The Titans were the perennial kings of the AFC South – until they weren’t. It all went down in a blaze of glory as the team watched the Jaguars win the division.
Former Titans GM Still Haunting The Team
The Titans’ ability to steamroll teams has always been a sight, and they managed to do it rather flawlessly – until they couldn’t. Seemingly unbeknownst to many, the team has an 0-8 record against teams over .500 this season. Their roster often paled in comparison, and it was painfully obvious, despite the team starting 7-3. Earlier in the season, we hinted that the team could be in trouble and posed the question: are the Titans suddenly frauds?
It was speculation then, but the answer is clear now: yes, they were, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where former general manager Jon Robinson failed at multiple positions.This offense did not help the ferocious defense pick apart the best of the leagues from the foul line to the wide receiver room, and it ranked near the bottom half of the league in nearly every category. Of course, it wasn’t all on Robinson, and offensive Coordinator Todd Downing didn’t make matters any better.
Most big plays through Week 15 of the 2022 NFL season: pic.twitter.com/robv02wLuY — Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) December 20, 2022
Titans’ Downing Frustrates Fans Across The Base
Ask most fans about offensive coordinator Todd Downing; their reaction shouldn’t surprise you. Downing has taken a lot of heat because the offense has been highly underwhelming for much of the season. For example, in a win-and-in game against Jacksonville, Downing called 24 run plays on first down compared to just four first-down passes despite quarterback Joshua Dobbs shredding the Jaguars’ defense.
In the same game, and perhaps even more representative of the type of general chaos this season, Downing called a lateral play – yes, a lateral play in the first quarter – with Treylon Burks. It killed the ten-minute drive the Titans were putting together, forcing an early field goal.
THE TITANS JUST TRIED TO RUN A LATERAL PLAY 🤯😂 Treylon Burks was flagged for illegal forward pass on the play pic.twitter.com/w4NdNDg0N3 — Pickswise (@Pickswise) January 8, 2023
Perhaps more egregious than the offense only averaging just over 17 points a game was that Downing was also underwhelming off the field. Downing was arrested for DUI in November after returning from a win against Green Bay. It was a blip on the radar, but it hurt the team far more than it understood during that time. The Titans never won another game.
Titans Injuries Prove Too Much For Team
As good as Mike Vrabel is as a coach, his expertise is no match for the injuries the Titans suffered. Those injuries are primarily to blame for the team’s 7-10 record. The team suffered a historical amount and has been the most injured team in the league during the last two seasons. They had a record 23 players on Injured Reserve (IR), totaling 50% of the team’s salary cap. The team also had the most players on IR during the season with 34 and had an astounding 312 games missed due to injury, including starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill forcing the team to play Malik Willis early and, eventually, Josh Dobbs.
NFL through week 17, Top 5, most games missed by injured players and health protocols TEN 312 DEN 276 ARI 259 SEA 251 NOR 250https://t.co/y6BHmUfLSO — Man Games Lost NFL (@ManGamesLostNFL) January 6, 2023
The worst part is that the players are not only bruised and battered physically, but the emotional toll started to weigh on the team as they could not find answers or wins. With every injury, there went the team’s playoff hopes which stood at 94% after Week 11. After losing the division to Jacksonville, veterans like Jeffery Simmons tried to put things into words but ultimately landed that answers would likely come in the offseason.
Jeff Simmons on everything he and his teammates have been through this year: I've been shooting my ankle up since Week 8, man pic.twitter.com/q8zYZwE2AL — Buck Reising (@BuckReising) January 8, 2023
Ultimately, the Titans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The past mistakes of Jon Robinson, the ongoing errors of Todd Downing, and numerous injuries dashed their hopes of being back-to-back AFC South champions. Owner Amy Adams Strunk will have a lot to think about this offseason, including free agency, the draft, and who will make personnel decisions. Whatever they decide, the Titans will need to be intentional as they have a good framework they should boost to its fullest potential.