A 6-10 season doesn't come apart on a single play or even a single game.
If there was one defining moment for the 2012 Tennessee Titans, however, it was Week 8. After a brutal opening stretch, the Titans had clawed their way back to 3-4. They held a seven-point lead at home against a division rival with less than five minutes to play.
The Indianapolis Colts faced a 3rd-and-10. If only the Titans had decided to play with 11 men on the field, there's no telling what could have happened or how the season could have gone.
Instead, the Titans played with 10 players on the field for not one, but two consecutive plays as the Colts converted the first down and tied the game on the way to an overtime win.
At that moment it became clear something was horribly wrong in Nashville.
The Titans dramatically underperformed, shaving three games off their 2011 win total and coming short of the nine or 10 wins it would have taken to make the playoffs. Coaching meltdowns at key moments aside, where did it all go wrong for the Titans?
The Titans allowed 471 points, more than any team in the NFL. That's a dramatic slide from 317 the year before.
It started up front with a pass rush that was ineffective from the start. No Titan had even seven sacks on the year.
A lack of pressure put the secondary under the spotlight. While the corner play was adequate with Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner, the safties were a mess. Michael Griffin was easily the worst defensive regular and helped make the Titans one of the easiest defenses in football to pass against.
Jake Locker Got Hurt
What makes 2012 so painful is the sense that the Titans still don't know if Locker is the quarterback of the future. Much of that has to do with his repeated shoulder injuries that cost him five-plus games.
The Titans won at about the same rate with both Locker and Hasselbeck. They had the same touchdown rate. Locker had better YPA, but a lower completion percentage and more picks.
The struggle the Titans face is that of the 12 playoff teams, six are starting first- or second-year quarterbacks.
Locker never looked like a quarterback read to lead a playoff team.
Even with his struggles, had the Titans gotten a full year of evaluation of Locker out of 2012, they could chalk the record up to "expected growing pains."
Unfortunately, they got more pain than growth.
Kenny Britt was Never Right
Before the season, Britt's play was pointed to as a bellwether for the Titans.
It was, but not in a good way.
Britt battled injuries all offseason, then compounded his physical troubles with another run-in with the law.
He finished the year with just 45 catches for 589 yards. Worse yet, he was one of the least-efficient wideouts in the game.
The Titans needed a dominant breakout season from Britt.
They got nothing but frustration.
The Offensive System Was a Mess
Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was relieved of his duties midway through the season in part because the Titans' talent didn't match their output.
Despite potentially elite players like Chris Johnson and Jared Cook in the lineup, the Titans simply never developed offensive cohesion.
Cook was never happy with his role, and the team seemed to force feed Kendall Wright the ball in low-impact situations.
Johnson continued his boom-bust ways and put together a season that looked great on the surface and suspect underneath.
So where do the Titans go from here?
Per Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, they've started by announcing they aren't going to dismiss Mike Munchak as head coach. This is a major miscalculation by Bud Adams and will likely lead to another disappointing season in 2013.
While there is still some shuffling of coordinators to be done, it appears the Titans are content to stay the course and hope Locker develops into a top-shelf starter.
If he doesn't take a big step forward in 2013, no one's future with the franchise will be safe.