An era has ended in Tennessee. Well 2 actually, but Vince Young's presence won't be all that missed.
After 17 seasons as head coach of the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers), Jeff Fisher and Bud Adams are parting ways. Fisher's run with the organization was truly unheard of in the modern era and is unlikely to be duplicated for decades to come. It will be a sad and strange moment for many Tennessee fans when the season (if there even is a season) kicks off and Jeff Fisher isn't roaming the sidelines.
During his tenure, Fisher witnessed incredible growth and change in the league. The Oilers moved from Houston to Tennessee, football returned to Baltimore and Cleveland (although given their performance some Browns fans probably wish it hadn't), the Rams and Raiders left L.A. and the league expanded to Houston and Jacksonville.
The Titans coaching stability was even more unprecedented when you compare it to other teams around the league. Iconic teams such as the Cowboys, Niners, Raiders and of course our Colts, experienced far more coaching upheaval.
The Cowboys employed coaches 6 times during Fisher's reign. The 49ers tried seven. The Raiders, certainly not the model of consistency, switched coaches a whopping 9 times and just hired their 10th head coach in Hue Jackson. No wonder the Raiders haven't won.
Even our beloved Colts, who have been the model of consistency much of the past decade, have sent out 5 coaches to face Jeff Fisher's squads.
Only the Pittsburgh Steelers under Bill Cowher and now Mike Tomlin can come close to matching the Jeff Fishers durability as coach of the Oilers/Titans.
Coach Fisher even managed to outlast Titans greats Steve Mcnair and Eddie George. While Fisher struggled down the stretch in recent years, there is no doubt he has cemented his legacy as a good coach and even better person.
As Aditya T wrote on our sister blog musiccitymiracle.com "While a lot of us [Tennessee fans] have problems with Jeff Fisher on the field, there is no doubt he is a class act off the field...Jeff Fisher meant so much to Nashvillians, and I wish him nothing but the best for the future."
That future will no longer involve Tennessee and for Colts fans out there, no, it should not involve Indianapolis either (unless he is wearing opponents colors).
Season in Review: Disappointing and at times embarrassing
Watching this season was like watching an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians with Vince Young perfecting the role of Kim. His immature antics were childish and unprofessional yet as Colt's fans, we sheepishly continued to follow him because we were curious to see just how far he would go in embarrassing himself and dragging his team down with him. Like Kim, he was spoiled from the day he entered the spotlight and used his talents (this is where he and Kim diverge unless you consider looks 'talent') to bail him out. Finally, Jeff Fisher had enough. After Yince Young's famous week 11 tirade where he flung his shoulder pads and helmet into the stands, Fisher pulled the plug on his season placing Young on IR and suspending him from the teams's facilities. Whether or not the bizarre incident was the catalyst for the team's tailspin, the move to put Young on IR, ended the Titans season and essentially Coach Fisher's career in Tennessee.
What started as a promising 5-2 start with wins over Oakland and Philadelphia, concluded in defeat to the Indianapolis Colts, closing out a disastrous and embarrassing 6-10 season.
Besides the weekly Vince Young drama, the Titans also made the baffling decision to sign Randy Moss who had been traded by the Pats and subsequently cut by Minnesota. On paper the signing sounded smart. With Kenny Britt out Vince Young/Kerry Collins surely needed an established deep threat. Only 6 catches and 72 yards in 8 games certainly calls that thinking into question. So much for Randy Moss being a difference maker...
The strong start raised expectations and hopes of the playoffs. Young's meltdown followed by 6 game slide, painfully quashed any such aspirations.
6-10 though was about where the Titans should have finished. There 29th ranked pass defense was terrible, especially considering their talented secondary. The rush defense didn't finish much higher and considering how the offense vacillated between quarterbacks, no one expected much out of the passing game. The biggest disappointment (besides not beating the Colts of course), was the running game. Chris Johnson failed to deliver after promising another 2000 yard season as the vaunted Tennessee rushing attack finished middle-of-the-pack at 107 ypg. When situation at quarterback is in flux and Chris Johnson is your running back, you have to finish top 5 in the league in rushing if you hope to make the playoffs. It didn't happen and the Titans finished 0-6.
Offseason Momentum: Very Little - No quarterback and a first year head coach spells trouble
Its amazing how all the teams at the bottom of the league have quarterback issues. To win, you need a good quarterback. Now that Vince Young isn't coming back and Kerry Collins is older than Ronald Reagan, the Titans need to focus and find a quarterback for the future.
Earlier in the day, the Titans shored up their second pressing off season need by signing Mike Munchak to be their new head coach. A hall of fame lineman for the Oilers and more recently their offensive line coach, Munchak is expected to bring a toughness and discipline that is desperately lacking. He is also supposedly recruiting fellow Oiler and Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews to take over his old position as line coach. As a division opponent, its scary to think how improved the Titans line might be.
While offense has been the strong suit -or at least focus -of the team according to musiccitymiracle, its on defense where the potential lies.
The Titans are loaded with young, explosive talent. In fact, the Titans have to be the only team where the entire secondary has 100 tackles... then again when they are making that many tackles it means they aren't doing their job defending against the pass. That's like continually making a mess and then being efficient at cleaning up. Its great that you are willing to clean up, but why not save time by not being so messy to begin with? (I am sure my mom wondered the same thing for many years).
