense can make for a solid team. It can be enough to get you in the playoffs, especially when you play in a bad division, but it isn’t enough to win a Super Bowl in today’s NFL.
And it can go really poorly if the wrong guys get injured.
Jon Robinson should have gone all in on offensive weapons after the 2019 AFC Championship loss. More on that later.