So that is over. The most painful season of the 16 in Tennessee is finally over. Now the Titans have to sift through the rubble and try to find anything worth salvaging.
Titans CEO Tommy Smith did announce immediately after Sunday’s season ending 27-10 loss to the Colts that both Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt and General Manager Ruston Webster would return for 2015—this after recent comments saying massive changes needed to be made. So just how much can the direction really change? This announcement says clearly that in Smith’s mind, the coach and GM are not to blame for this supreme embarrassment of a 2014 season.
So this must mean the house will be cleaned on the player level. The Titans played four quarterbacks this season. Will any be back next season? The answer is likely only Zach Mettenberger will return. Jake Locker’s contract is done. Charlie Whitehurst, aka ‘Clipboard Jesus,’ is likely to move on and Jordan Palmer was an emergency stopgap. With the #2 overall pick in next year’s draft, will a quarterback be a priority?
Heisman Trophy winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, is seen as the consensus #1 pick—but how will he transition from Oregon’s spread to the NFL pro-style offenses? Tampa Bay seems certain to go quarterback at #1, and there is the enigma of Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Winston, the 2013 Heisman winner, is considered #2 on the draft boards. Would Tennessee dare take a chance on Winston if available, with his considerable baggage? Winston may have the best pro potential long-term, but only if he grows up, a lot.
If the Titans decide Mettenberger is the guy, and he very well might be, then Alabama WR Amari Cooper would be a tremendous option. The Titans could go the free-agent route at quarterback. Whisenhunt alluded to that possibility after the Colts loss. A trade for a high-profile talent such as Bears QB and former Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler has been tossed about in the insider columns. What is clear is the Titans need help everywhere with only a couple of players currently on the roster being any kind of material around which to build a championship team.
What we have witnessed in 2014 represents the worst season for this franchise since 1994, the year Jeff Fisher took over midseason for Jack Pardee when the writing was already on the wall in Houston. It was a complete disaster, a Titanic flop. Only the Bears allowed more points than the Titans 438 and only three scored fewer than Tennessee’s 254.
The Titans lost the final 10 games and were barely competitive. When they were, it bordered on comical. In the season’s fourth quarter, a 36-7 drubbing at the hands of the Giants (which saw an end to Mettenberger’s season due to a shoulder sprain) was only a prelude. The first and only 16-11 game in NFL regular season or postseason history followed in a loss to the Jets. What followed that was the trip to Jacksonville, on Thursday Night Football, in which the Titans looked good, until you remembered they were playing the Jaguars—a 21-13 loss there before the finale against Indianapolis.
Now the offseason and the issues seem to settle all on personnel. The draft, in Chicago for the first time since 1964, will be full of intrigue as always. Simply put, the Titans were not good enough in any area. Can the Titans find the road to respectability in 2015 and rebuild this once successful franchise? Let us hope so.