(Author's note: Kudos to my friend Richard Rodgers for the title idea. I am nowhere NEAR that creative on my own.)
Out of touch.
Unable to communicate.
All of the above terms have been used in recent weeks to describe the mounting disaster coming out of Nashville, Tennessee. And all of them point to a central question:
What in the world is wrong with the Tennessee Titans?
The team with the best regular season record in 2008, the team that reeled off 10 straight wins to start the 2008 season, the team that boasted one of the top defenses in the league in 2008, sits at 0-4—staring 0-5 right in the face with the red-hot Indianapolis Colts coming to town next week—and no one can explain why.
Is it the coaching? Defensive Coordinator Chuck Cecil is in his first year at the position, but it's not as if he is unfamiliar with a defense. He was, after all, one of the most feared defensive backs of his day, and until last year was the Titans' defensive backs coach.
And he is working with the same bunch of guys he had last year—with a couple of new faces mixed in, of course—so he isn't having to figure out who can do what.
Offensively, Mike Hiemerdinger is in round two with the Titans. It was coach Dinger that helped coach the Titans to their Super Bowl berth following the 1999 season, where one step was all the difference between a win and a loss.
Head Coach Jeff Fisher takes a lot of heat from fickle fans who need someone to blame. The same man who last year was hailed as a brilliant mind, one of the top coaches in the league, is now hearing calls for his head—changes must be made, fans say, and the best place to start is at the top.
I couldn't agree more, actually, but I would go a level or two higher than Jeff Fisher to start making changes, if you catch my meaning. Coach Fisher is one of the top coaches in the NFL; it's not his fault if the guys on the field don't do their job, right?
Is it the defensive players? After all, they are the ones at the point of attack. If they don't execute, then opponents score. But it isn't as if they are getting blown off the ball.
Sure, they had their worst game against the rush playing Jacksonville, giving up 137 yards on the ground—it took six different players to accumulate that number, but they did so nonetheless.
However, even with the Jaguars topping 100 yards rushing, the Titans are still holding opposing teams to an average of fewer than 80 yards per game.
Their passing defense is a different story: In three of their four contests, they have allowed opposing quarterbacks to eclipse 350 yards through the air. That's got to be the problem, right?
Hang on a second. In two of those contests, the difference was a field goal. So it isn't like they are giving up touchdowns every other pass. A lot of the yards come after crossing routes against a zone defense (although they have been beaten a few times deep), and tackling, not necessarily pass coverage, seems to be at issue.
Jacksonville sure put a hurting on them, though, possibly taking advantage of the fact that the Titans are reeling from what is happening to them.
But then again, the players can only run the plays that are sent in, right?
Is there a quarterback controversy brewing that the Titans have somehow been able to keep under wraps? Coach Fisher publicly announced yet again, after the Jaguars game, that Kerry Collins was their starter and gave them the best chance to win.
Really, coach? The best chance?
A look at the numbers, oddly enough, seems to confirm this assertion. Although he is only averaging 228.5 total yards per game through the first four games, Collins is averaging almost 11 yards per pass, and he is dead even on touchdowns versus interceptions. (Yes, he ran one in, but I'm counting it anyways.)
He needs to work on his release, though. A blind man could see when and where he is about to throw the ball. A little tweaking there might help bring the interceptions under control, and could bump up the other numbers.
Vince Young may have paid his dues in the eyes of his supporters, but Coach Fisher obviously thinks he still has a lot to learn.
Are the receivers slacking off? There sure do seem to be a lot of dropped passes. Nate Washington seems intent on showing everyone in Nashville why he was the No. 3 receiver in Pittsburgh, cutting routes wrong and dropping passes that should stick to his hands like Velcro.
But Justin Gage is doing okay and Kenny Britt is showing that he has the potential for a long and illustrious career in the NFL, no matter who he plays for. Even Bo Scaife and an aging, but still capable, Algee Crumpler are hauling in bag passes at key moments.
They all, however, are dropping big passes at key moments, too.
Is it the running game? Well, all seems to be in order there. Chris Johnson is making defenses respect his ability. After a slow start against Pittsburgh, Johnson is a couple carries away from eclipsing 500 yards, averaging an astounding 6.2 yards per carry.
Yes, I know he had an unbelievable game against Houston. Fine. Take out that game and he is still averaging 4.3 yards a carry. Not too shabby.
But he only has 69 carries through four games—not nearly enough considering what he is able to produce.
LenDale White, on the other hand, has rather quickly become almost a non-factor in the offense. He has a flash every now and then, but overall he is not providing what he should to the running game.
What it boils down to is that the Titans have a whole lot of questions but no answers to their problems. If they don't find some quickly, they are looking at a massive fall from grace, and one of the longest seasons in their history.
I know football fans in general, and Nashville fans in particular. A more fickle bunch of fans only exists in New York, or more correctly, New Jersey, in the form of the athletic supporters who follow the Jets.
I haven't checked, but I would bet that at least one local paper has raked Golden Boy Mark Sanchez over the coals for daring to play like a rookie.
No one is being ripped too badly in Nashville yet, but I promise you the claws are being sharpened. If the Titans drop one more game, it's going to be a free-for-all.
Figure it out, Titans, and figure it out soon. The fans are still with you so far, but disenchantment looms large on the horizon. A win next week against the Colts would go a long way in smoothing things over and getting back on track.
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