Tennessee Titans: Playoff run
By P. L. Colter
When the Tennessee Titans removed the interim tag from head coach Mike Mularkey a few months ago, he was immediately questioned about his vision for the team going forward.
Without batting an eye he replied that the 2016 Titans will be a physical smash mouth team that runs the ball down the opponent’s throat.
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While the front office was successful in bringing in players to fit Mularkey’s vision this offseason, local and national media pundits questioned whether or not the plan was outdated.
The NFL has undergone a face lift over the past decade. The traditional two tight end, three yards and a cloud of dust approach featuring a workhorse running back has been replaced with three and four wide receiver sets, with quarterbacks slinging it all over the field.
The rules have been altered in favor of the qb’s and receivers, and now penalty flags are being thrown if you so much as breathe on them.
If you want to be successful in today’s NFL then you better get with the program. If you want to make a playoff push then you have to do it through the air now.
Or do you?
Last year’s Super Bowl featured two teams that finished outside of the top ten in passing yards. Denver was middle of the pack, finishing 14th. Carolina was far worse, finishing 24th in passing yards last season.
To put this into perspective, Tampa Bay (17th), Miami (19th), and Cleveland (21st) all finished ahead of Carolina, who had Cam Newton…the league MVP under center for all 16 games.
In addition, six of the twelve teams that earned a playoff berth last season finished 12th or better in total rushing yards (Carolina – 2nd, Seattle – 3rd, Minnesota – 4th, Kansas City – 6th, Arizona – 8th, Green Bay – 12th).
Conversely, seven of the top ten passing teams failed to earn a playoff berth last season.
The Titans have gone to the playoffs twice in the last ten years, and coincidentally, they did so on the back of a top ten rushing attack both seasons (2007 – 5th, 2008 – 7th).
Tennessee featured a dual threat running back system in 2008, LenDale White and Chris Johnson. Smash and Dash combined for over 2000 yards rushing and 24 total touchdowns on the ground. The carries between the two were also dived up equally (Johnson – 251 att, White – 200 att).
The Titans finished with the best record in the AFC that year.
This season it’s Thunder and Thunder, and the team is hoping to duplicate similar success with newly acquired running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
Next: Titans biggest remaining team needs
While contemporary wisdom says to let Marcus Mariota drop back and throw it 30 plus times a game like he is still wearing Oregon green, conventional wisdom says that coach Mularkey is on to something.
A playoff run can still start on the ground.