The Tennessee Titans lost in embarrassing fashion on Sunday afternoon to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars. When the final seconds ticked off the clock following a Chad Henne kneel-down, it was not a fun moment to be a Titans fan.
Years ago, when Dennis Green was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, the Chicago Bears pulled off an improbable comeback on Monday Night Football. After trailing 20-0 at halftime, the Bears came out and scored two defensive touchdown and returned a punt for another touchdown with three minutes remaining to win the game 24-23.
The Bears quarterback at the time, Rex Grossman, threw four interceptions in that game. The Bears did not even score an offensive touchdown. But they managed to win. In one of the most memorable post-game interviews of recent history, a frustrated Green infamously exclaimed, “They are who we thought they were!”
While Sunday’s game played out under quite different circumstances, there was one similarity. Going into the game, the Jaguars had as much of a chance to beat the Titans as the Bears had of coming back and winning that game with no offensive touchdowns while committing six turnovers. But the Titans are who we thought they were at the end of last season.
This year was supposed to be different. Jake Locker was supposed to finally develop into that franchise quarterback. The offensive line was supposed to be one of the best in the league. The receiving corps was supposed to be the deepest and most talented the team has ever had.
I’m now thoroughly convinced that the first four weeks of this season were a mirage. I believe that 3-1 record was a product of playing bad teams. The Steelers are not the Steelers of old. There is no steel curtain hanging in Pittsburgh this year. The Texans are a complete mess, and they were able to beat the Titans. The Chargers can’t play defense well-enough to sustain a high-powered offense. And the Jets are arguably the most up-and-down, inconsistent team in the league. The Titans were lucky to catch them on a bad week. The combined record of those four teams is 14-22.
Because despite signing 12 free agents and drafting 8 rookies, these 2013 Titans are the same Titans as last year and the year before that. The Titans aren’t who we thought they would be, they are who we thought they were. That is to say, they are still incapable of sustaining drives, unable to run the football, and utterly incompetent when it comes to beating bad teams.
It comes down to the coaching staff. That is, after all, the common trait over the last three seasons. The players won’t say it, of course. And, sure, Mike Munchak isn’t the one losing fumbles. He’s not on the field committing costly personal foul penalties on third down. He isn’t missing blocks and failing to open running lanes. But his players are. And at a certain point, there’s no one left to blame but him.
Mike Munchak’s Titans are who we thought they were. And if the Titans ever want to become something else, they’ll have to part with their head coach.
I’m sure this won’t be the first time you’ve heard this, but the Jaguars have two wins in their last twenty-two games, both of which came against the Titans. The 2011 Colts were 0-13 when they caught the Titans on the schedule. Had the Titans pummeled that terrible team, they would’ve finished 10-6 and in the playoffs.
In the NFL, every game counts. In order to make the playoffs, you have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. I know that anything can happen on any given Sunday, but it has become a common theme for Munchak’s Titans to throw away a game they need to have.
In a few weeks time, when the Titans barely miss the playoffs again, we’re going to look back on this loss and wonder, “What if?”
When we look back on the disappointing season as a whole, we’ll remember, “They are who we thought they were.”