The Tennessee Titans’ loss to the Texans taught us some pretty disappointing lessons about the identity of the team.
It was a disappointing effort from the Tennessee Titans against the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. In losing the game, the Titans revealed their true identity as a team.
With the Colts surging and the Texans on an impressive win streak, a win for the Titans would have put them back over the .500 mark and just a game behind Houston for the AFC South lead.
After a loss, though, the Titans are in a pretty dire situation. They are now three games behind the Texans, and they lost out on the tiebreaker that they would have clinched with a win. Barring a slump from Houston or a surprising streak of wins from the Titans, their hopes of winning the AFC South for the first time this decade are likely gone.
A wildcard spot is definitely still within the realm of possibility, but that would require the Titans to turn things around and do it quickly. Considering the up-and-down nature of the Titans’ season to this point, it’s fair to be skeptical as to whether that has even a chance to happen.
This was not a game where the Titans shot themselves in the foot. Rather, the Titans were simply overmatched by the powerful Texans for pretty much the entire game.
The Titans have not won in Houston since 2011 when current-ESPN analyst Matt Hasselbeck was their quarterback. The roster that they put on the field Monday night did not give them a chance to erase that stat. The loss revealed a severe lack of talent on the team’s roster as a whole.
The Titans’ volatility may be coming to a rather undramatic end. Following two losses in which they were completely outmatched by the opposition, we’ve learned three important facts about the Titans.
1. They aren’t talented enough.
In an age of high flying offenses and speedy defenses, the Titans look like a second-class roster.
Their offensive line is frequently abused by opponents, undrafted rookie Cameron Batson—who isn’t exactly taking the league by storm—is currently a key contributor in the passing game, and neither of the Titans’ running backs looks capable of manufacturing an effective ground attack.
In the front seven, the Titans are starting two 30+-year-old edge pass rushers, neither of whom has done much of anything this season. Derrick Morgan and former Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo have been extraordinarily quiet in 2018, essentially giving the Titans no choice but to move on from the duo when their respective contracts expire this offseason.
The backend of the Titans’ defense has also been exposed as of late. While the oft-criticized Malcolm Butler has managed to play steadily over the last few weeks, the previously-fool proof Adoree’ Jackson has given up numerous big plays.
It’s clear that, whatever the outcome of this season is for the Titans, they will need to reload their roster in the offseason. There are too many holes.
Head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff did a good job of putting band-aids over everything during the first half of the season, but those band-aids are now being mercilessly ripped off by opponents.
2. They aren’t coached well enough.
After the Titans’ loss to the Colts last week, I compared first-year head coach Mike Vrabel to a rookie NFL player. The comparison stands after the team’s loss to Houston.
Rookies in the NFL are often up-and-down propositions. One week, they remind you exactly why you drafted them. The next, they make numerous boneheaded mistakes and make you question if they should be replaced by a veteran.
Much of the same is true for Vrabel. There are some games where he and his staff craft a perfect gameplan, teach it well to the players, and their in-game coaching is superb. Those games usually result in wins for the Titans.
At other times, though, Vrabel and his staff look like rookies. They’ll make weird decisions that make fans scratch their heads, and they’ll let their emotions get the better of them when they make in-game adjustments.
Not only is Vrabel in his first year with a new role, but offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur is as well. It’s shown. LaFleur has had plenty of moments of brilliance, but he’s also made some pretty disastrous decisions.
Nobody needs to be fired, but Titans fans need to understand that this Titans coaching staff has shown you exactly what they’re going to look like for the remainder of the season. Hopefully, like a rookie player, they all mature in year two.
3. Jon Robinson deserves legitimate criticism.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson is not and will never be on the “hot seat” because he neglected to trade for a veteran wide receiver at the deadline earlier in the month. Quite frankly, it wasn’t a terrible decision considering the asking price in a lot of situations.
What will, if anything, land him on the hot seat is the decisions he’s made over the last few offseasons.
The moniker of “in JRob we trust” that Titans fans made so prevalent over the last couple of seasons seems to be slowly dying away. It makes sense, as we all are beginning to realize that the once deified football executive is not infallible after all.
Robinson has certainly done a lot of good for the Titans, and owner Amy Adams Strunk would be pretty insane to even remotely consider giving him the boot. But, a lot of the Titans struggles can be directly attributed to his shortcomings.
This past offseason, Robinson refused to upgrade the receiver position in any meaningful way, relying on second-year players Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Tajaé Sharpe to carry the load. That decision was met with a lot of criticism, and it’s turning out to have been warranted.
After the injury to TE Delanie Walker early in the season, the Titans were hopeless when it came to the weapons available to Mariota. While Davis has had a breakout season, Sharpe has struggled to remain consistent, and Taylor has been incredibly disappointing.
Additionally, many of Robinson’s poor draft decisions have been exposed in 2018. Only having three picks from the 2018 NFL Draft has really hurt the Titans’ depth, and many of the Titans’ selections with picks they received from the 2016 Jared Goff trade have turned out to be duds.
Most prominent of all, though, is that Robinson decided to can a head coach who won a playoff game, and now his team of in danger of missing the postseason altogether just one year later.
If the Titans do miss the playoffs, they will need to see this season as a wash. The offseason would be a nice opportunity to move on from some bad players and contracts, reload, and head into year-two of the Vrabel regime with every coach having an extra year under their belts. That should provide fans with some optimism for the future.
As for the rest of the regular season, it’s grim. The Titans better start winning soon, or they will be cleaning out their lockers in early January.
Cover image: USA Today/Shanna Lockwood