Sunday, December 6, 2020, will go down in infamy as the official date that the Jadeveon
Clowney 2020 Experience ended. ESPN’s Ian Rappaport broke the news on Sunday morning that Clowney underwent season-ending knee surgery to repair his left meniscus last Wednesday.

The surgery was performed by the Texans team physician and chief of orthopedic surgery, Dr. Walt Lowe. Though Clowney’s recovery process will undoubtedly include months of hard work and rehabilitation to get back to playing shape, there is an expectation that the edge rusher will be good to go by the time March and, most importantly to Clowney, when free agency rolls around.

Clowney was the Titans’ white whale during the 2020 off-season. After failing to adequately address the pass rush in the 2020 NFL Draft, Titans General Manager Jon Robinson put himself in a compromising position. He would be forced to improve a pass rush, or lack thereof, through free agency. This was the same defensive unit whose inept performance played a major factor in the team’s AFC Championship Game loss on the road to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 postseason.

Robinson was faced with a nearly impossible task: to address serious areas of need through free agency. This is “No Man’s Land” for GMs in any sport. The overwhelming majority of the time, teams will overpay free agents with even the slightest track record of success.

To use a baseball analogy, it’s the equivalent of stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences for the entire at-bat. The success rate is slim, mostly involving a series of misses, but when you hit on that one pitch, or in Robinson’s case, that one free agent, it can make all the difference.

That was how Titans’ fans and members of the Titans front office viewed Clowney. The team’s championship window was, and still is, wide open. At the time, landing Clowney offered the mirage that one player CAN fix an entire defense’s issues.

Unfortunately for Titans fans, that was not to be the case.

While Clowney was fairly productive in most every category, except from the one area that carries most of the weight when assessing a pass rusher’s productivity – sacks. Despite consistently maintaining pressure on quarterbacks, sacks managed to elude him.

To many people, sacks were the end-all be-all, as to how Clowney’s year would be judged. And while his season was a bust, there was mild production mixed in throughout the nine games in which he played.

Prior to his final game, which came in the Titans’ horrific loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it appeared that Clowney was on the verge of a break through. He seemed to be approaching that one game he has every year where he is the ultimate disruptor and game wrecker that he has proven to be at times during his seven-year tenure in the NFL.

But nobody wants to look at the silver lining. And why should they? Clowney was arguably the Titans’ biggest plunge into free agency the organization has ever made and many fans feel anything less than a satisfactory performance for a full season should be declared a failure. Those expectations were set once the details surrounding Clowney’s one-year deal for $13 million in base salary demands were made public.

The way Robinson handled this offseason will blemish his record for some time. The same way this season will cost Clowney millions of dollars. The bright side is that even after this complete whiff, the Titans (8-4) are still in position to head back to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

 

Featured image courtesy of Associated Press/Justin Edmonds


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