When an excellent football team fails to produce according to their talent level, it is called a disappointment. I think it is safe to say that the Tennessee Titans are a disappointment to their fans so far this season. The question is, why?
There have been many viewpoints on why this team is under performing. Sports writers are blaming either Vince Young or the Head Coach, Jeff Fisher’s, play calling. Wide receivers have been blamed as well.
Having watched all four games played by the Titans this season, I decided to put on my coach’s hat and dissect the problem.
It does not take a football genius to see that the majority of the problems are from the offensive end of the game. The Pittsburgh game showed a dramatically inept offensive line. No quarterback can throw the ball when he has no time to look down field.
In a passing attack, a quarterback needs at least two seconds to set up, look down the field, and pass the ball. It takes that long for the receivers to get down field and finish their pattern. If the offensive line misses blocks (or the running back), the result is either: (A) interceptions from the ball being thrown without a proper read. (B) A sack because the quarterback is reluctant to risk a turnover or (C) A quarterback fumble if he is hit from the blind side.
This is also the reason that Chris Johnson has not gone far this season. The Titans offensive line has had problems opening holes or creating running lanes this season. To be fair, because of their success last season, everyone is now keying on Johnson.
Vince Young has been very good this year in terms of limiting his mistakes and his passing accuracy. He has over 66% passing this season despite a couple of, “in your hands,” dropped passes and a few low percentage passes at the end of the Denver game.
I have come to the conclusion that the Titans have a coaching problem. This does not mean that Jeff Fisher needs to be fired. It means he needs to get fired up about his play calling.
Fisher has been too conservative in his offense. Chris Johnson is an elusive speed back but he needs a block. If Fisher had Jim Brown or Earl Campbell he might have reasonable expectations of success against a stacked run defense. However, Johnson does not have that kind of bulk and power.
The means that the passing attack has got to be increased and there are easy ways to do so. With eight men watching the run, that means that there is space underneath the defensive backs and behind the linebackers.
Jeff, let me help you out. Try running a back across the middle. For the casual fan, this means that the running back leaves the backfield, runs to the end of the offensive line and cuts back at an angle across the middle of the field. For some reason, this is almost always open and an easy catch. Preston Pearson made a career of this play with the 70’s Steelers and Cowboys. One thing is for sure, this play will get the linebackers attention and help open up the running game.
Since Young has been throwing so well, pass down field more often. Because of the way the first four games have been called, the Titans will have to pass at least 30 times a game just to keep the defense honest for the near future.
Pass protection is much less physically taxing for an offensive lineman than run blocking. Blocking for the pass when successful will lead to a higher level of confidence for the linemen. No matter how you think, confidence and an expectation of success is a key ingredient to become a consistent winner. This confidence will carry over to the defense as well. Nothing is more disheartening to a defender than to see the offense go three and out time after time.
An additional problem is that running Chris Johnson so often, you also clog up the lanes for Vince. This team has one of the most athletically dynamic quarterbacks in the league, but he cannot use his mobility if he is surrounded like Custer at the Little Big Horn.
One last thing. Give CJ a break before he gets broken. Run your full back, throw the ball, and try to become a little unpredictable on offense. But by all means, trust your quarterback to make plays. It is your job to provide the framework for success. The 2-2 record is a result of a failure in providing that framework.