Anyway, Alterraun Verner was a late round gem and has a bright future in Tennessee's secondary. Cortland Finnegan, while a thuggish buffoon, is also near elite status at cornerback and safeties Hope and Griffin are strong hitters who strike fear in receivers thinking about coming across the middle. Even though they were regularly beat, some work on fundamentals and more critical off-season coaching could make them and the rest of the secondary one of the NFL's best next season. The pieces are there, fitting them all together comes next.
The linebackers, anchored by one of the most under valued middle linebackers in the game, Stephen Tulloch, are fast and flow to the ball. Their style of play is very reminiscent of the Colt's approach, yet bears better results.
Up front too, there is a lot of potential, although Jason Babin is so overrated even Bloomingdales wouldn't want him on display.
Overall, the quarterback is the main obstacle holding the Titans back from possibly having a very good season next year. Good thing for Colts fans that its a weak draft at that position.
Offseason Anxiety: QUARTERBACK, QUARTERBACK and QUARTERBACK!
Its not very original. In fact its the exact same post from the Niners season in review, but that's because both teams face the same problem. Like the Niners, the Titans are also a solid team from competing in the playoffs. I replaced the word making for competing because the 49ers division is so much easier. The Titans might make the playoffs as a wildcard but overtaking the Colts, especially will a rookie under center, is highly doubtful.
Other than that the Titans have few really glaring needs to fill. Bo Scaife is only so-so and may not be resigned so tight end may present an issue and Nate Washington could use an upgrade, but if I were in the GM's office my sole focus would be quarterback.
In fact, given that Rusty Smith may end up being the only holdover from last year, I would bring in a hundred quarterbacks to try out during OTA's and the early summer.
Draft Desires: QUARTERBACK QUARTERBACK QUARTERBACK
For some veteran teams, like the Niners a pick before them, drafting a quarterback in the first round isn't a great option - especially given the dearth of talent in the draft this year. Teams with only a 2 or 3 year window are far better served signing an experienced quarterback with a proven track record. Even if not as talented as say a Jake Locker or Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri, a veteran Qb such as Kolb and Orton (and those guys aren't half bad) can guide a team and make fewer costlier mistakes.
The Titans are lucky. Their skill players, and almost their whole defense is young and good meaning that they don't have to worry about a closing window and hopefully they have the talent to bring along a rookie quarterback.
Almost no one expects Bud Adams to bring Vince Young back after last year's shenanigans. They probably will however resign Collins to serve as a mentor.
Who will he be mentoring? The smart pick would be Blaine Gabbert, who many consider to be the most NFL ready pocket passer in the draft. However, given its Bud Adams and the fact that he often calls the shots, don't be surprised if Vince Young's replacement is a guy who plays just like him - Cam Newton.
With his off the field issues, I can't help but feeling it will be VY fiasco 2.0 but its hard to ignore his physical tools and the leadership he flashed this past season.
Other needs for the Titans are not pressing, but upgrades at TE, WR, OL and WILL would help reinforce a strong group of starters and add much coveted depth.
Free Agent Farewells: Quarterbacks, Randy Moss, Bo Scaife? Former Colt David Thorton?
Moss is out the door for sure. Almost all the available Qb's could be too following him. Vince Young isn't a free agent, but as I mentioned above, its hard to see him back as a Titan. Chris Simms never had a chance here and has no future in Tennessee either. Kerry Collins is the one curiosity. He is really old and losing arm strength faster than Ben Roethlisberger could shave his beard (I was stunned - he shaved off 5 lbs of facial hair in like 10 minutes!) Still he is a veteran, and the Titans are going to need somebody to guide their new rookie (if they do draft someone) whoever it may be.
Looking at other positions, Bo Scaife isn't great, but they don't have any promising backups at the moment so he may be worth resigning as insurance. David Thorton is aging and split time with second year player Gerald McRath, but if they can afford it, depth is always bonus.
Two players they should resign are defensive end Jacob Ford and guard Leroy Harris. Those two guys are solid contributors at key positions.
As for the Colts, unless the TItans let Jacob Ford slip and the Colts use him to spell Freeney or Mathis, there aren't too many players the Colts are targeting. Leroy Harris would be an interesting option for the Colts at guard.
Premature Glimpse into the Future: The foundation is laid, so now the Titans will start building up
The future will be weird without Fisher, but its still hopeful. According to musiccitymiracle.com Mike Munchak is promising sweeping changes and a return to old school, hard-nosed football. Fortunately for him, he has a strong foundation to work with and a tough defense prepared to take a leap.
Most of the pieces are there but until they find their quarterback for the future, the ceiling will remain fairly low. Unless the Titans can lure a Kyle Orton or Kevin Kolb away, a rookie quarterback will only take them so far.
8 or 9 wins is feasible. Stealing a wild card spot is possible. Winning the division title is highly doubtful.
Threat to the Stampede: Its a division opponent so high (does not apply when referring to the Cardinals)
The fact that we play them twice automatically makes the Titans a threat. Furthermore, as we saw this year, the Titans hate the Colts and always give a little extra against us. We all saw the passion and desire to beat the Colts (or at least emulate us) when Jeff Fisher wore a Peyton Manning jersey to a banquet last winter.
Are the Titans on the Colts level? Certainly not. Could the Titans steal one from us? Absolutely. They do have Chris Johnson after all and that is something that sends chills up Indy fans' spines...Still, unless they get a Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan type rookie, the Colts should continue their dominance and sweep the series.