The Tennessee Titans season has come to abruptly brutal end. What was once a promising season with Super Bowl potential was ultimately squandered in four quarters of inconsistent football riddled with self-inflected wounds.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel held his final Monday press conference of the season earlier today so let’s take a closer look on what he had to say about his teams bitter end.
What has to be done to take this team to the next step as a Super Bowl contender?
Vrabel: “we’ve won a lot of games, 34 games or whatever we’ve won in three years, but we haven’t won a playoff game in two years and that’s when you have to be at your best. I think Saturday night there were glimpses of it, just not consistent enough in all three phases. So we will work to improve to make sure that when you do play playoff games, that you’re at tour best and doing everything that we have to do take care of the football, to tackle, to cover, to be able to convert on third down, to continue to be able affect their quarterback, and all those things that you saw that were there at times. Just not consistent enough.”
Does Vrabel consider Ryan Tannehill’s and Derrick Henry’s recent playoff performances as an ill-timed anomaly or is there a real problem?
Vrabel: “We’ve always said that your best players have to play good in this league for you to win. That goes without saying. I’ve always felt that way as a player and especially as a coach. When you’re talking about skill players, especially guys that are responsible for the football, they need everybody, they need everybody around them to succeed. So I think that’s a byproduct of everybody. But your best players have to play good in order for you to win.”
How did the season go for Todd Downing as an offensive play-caller?
Vrabel: “I think Todd does a great job. He’s a great coach, he’s a hard worker. There’s always going to be calls you’d like to have back or plays that you’d like to have back. But I try to see how guys communicate with each other, the players, are we all on the same page? Is their good communication? How did we do on third down and in the red zone? Things have to be better in all three phases each and every year. But I love the relationship that Todd has with the assistant coaches and the players and we’ll all continue to improve.”
Did Ryan Tannehill suffer this past year from the transition from Arthur Smith to Todd Downing?
What was the final message to the team?
Vrabel: “I’m obviously proud. I take this opportunity to coach in this league and coach this team very seriously. It’s an honor. But I am proud because you come to work and you get to coach men that care and that are tough, that play extremely hard and believe in our culture of effort and toughness, putting the team first and winning … I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged because I know the type of people that we have here.”
Why do Ryan Tannehill’s interceptions seem to come in bunches?
Vrabel: “I don’t know if it’s a trend. We just have to understand how great you have to be with the football. Whether you’re carrying it or throwing it, taking care of it is paramount. When you lose the turnover margin in the way we did at different points along the season it is really really hard to win. That’s something that we’ll have to evaluate how we are coaching and just making sure that everybody who has the football knows how important it is to the success of the team.”
With the offensive numbers going down this year, how much do you put injuries into consideration when evaluating the offense?
Vrabel: “I think it’s a large part of it. You know, the pass rush looks a little better when (Jeffery) Simmons, (Denico) Autry, (Harold) Landry, & Bud (Dupree) are out there… So we’ll factor in who’s out there. The X’s and O’s are great but the Jimmy’s and the Joes’s are better. So yeah you’re gonna factor in who’s out there.”
Will the coaching staff work on their ability to script at the start of games to get off to faster starts?
Vrabel: “I think the scripting is as important as the execution.”
Will the coaching staff come back mostly in-tact for next year?
Vrabel: “We’ll have meetings on that throughout the week and that’s something that I’ll have to put into consideration.”
What is Dillon Radunz’s future and where doesthe team see him fitting in going forward?
Vrabel: “just improve and continue to do what he did this year and get stronger at this level.”
Note: Vrabel wouldn’t specify whether Radunz will focus on guard or tackle.
What is it about Ryan Tannehill that should make him the quarterback next year and in years beyond?
Vrabel: “He’s got elite toughness, we have to be great around him. But he’s shown signs of accuracy and (good) decision making along with the ability to extend plays and scramble, and leadership. Those are all things you look for in a quarterback and Ryan showed us that. Unfortunately, we turned the ball over on Saturday.”
Should the team add better quarterback depth behind Ryan Tannehill to push him and maybe bring the best out of him again?
Vrabel: “I think we’re trying to add the best depth at every position that we possibly can.”
Does Vrabel have any different takes on the three interceptions now than he did after the game?
Vrabel: “I think we gotta do a better job of taking care of the football. They made a couple plays but again we know that when we throw the football, we gotta be precise, quarterbacks gotta helps us and the receivers gotta help us. That’s where it is.”
With the personnel returning, will the team stick with the theme of a similar running philosophy going forward?
Vrabel: “We’ll do whatever we think gives us the best chance to win. Right now we’re not there. We’ll go back and evaluate the efficiency of every run, every pass, every screen, every bootleg, same thing on defense.”
Does the team expect Derrick Henry to pick up where left off once he’s back and what did the team think of D’onta Foreman?
Vrabel: “I’m sure Derrick will work extremely hard to get himself ready like he does every offseason. D’onta has an expiring contract and we’ll see how that fits in with what we are going to do going forward. But he was fun to coach and he did a nice job for us and certainly made the most of his opportunity.”
Has there been any talks on Vrabel’s contract status after hinting that he would be the Titans’ coach for a long time after the game on Saturday?
Vrabel: “I’m under contract and my belief is that I will be here. I want to be here. I want to do the best job I can for these players that you so much into it. That’s just kind of how I felt. I don’t want to be anywhere else, just kind of how I said it.”
How would you assess the offensive lines performance and how do you plan to approach that group going forward given the decline in play and increase in age?
Vrabel: “I think there’s a lot of great plays and great protections. But sometimes there’s a lot of inconsistencies and our job is to try and improve the overall consistency… but it’s the dips that are hard to account for and making sure that whoever you are, you show up and be that person each and every day. From a performance standpoint most especially.”
How will Vrabel remember this season with the men he had in the locker room?
Vrabel: “there was just so many ups and downs. I just really think the stabilization that some of these guys provide for us: Ben (Jones), Ryan (Tannehill), Kevin (Byard), Jeffery (Simmons), & Harold (Landry). I know there’s other guys that played every game… but those are the guys that stabilized this thing and helped us. They were able to flush losses and flush victories quickly to move onto the next challenge. But we fell short. We played hard and competed but we made too many mistakes in the end and we’ll have to be better.”
How did Taylor Lewan progress throughout the year considering he was coming off an ACL injury?
Vrabel: “I think he did okay. I think he pass protected okay. That was probably the strength of his game. There’s a lot of things he can work on and we’ll coach him through.”