How Can the Tennessee Titans Become the Next Baltimore Ravens?
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The parade is practically still filing through the streets of Baltimore, but 31 other NFL teams are already taking aim at the Ravens.
The Tennessee Titans have to take great comfort from the Ravens' victory in Super Bowl XLVII. Tennessee may not be a great team, or even a good team, but Baltimore proved that mediocre can still win the day in the NFL.
What will it take for the Titans to get to the same level as the Ravens?
Not as much as you might think.
The following qualities led the Ravens to a title and offer a road map for the Titans to follow.
The one thing the Ravens have is something that has always been a hallmark of Tennessee. Baltimore has been one of the most stable organizations in football. There has been limited coaching and front office turnover in the last decade for the Ravens.
There are many things you can say about Bud Adams, but a propensity for knee-jerk reactions isn't one of them. Adams measures time by glacial movements. Even after the disaster that was 2012, Adams didn't move to replace Mike Munchak.
Organizational stability prevents wasted seasons. The Jacksonville Jaguars wasted 2012 on a coach and a system that was only around for an eye blink. That's bad for the development of young players.
Jake Locker may be dealing with a new coordinator in 2013, but at least he's working with a familiar face.
Fans may wish for more change, but stability breeds winning in the NFL.
On the surface, the Titans have a long way to go to match the offensive output of the Ravens. Tennessee would need to improve by about four points a game to hit Baltimore's range.
In terms of skill players, the Titans have quality talent at most positions, but they need Jake Locker to improve to be on par with Joe Flacco.
The encouraging news is that Flacco is essentially a league-average quarterback. Locker doesn't need to become great, only get to average.
For a few weeks early in 2012, it looked like Locker might get there. After his second shoulder injury, however, he missed time and didn't come back the same player.
Flacco represents a level of play most quarterbacks can hope to attain over the course of a season. He's not particularly accurate and doesn't handle pressure with unusual grace. In fact, you could argue that his best skill is not throwing interceptions.
With only 16 career games under his belt, there's still hope Locker can become the kind of average player that Flacco is. If he does, the Titans should be able to produce a similar overall offense.
Obviously, the Titans aren't going to win anything with a defense that hands out points like beads at Mardi Gras.
The good news is that the Ravens' defense didn't remind anyone of, well, the Ravens defense. Baltimore had their worst defensive squad in years. They gave up 344 points on the year, the most for a Ravens team since 2007. That's 78 points more than they allowed in 2011. It was the third-worst Ravens defense since 1998.
So, the Titans can forget about elite defense and just focus on a "vaguely respectable defense."
By DVOA, the two teams weren't far apart. The Ravens were significantly better at pass defense but didn't stop the run much better than Tennessee. In terms of turnovers and sacks the teams were practically even.
The pass defense is what did in Tennessee and led to them allowing eight points a game more than the Ravens in 2012.
Tennessee has quality corners, but the safety play was a mess. Obviously, Ed Reed isn't going to come to Nashville, but the Titans have to get better play out of Michael Griffin.
The defense should rebound some in 2013, but it will take significantly better play to get from "leaky rusty sieve" defense to "quietly overrated mediocre defense."
Baltimore helped out its defense with incredible special teams play. They had some of the best punt and kick coverage in football.
While the Titans were dynamic at returning punts, their coverage units were terrible.
While this is partially a function of overall roster depth, Tennessee can't afford to give up extra yards. They were a bottom-six unit in both punt and kick coverage, whereas Baltimore was outstanding in both areas.
The Titans have a ways to go to become the next Ravens. Obviously, the best quality Baltimore possessed was that they were a playoff team.
All playoff teams have a chance to win it all. Baltimore got hot and took advantage of the opportunities they were provided. Tennessee has to leapfrog Indianapolis and Houston just to qualify for the playoffs.
The Titans need to get league-average quarterback play from Jake Locker, improve the pass defense and vastly improve their special teams.
If they do, it should mean an instant bump in wins up to the nine or 10 range.
As the Baltimore Ravens proved, 10 regular season wins is enough to be crowned champion.
As long as you can also get those last four, that is.
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