VOL. 7 | NO. 50 | Saturday, December 6, 2014
Titans Should Follow Lions’ Lead in Overhauling Roster
TERRY McCORMICK | The Ledger
Instead of CBS, Fox or even the NFL Network, the Titans might need to move to the HGTV, where experts take once-proud houses and restore them to their former grandeur.
Now losers of six in a row and 10 of their past 11 – with only a two-point home win against fellow patsy Jacksonville – the Titans are no longer treading the waters of mediocrity, as they had for the previous five years.
The franchise has now sunk to depths seldom seen since it set foot on Tennessee soil back in 1997. So how can it be fixed?
The best, longest-term solution would be for Tommy Smith to emerge from his underground lair in Houston and announce that he and the late Bud Adams’ family are selling the franchise to someone who cares enough to see it succeed. Someone who will be proactive without meddling instead of emerging twice a year to say he has faith that what is in place will eventually succeed.
Tennessee Titans’ Kendall Wright (13) celebrates a touchdown catch with teammate Nate Washington (85) during the second half of Sunday’s game against Texas. Wright is one of a handful of players the Titans should keep as they rebuild their respectability.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
But since a sale isn’t likely at this point, we’ll have to proceed to Plan B.
To remedy this mess, many tough decisions need to be made for the long-range betterment of the team.
In other words, it needs to basically be burned to the ground with a near-total roster purge, keeping only those players who can contribute and still be productive three years from now.
If the Titans decide Ken Whisenhunt and/or Ruston Webster are capable of handling this complete overhaul, fine. Let them get to work on it now.
If not, whoever is deemed capable needs to be given the keys as soon as possible.
For now, let’s assume the Whisenhunt/Webster combo gets the green light.
Here is the example the Titans should probably follow – the 2008 Detroit Lions.
Yes, those Lions, the Lions who managed to become the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 in 2008.
Once the Lions bottomed out, the team decided drastic changes were necessary and implemented a three-year plan.
By 2011, though the Lions still had holes to fill, they had finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, just three seasons after not winning a single game.
The were six players on both the 2008 and the 2011 squads. The most important was receiver Calvin Johnson, a true difference-maker, something the Titans don’t currently have.
The Lions drafted Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh and brought in quality free agents to supplement a roster depleted of talent.
And though they backslid for a couple of years after that 2011 season, a nucleus was developed that has the once-lowly Lions back in contention this year.
Now, back to the Titans.
The remaining four games this season should be based strictly on evaluation of what players fit for next season.
Just my opinion, but the Titans probably should try to turn over two-thirds to three-fourths of the current roster in the off-season and build around the 2014 draft class and players like Delanie Walker, Jurrell Casey and Kendall Wright.
Beyond that, all spots are up for grabs.
Next, the Titans should go ahead and name Zach Mettenberger the starting quarterback for 2015. Two reasons:
First, while Mettenberger is still hampered by interceptions and sacks, he has actually shown plenty of poise and promise after being thrown to the wolves with no running game, an underachieving offensive line and no defense to help him.
If he can survive this without wilting, he just might be the right guy to lead the Titans out of the wilderness.
Second, there is no quarterback in the 2015 draft that screams “franchise savior.”
Marcus Mariota runs the spread offense at Oregon, and we already know from the Jake Locker saga that running QBs aren’t Whisenhunt’s cup of tea.
And while Jameis Winston has the raw talent to develop into a credible NFL quarterback, the Titans would be foolish to waste a high pick on such a character risk in a critical rebuild situation.
Besides, if Mettenberger gets all of 2015 to prove himself, the Titans will know if he is the guy or if they need a quarterback from the 2016 draft.
With Mettenberger in place, the Titans must then proceed to begin adding vital pieces through the draft – a pass rusher, a cover cornerback, a safety, at least two linebackers, offensive linemen and a power running back.
Still, that doesn’t even begin to address the need for quality backups to upgrade depth and special teams.
The Titans don’t have enough draft picks to address all of their needs in a single season. So they must be smarter in free agency and think in terms of being two good drafts away from contending.
Titans fans probably don’t want to hear that, but the decay of this franchise didn’t happen overnight. Nor will the damage be repaired overnight.
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for 247 Sports NFL Insider.