Three down and 13 to go, and oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The Tennessee Titans, the same team who opened the 2008 season 10-0 on the way to a league-best 13-3 regular season record, currently share an 0-3 record with the likes of the St. Louis Rams, the Cleveland Browns, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Miami Dolphins.
Even last years' winless Detroit Lions are one better than the Titans this year. How bad is that?
Yes, we all know the season is still just beginning. Every other team in the history of the NFL who has started 0-3 has said that.
Only five of them have ever made the playoffs. Not good odds, even for the most clueless of gamblers.
The long and short of it is, the Titans have big problems. And if they don't find some answers to their questions soon, they can kiss any postseason hopes goodbye.
But what, exactly, are the questions?
Offensively, the Titans don't appear to be having any success. Passes are being dropped, and the tag-team attack of LenDale White and Chris Johnson has, for the most part, been all dash, very little smash.
They have been close to winning, to be sure; two of their three losses were by three points, and one of those was in overtime. Still, close doesn't cut it: all three Titans games have gone into the "L" column.
Kerry Collins at times looks like he is unravelling, throwing balls low or behind his receivers, sometimes missing them entirely.
And there is no doubt that Vince Young is chomping at the bit to get his starting position back.
But not so fast, folks: is VY really the answer? Are the Titans really that bad offensively?
The fact that the Houston game was a bit over the top not withstanding, the Titans are managing 210 yards passing/game, and thanks to Chris Johnson's highlight reel performance against Texas, they are sitting at 151 yards rushing/game.
Subtract the Texas game, and the numbers are still over 100 yards/game on the ground. Not bad production for this offesnive unit.
In three games last year, the Titans scored 72 points. This year, 58. Hey, maybe we're on to something.
Again, not so fast: Last year they outscored their opponents 72-29. This year, they have been outscored 71-58.
This is not, contrary to what it may look like, an offensive problem.
Consider these numbers: 179 yards/game passing, 85.67 yards/game rushing, seven interceptions, two fumbles recovered, TO differential of +4.
Like those numbers? These are the Titans numbers on defense...from last year.
This year's numbers aren't quite so cuddly: 297 yards/game passing, 60.67 yards/game rushing, three interceptions, two fumbles recovered, TO differential of -3.
Does anyone else see it?
The Titans do not have an offensive production problem; sure they could use some work in getting Collins and his receivers a little more in synch, but Coach 'Dinger has done this before, and he'll get it straightened out.
Ryan Mouton might want to invest in a little stick 'um spray, though, or his special teams position is likely to go away.
The Titans do not have a defensive line problem. Contrary to all the naysayers who claimed that the loss of Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins would spell doom for the Titans front four (Didn't Washington just lose to the Lions? Thought so...), Tennessee has actually improved upon their run-stopping performance from last year.
Sorry, Mr. Young—and all the VY kool-aid drinkers out there—but a change under center is NOT what the Titans need; in fact, it is probably the LAST thing they need.
If Collins had gone from being a quarterback who threw for 300 yards and three to four touchdowns every week, to a quarterback who couldn't complete a pass and wouldn't know what the end zone looked like if you gave him a personal tour, then yeah, I might say that Vince Young's time had come.
If Collins had digressed from Peyton Manning-like performance to looking like the guy who is so bad that he backs up Jake Delhomme, than I would be jumping up and down saying, "Give VY a shot!"
If Kerry Collins was not running the offense exactly the way it is designed to run, and running it pretty well, then I'd call for his head just like the rest of you kool-aid drinkers out there.
But he didn't, he hasn't and he is.
Kerry Collins is getting along just fine. In fact, he's doing more than fine: he is performing better than he did last year after three games, not counting week one when he came in to relieve an injured Vince Young.
210 yards/game with four passing touchdowns this year against 170.67 yards/game with only two touchdowns last year means Collins has his game well in hand.
Let's put the blame, and the solution, where it belongs: squarely on the shoulders of a defensive coordinator who might be in over his head, and a defensive backfield that is making mistakes I would expect my 11-12 year old recreation league team to make.
Almost 300 yards/game passing? Are you kidding me? Just how exactly is Vince Young supposed to help that? He isn't, unless you think he would make a better cornerback than Nick Harper—which is potentially worth considering, as an aside—or a better safety that Vincent Fuller.
Otherwise, he's best left on the sidelines calling in the plays.
And can someone, ANYONE, please explain to me why coaches think that backing the defensive pressure off at the end of the game is going to result in a positive outcome? Why, when pressuring the quarterback all day resulted in putting you ahead?
The prevent defense might have worked back in Coach Cecil's day, but quarterbacks are bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter these days. If you think that playing to protect a lead is a viable defensive strategy against the current crop of quarterbacks, then you have no business coaching professional football.
Defensively, this year's Titans secondary does not resemble the one from last year. the names on the jerseys are the same, but the performance couldn;t be more different.
They are giving up too much yardage through the air, and way too many big plays. By allowing their opponents to put up big numbers, they are putting pressure on their offense to perform in a manner that it isn't set up to.
Kerry Collins is not, and has never been, a quarterback capable of regularly putting a team on his shoulders and winning games with his arm.
He has the ability to do it on occassion, but that's not his baliwick.
Kerry Collins beats you by not making mistakes, taking advantage of the occassional big play, and otherwise patiently marching his offense downfield to score on you after wearing you out for 80 yards and 10 minutes.
And let's be honest, folks; given his history, do we REALLY want to put the burden of winning on VY's shoulders? Are we really so ready to forget his meltdown last year? Or his petulant attitude from the pre-season?
What happens if the Titans put him in, and things don't get better immediately? Who do we blame then?
Maybe that IS what it will take to call attention to the actual problem; there are already rumblings that maybe it's time to see if VY can't make a difference. Maybe, just maybe, he could be the sacrificial lamb so that the real issue of slipshod pass defense can be identified.
It was pretty easy for me to identify it, but what do I know? I'm just an average, everyday fan who doesn't have any credentials to back up my assertions.
So ask for VY if you want, but he isn't the answer.
Stopping oponents from passing at will is.
Anybody thirsty? I just whipped up a big batch of cherry kool-aid.