If you haven’t heard by now, the Tennessee Titans have a pretty important football game to play on Saturday night.
And with important football games, come important rewards and prizes that the winner will gladly snatch for the taking. The important rewards and prizes for this specific football game of importance have been known for a while now, and for the Titans, they’re well aware of the significance of them.
If Mike Vrabel’s team is able to win on Saturday night, they’ll secure a their third consecutive AFC South title and third straight home playoff game. These rewards aren’t awful by any means, in fact, a lot of teams would do almost anything to secure that kind of sustained success.
But although these pieces of positivity sound “fun” and all, in all truthfulness, these so called bonuses don’t move the needle much.
Because in reality, these riches probably will amount to nothing more than some scribbles in the Titans’ official record books.
Since the odds of them capitalizing on the opportunity these prizes present, feel more like reality bending 200/1 odds than the boring, predictable odds your normal title contending teams are unceremoniously given.
Why? Well, the reasons have been developing for months now. And anyone who has followed this team for a while can probably spell them out without taking too much time to think.
The Titans are a living and breathing hospital, with key injuries littering both sides of the ball. To make matters worse, their offense has remained an absolute horror show due to injuries, bad personnel choices to choose from, and inexplicable philosophical deficiencies pertaining to important facets (E.G. the Dennis Daley situation).
These concerns and questions alone should keep the Titans from achieving any postseason success, if they do in fact do the impossible and somehow make the NFL’s annual big dance.
However, if the Titans do in fact do what they’re expected to do this weekend and lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the organization will be plastered with even more questions, but this time regarding their future and the transformative potential this organization has moving forward.
What does that all really mean?
Well, let me try to explain.
If the Titans do win, they’ll ride into the postseason where they’ll likely meet a quick end to their run, which would then transition them to the off-season period.
The same result will be met if the Titans lose, but a loss provides a more intriguing route for the Titans to follow (more on that later).
In other words, regardless of the outcome on Saturday night, Titans will be at a crossroads this upcoming off-season. Simply due to the fact that the Titans will be tempted to make some very significant changes within the organization.
What’s all on the table?
Well, a given fact is that the Titans will be bringing in a new general manager one way or another. The hole left by the now fired Jon Robinson needs to be filled and all signs point to a traditional structure being used to do so. That might sounds obvious to you, so obvious that you might even question why I’m bringing this extremely likely conclusion in the first place.
But if you heard the wild rumors regarding Mike Vrabel and the opportunity to create his own safe haven of power over personnel — in other words the Bill O’ Brien situation with the Houston Texans — you’d understand why I had to bring it up in the first place.
With a new general manager in place, you’d then have to turn your attention towards the personnel side of things, where plenty of questions reside as well.
We still don’t know what the Titans want to do with Ryan Tannehill, whose contract can be thrown in the trash by the Titans for some cap flexibility this off-season. Do you trade him? The league is in love with quarterback movement, mostly due to the fact that some teams think they can plug in a veteran option, and ascend to new heights.
Tannehill fits the mold for some of those teams. He’s an older option, but he’s still proven to be effective within an offense, and can still provide some mobility as well. Which is an underrated positive for any team looking to acquire some form of quarterback help.
Broadway Sports Media’s own Zach Lyons dived into the idea of Tannehill’s trade market, which will give you a better idea of what Tannehill’s trade market could be if the Titans decided to go down that route.
Trading Tannehill is only the tip of the iceberg. The Titans could outright release him, or they could bring him back under a less expensive deal to continue being the Titans’ bridge quarterback. Whether that’s to pave way for Malik Wills, or even someone we don’t know of yet, remains to be seen.
But it’s an option nonetheless.
However, these questions don’t stop with Tannehill. The Titans are certainly set to cut longtime starting left tackle Taylor Lewan, starting center Ben Jones might have some tough decisions to make after an injury filled 2022 season, starting left guard Aaron Brewer hasn’t done enough to transform himself into a starting caliber interior lineman, and these are only questions along the offensive line.
You still don’t know what’s going to happen to Robert Woods, whose contract could be a burden on the Titans moving forward. Although his experience — and lack of surefire immediate upgrades — might be valuable to the Titans, so his future in Tennessee feels more straightforward than not.
There’s upgrades to be made as well.
You still have an offensive line to fix, but with little options on the upcoming free agent market — at least in terms of sizable upgrades — as well as a pretty fluid cap situation, this problem itself isn’t one that’s going to be fixed.
You can copy and paste that for the receiver situation as well, which isn’t the strongest out there, both the free agent class and the draft. There’s still some reasonable options out there in the upcoming 2023 free agent class, but none are going to be worth the money that could be commanded once free agency hits.
Even on the defensive side of the ball, Zach Cunningham’s future appears murky, same can be said for Bud Dupree as well. Both are owed big sums of money, but their play hasn’t lived up to their expensive bills. They both appear to be on the way out, which would then open up more roster holes at key spots defensively.
There’s so many parts that are expected to grind their gears once the off-season starts, that deducting a conclusion for every single one just sounds so taxing for both the body and the mind.
And I didn’t even mention the future of offensive coordinator Todd Downing, whose lackluster performance as the Titans’ play caller has led to groans of pain and agony from the fan base and outsiders from afar.
His future is murky is well, but not because he could be kicked to the curb like an unwanted pet. More so, that we have absolutely no idea what the Titans will do with him. The outcome seems set in stone, at least according to traditional standards, being that if an offensive coordinator leads an offense to poor numbers and play, that coordinator is usually given their pink slip and sent packing.
But this case feels more unknown, as the Titans have publicly refused to shame Downing for his poor work, and have yet to make him relinquish play calling duties. These signs could point to a lot of things, but in the grand scheme of things, they only make us question the overall direction of Downing and his ties to the franchise moving forward.
You can’t forget about the optics in terms of draft position either. As the Titans could stand to gain some very valuable jumps in draft position if they lose on Saturday night. For a roster that lacks much in the way of talent — more so offensively — a high first round pick has its appeals.
But the idea of losing for a high draft pick — one that still has a variety of unknowns — never sits well with players and this specific set of coaches anyways, so it’s best to not even discuss the potential scenario in full.
It’s still a possibility though.
All in all, the Titans are set to undergo some significant changes this off-season.
Maybe not because they want to, but because they have to in order to move themselves back into the spotlight of relevance.
Everyone and their mother knows they can’t stay the way they are, while expecting the process to magically get easier. Not only is that extremely irresponsible, but it’s downright stupid as well.
And for an organization that has pulled itself out of the muck and scum over the last five years and change, I find it unlikely that they’d choose to go down such a self destructive path.
It’ll be an interesting outlook however the cookie crumbles for the Titans on Saturday night. So buckle up, because the ride from here on isn’t going to be what you can call easy.
Featured image via Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY NETWORK