If there was a year for a mediocre Titans team to make the playoffs, this is the year to do it.
Despite all of that, the loss itself doesn't look that bad until you dissect how poorly coached the game was by Mike Munchak.
Throw out all of the confused looks by Munchak during almost every game we've ever seen him in. Let's stick to what happens on the actual playing field.
There were a handful of critical penalties in this game that just can't happen when you're in a game of this magnitude, and well-coached teams tend to play disciplined football in such important games as this one.
The big penalty that sticks out was the Moise Fokou unnecessary roughness penalty that allowed the Colts to get a cheap field goal to end the 1st half. It didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, but it really changed the outlook of the game later on.
You can blame Fokou all you want for the dumb penalty, but it still falls under the head coach to not have a better hold on his team.
Not that anyone needs a reminder, but #Titans trailing by difference of that Fokou penalty that gave Indy a free FG at end of half.— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) December 1, 2013
These kinds of mental lapses just can't happen if the Titans are going to sneak into the playoffs during a season that is full of average teams in the AFC.
Then we have to turn to how Munchak handled the timeshare between Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene.
It wasn't the most efficient game we've seen from Johnson, but he was getting positive gains on a consistent basis for much of the game. The fact that he was taken out just when he was starting to get rolling signifies a coach that is lost in what to do. Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com thought it was questionable as well.
They had CJ going and took him out. Highly questionable #Titans— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) December 1, 2013
The early challenge concerning the catch by Delanie Walker was lost by Munchak, and that was a bad call by the officials.
With that said, you can't take that kind of a risk so early in the game. That play had very little impact on the actual outcome of the game, and Munchak burned himself another timeout on an insignificant play in the grand scheme of things.
That lost challenge means Munchak has now lost seven out of eight challenges this season. It tells me he should just leave the red flag at home.
The bad arm tackles late in the game just piled onto what was a terribly coached game by Munchak and the rest of his staff. Munchak is ultimately responsible for the rest of his staff as head coach.
Does Mike Munchak deserve another season?
Obviously the injuries aren't Munchak's fault, and who knows where this team would be if Jake Locker could've stayed healthy throughout the season. Unfortunately for Munchak, this league doesn't live off of "what ifs."
Ryan Fitzpatrick looked exactly like a backup quarterback, to put it bluntly. You can't put this 5-7 record on his shoulders. He's come in and played some gutsy football and has shown that he just doesn't have the physical tools to be a starter in this league.
Bottom line is that Fitzpatrick was not brought in here to take this team to the playoffs. He was brought in as an emergency option, and he's done what he can to keep the Titans' slim playoff hopes on life support.
The fact that Fitzpatrick has managed to make this team competitive is more of a testament to him than it is to Munchak. Many of the positive things Fitzpatrick did in this game were improvised due to bad offensive plays being called.
The playoff hopes for the Titans have basically fallen to a long shot. They would have to pretty much win the rest of their games on the schedule and still hope for a few other teams to stumble for them to have a chance.
An 8-8 season looks like the best record this team can hope to accomplish, and that's if they avoid another letdown.
Unless Munchak pulls off a coaching miracle to get the Titans into the playoffs, then there's no way he should return for a fourth season. This team has to go into another rebuilding mode and make a decision on Locker's future before April with a new head coach.
Munchak got a stay of execution at the conclusion of last season, but he definitely doesn't deserve one this season. The Titans have to plan to move on.