I’m not sure I have ever felt this low as a Titans fan. Even during the Ken Whisenhunt era, things did not seem this bad. That is not to say this team is as bad as those teams were, because it’s not. But with high expectations and plenty of off-season optimism, the way this season has unfolded has proven to be massively disappointing. Even that feels like an understatement.
Is This the End?
Perhaps the primary reason I am so low is that I watched my favorite player to wear a Titans uniform since Steve McNair play what could be his final snaps as a Titan. I have been high on Marcus Mariota since early into his rookie season. I won’t belabor that point as I have written about it extensively in the past. I still believe Marcus can be a good, NFL quarterback. But yesterday, he was awful. There is no sugarcoating that. He was terrible and he deserved to get benched.
Marcus looks broken, and I am not alone in thinking this. He does not look like the same player from his first two seasons with the team. Yes, he will still have flashes of that player (See: Atlanta first half) but in general, he has looked hesitant and unsure of himself for most of this season. Yesterday was his low point as a professional football player. He was everything his loudest critics say he is. And it hurt to watch as a fan of the team and a fan of Mariota as a player.
With all that said, anyone who believes the offense’s problems are primarily on Marcus Mariota is not only delusional but probably not being very honest with themselves. I get it, they are looking for a scapegoat, an easy answer. Unfortunately, the problems for this offense go much deeper than the quarterback. In my view, here are the biggest problems in order of importance: (Bullet point to the rescue!)
The Official “Who Gets the Blame?” Hierarchy
- Arthur Smith: I was excited about the hire because he seemed like a good guy and he provided continuity. I was wrong. Smith has been wildly out of his depth all season. This offense is historically bad. It has no rhythm, no identity, and is entirely too predictable. The route spacing is bad, the blocking scheme is elementary, and the play-calling is awful.
- The Offensive Line: This unit is terrible. No one gets a pass for their performance. Every players has taken turns being the worst man on the field. But, the problems with the line begin and end with the coach – Keith Carter – and if a change is not made there soon, we will all have our answer about Mike Vrabel as a leader. There has to be accountability for one of the worst units in football.
- Marcus Mariota: See the paragraphs prior to the bullet points. Marcus is broken. The team has broken him and I don’t know if he will ever find himself again as a Titan. That makes me incredibly sad. If it doesn’t make you sad, you are a bad fan.
- Unforced error and everyone else: The skill position players have been fine, though even they have contributed to the incompetence. Even when the line has given Marcus time, and Marcus has made a good throw, the receivers have too often dropped the pass. Prior to this week, the Tennessee Titans led all NFL teams with the most dropped passes in 2019. So, no one gets off the hook for what we have witnessed.
I honestly don’t know where this leaves the team. At this point, you do have to give Ryan Tannehill a shot to get the offense going. But, no matter what the Marcus haters say, Tannehill was not much better in his time on the field yesterday. He struggled to move the ball until it was a two score game and the Broncos dropped into their prevent defense. Prior to that, he went three and out multiple times and turned the ball over on downs, taking a huge 4th down sack. He took more sacks than Marcus, threw one interception, and scored ZERO points in his time in the game. If that doesn’t show everyone that the problems with this offense run deeper than the QB, then you are blinded by your hatred of Mariota.
“Just a fool’s hope.”
Later this week, I am going to post some additional ideas on what the team can do to kick-start the offense. As crazy as this might sound, the season is not over. Not even close. The AFC is wide open. Outside of New England, there are no unbeatable or great teams. Mediocrity can still land you a playoff spot. The Titans can get to .500 over the next two weeks against beatable teams. The Titans defense is good enough to keep the team in almost every game. If you need good news, there it is.
No matter who is in at QB, I will cheer my heart out for the team. Let’s hope Vrabel and the coaching staff can right the ship before it sinks the entire team.