Looking Ahead: Will the Tennessee Titans Recover in 2010?
It started with a last-second loss to the defending Super Bowl champions. It ended with one of the worst losses by an NFL team in the past 50 years.
Yes, it took only six games for the Tennessee Titans to finish the 2009 season.
There are still 10 games remaining, of course, but 2009 is over. For a team that was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender, there is simply nothing redeemable left this season.
But just because this season is over doesn't mean the Titans need to sit back and wait until next year. That would be a gigantic waste of both time and opportunity.
Rather, Tennessee needs to use the remainder of this season to prepare for next season. Other teams get four preseason games to finalize all the strategy, personnel, and roster adjustments. Starting now, the Titans get 14 games.
In that span, there are a lot of questions Tennessee has to answer. What happened to the defense? Was Albert Haynesworth that important of a player? Who should be the quarterback in 2010? Is Jeff Fisher the right man for the job?
First and foremost, Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams needs to address that last question, and the answer should be obvious: Jeff Fisher is the right man for the job. He knows this team. He knows how to win. He knows how to recover from a bad season.
Maybe the most obvious reason why Fisher is the right man for the job is simply because every team looking for a new coach wants him. If Fisher were to be fired from the Titans, he'd be offered a new job in a matter of weeks.
I think Adams knows this, of course, and for that reason I don't think Fisher will be fired. He has a good relationship with Adams. He's been in these types of situations. Adams won't pull the trigger yet.
On the other hand, Adams also can't act as if nothing is wrong. He has to let the fans know that these types of seasons won't be tolerated, and for that reason Adams has said that Fisher's status with the team will be evaluated.
With that in mind, Fisher has to turn the team around in 2010. It's unacceptable that a team could go from the brink of the Super Bowl to the brink of having the No. 1 pick in the draft.
To get back to that 2008 level, the Titans have time to answer a lot of other questions. First and foremost, Tennessee has to address the situation at quarterback.
If Vince Young really is the future of the team, he needs to be starting every game for the rest of the season. If he is not the right man, then Tennessee needs to start scouting for a new quarterback for next season.
One thing is clear: Kerry Collins is not the solution. He did a marvelous job in 2008, but the Titans need more than just a game manager at quarterback now. They need a difference-maker.
Injuries have devastated the Titans on defense. Most of those problems will be cleared up with time. When players like Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper return from injury, the rest of the defense will start playing better as well.
That's what makes a good defense, after all. It's a cumulative effort. If you take out the entire pass coverage team, then that puts a huge burden on the defensive line. It's a domino effect.
But the playing time that a lot of rookies are receiving will pay off in the future for Tennessee as well. Players learn from losses, not victories.
Right now, Tennessee is positioned to have a high pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Again, here's another golden opportunity for the Titans to plug up another hole. Do they take a quarterback? Do they take beef up the offensive line? Do they solidify the defense?
These will be important questions, but the only way the Titans can answer them is by using the remainder of the 2009 season. Let Young play. If he's not the right man for the team, then go draft a quarterback like Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford or Tim Tebow.
Find out if the loss of Haynesworth really did hurt the defense. If so, go draft Ndamukong Suh, a monster defensive tackle prospect from Nebraska.
The point is that it would be a huge waste for the Titans to try to salvage this season by playing a conservative style and trying to squeak out a few wins.
The Titans should pull out all the stops. Let every idea be heard. Test it on the field. See what happens. Then use that information for next season.
What other team has this opportunity? The Titans have a roster of players that put together the best record in the NFL in 2008. Most of those players are still on the team, and those guys know how to win.
If the Titans take advantage of their opportunities in 2009, they can get back to winning in 2010.
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