The 2018 State of the Tennessee Titans
Yep. I’m almost two weeks late in getting this out, but give me a break. A man needs to rest every once in a while, and this is my first real week back making content. It still has to be done – the 2018 state of the Tennessee Titans address. If I’m not going to write this article, who will? That’s the pressure I face as a real journalist.
The year didn’t end the way a lot of us wanted it to, but the Titans still finished with a winning record for the third straight season. It was the first time in franchise history that they’ve had three consecutive winning seasons. 9-7 can mean different things – in the case of the Titans, it’s frustrating because we saw glimpses of true potential in this unit. They dominated the New England Patriots….yet lost to the Buffalo Bills. Those ups and downs and the inconsistencies ended up providing the signature mark of this 2018 team.
So, where do they stand moving forward?
Mike Vrabel: Year 1
From a head coaching standpoint, I felt that Vrabel did a pretty good job given all the adversity he had to deal with. Now, there’s certainly room to grow. The call to go for two at the end of the Chargers game in London is still looming over his rookie season. At one point, people were saying they were tired of hearing Vrabel accepting responsibility for the poor play. Maybe it all felt a little phony to those people, but results were expected…not excuses.
But, all in all, he did a commendable job. All things considered, this team really had no business being in contention for the AFC playoffs. A lot of people thought they’d hover around 8-8, and they surpassed that. Vrabel is an excellent “leader of men” type, and if he can get a solid offensive coordinator on staff to replace Matt LaFleur, this team will do just fine moving forward.
In hindsight, yeah – it was tough. The Titans played nine games against playoff teams, and went 4-5 in those games. Losing both games to the Indianapolis Colts stings, but it provides another opportunity for a building block: beat Andrew Luck. That’s something the Titans will have to do in 2019. The NFC East wasn’t as bad as everyone thought it was going to be given the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are both in the NFC’s version of the final four. Plus, Washington wasn’t exactly an easy win either. They went 4-0 against the NFC East this season. Unfortunately, that meant they finished with a 5-7 record in the conference they actually play in.
With an easier schedule, who knows? The Titans could’ve won the AFC South. But, we can play that game all day.
Probably the most disappointing result of this season is that we still don’t really know if Mariota is going to be the franchise quarterback moving forward. If he could just stay healthy and maintain some continuity with an offensive coordinator, maybe he could finally blossom into the top-10 type of quarterback he was drafted to be. He’s one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the NFL, and had one of his most efficient seasons, working with LaFleur.
He has one more year on his contract before the Titans will have to make a decision. I don’t expect Jon Robinson to announce his intentions either way until next offseason. Regardless of what that decision is, ultimately, the Titans should be in search of a better backup situation than Blaine Gabbert heading into 2019.
Perhaps the most encouraging result of this season is the emergence of the defense. It’s a top-five caliber of defense – one that has a lot of youth on it. It could use another OLB to help solidify a pass rush. Some depth on the defensive line, too – we saw what happened to this unit once Jurrell Casey was lost to injury. But, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will be back for the 2019 season, so there’s no reason to think there’s going to be any wholesale changes on that side of the ball.
Where’s the arrow pointing?
Up. A lot of factors worked against the 2018 Titans that you’d expect, reasonably, wouldn’t happen again. Just plain old bad luck. Vrabel and company did a good job, and this roster has a wealth of talent on it. They’re just a few pieces away – interior offensive line, wide receiver, pass rush. The thing that is discouraging is the fact that Indianapolis and Houston aren’t going anywhere. The tide has turned in the AFC South – what was once the laughing stock division of the AFC could be its best, from top to bottom. The Titans should be in the thick of the hunt moving forward.
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley