Two years have gone since the Tennessee Titans and Vince Young parted ways during the 2011 offseason. Shortly after the NFL lockout had ended, Young found his first post-Titans stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent one season as a backup quarterback to Michael Vick.
Remember that 2011-12 Eagles team? It was the beginning of the end for Andy Reid, who spent 14 seasons as their head coach (1999-2012). The Eagles were coming off a season that included 10 regular-season victories, an NFC East championship and a near wild-card victory against the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
Management tried to reinvigorate their roster with a bunch of big-name free-agent signings and trades. Among those additions were Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Donald Lee, Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith and Young.
All that eye candy led many football enthusiasts to proclaim the Eagles as the 2012 Super Bowl champions—during the preseason. Young was among those people who had high expectations. He referred to his new team as a “dream team.” The Eagles started that season with a 4-8 record. Reid was fired after a second consecutive playoff-less season during 2012-13. He’s now in his first season as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach.
Let’s get back to 2013. The Titans have revamped their roster in an attempt to end their playoff-less streak at four seasons. Management has signed more than a dozen free agents, many of whom are expected to compete for starting jobs and key role positions. Joining those free agents are eight draft picks and about 15 undrafted free agents. Some of those UDFAs have already parted ways.
Both teams focused heavily on free agency. Unlike the Eagles, the Titans appeared to use more of an outcast version of that strategy. Most of their additions were affordable mid-tier players who weren’t signed just because of name recognition; the Titans appeared to have a plan. General manager Ruston Webster was searching for players who’d fit into the organizational culture and thrive in either Dowell Loggains’ or Jerry Gray’s schemes.
One of the main problems with the Eagles’ philosophy was that they didn’t emphasize players who fit their systems. A perfect example of that came with Asomugha. When he was on the free-agent market, Asomugha was recognized as one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks. His progression was largely due to his ability to play man-to-man coverage. After joining the Eagles, Asomugha was widely misused as a zone defender.
It went wrong for Philadelphia. Could anything go wrong for Tennessee? The Titans have put some of their hopes in journeymen (Bernard Pollard, Ropati Pitoitua) and low-contract players who were dismissed from their previous employers (George Wilson, Antonio Johnson).
There’s no doubt that Pollard should provide an upgrade for Jordan Babineaux. At the same time, if Pollard was so great, then why is he joining his fourth different franchise in eight seasons—on a one-year contract? If Pro Football Focus is accurate in their assessment that Wilson was the NFL’s eighth-best safety last season (a “secret superstar”), then why didn’t he pursue more options before he accepted the two-year, $4 million contract that the Titans offered?
These are the types of signings that have me cautiously optimistic. Why do some of these players switch teams every two to three seasons? Why are they signing such reasonable contracts? It doesn’t sound like there was much interest out there.
Vast improvements are expected from the 2013-14 Tennessee Titans. One of the main obstacles that this team must overcome deals with chemistry. How long will it take for all of these new players to mesh into an effective and consistent unit? Will Chance Warmack, Andy Levitre and possibly Brian Schwenke start dominating opposing defensive lines in Week 1? After 11 starts, is Jake Locker prepared to take the next step in his progression?
The Titans won’t have much time to get everything together. Not with their opening three-game stretch (at Pittsburgh Steelers, at Houston Texans, vs. San Diego Chargers). But if the Titans can get out of the first seven games with at least a 3-4 record (very doable), then they’ll have a chance to make a late-season run and hopefully make some postseason noise.