Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has suffered through a month of watching his defense get pushed around while giving up a league-worst 151 points through four games. His unit ranks next-to-last in total defense, having given up 421.5 yards per game.
Needless to say, Gray had seen enough when he sounded off on Thursday about what he sees as a defensive unit that is more concerned with ensuring they don't get fined by the league for various infractions rather than a fearsome unit ready to punish any receiver that dares catch a ball over the middle.
Said Gray, via The Tennessean:
If you are worrying about that, you are not going to go out and try and blow the guy up. Great football players have to put that out of their mind. You have to say, ‘This is my territory between the numbers, and if you throw the football you better bring the Gator Truck.’ And that’s how you have to play. You can’t play timid in the NFL.
Have we blown anybody up? ...Maybe we are playing too timid. We can’t give up touchdowns as soon as we get off the bus. We didn’t do that last year. You can’t give up touchdowns in the first quarter and expect to get sacks and expect to get turnovers.
For those who are unaware, the "Gator Truck" Gray refers to is the vehicle teams use to take injured players off the field.
And the NFL seems to take umbrage to Gray's use of the imagery above, with Greg Aiello, senior vice president of communications for the NFL, telling NFL.com's "Around the League" blog that the league is "looking into" Gray's comments.
As my buddy Gregg Rosenthal points out in his ATL blog post, Gray is a disciple of excommunicated St. Louis Rams and former New Orleans Saints and Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is, as we all know, currently suspended from the league indefinitely for his administration of a bounty program while with the Saints.
Needless to say, that association probably doesn't help Gray in this instance.
And that's a shame, because he is exactly, 100 percent correct in this instance.
Look, I don't for a second read Gray's comments above and think, "He wants his guys to go out and hurt people!" And I don't think any reasonably-minded person would either. I think he wants his guys reacting and not thinking so much. As Gray told ESPN's Ed Werder earlier today:
This is football, but my choice of words under the circumstances was probably bad. If I could take that part of it back, I would. I don't want guys thinking about injuring people, and when you say 'Gator truck' that's probably what comes up. I just want our guys to be tougher.
Again, I think any reasonably-minded person knows that this is probably the case. Unfortunately, the NFL ceased being reasonably-minded about the perception of the league as it pertains to violence and injuries sometime after thousands of former players signed on to sue the league for its neglect in regards to the long-term effects of head injuries.
The specter of that ongoing litigation haunts every move the league makes these days, even ones as cosmetic as fining a coach for mentioning Gator trucks would be.
Now, fixing what ails the Titans defense isn't as simple as Gray saying a bunch of words and thinking the teams mentality, and on-field production, is going to change overnight. The case can be made, quite easily, that Gray is as big a part of the problem as his players' mentality right now. His defense has been mind-numbingly simple up to this point, though that could perhaps be a conscious response to the talented offenses the Titans have played.
But no matter the job he's done in the X's and O's department, he is absolutely correct to say his guys need to be more aggressive. As he says, you can't play timid in the NFL.
So far, that's exactly what the Titans have been doing.