Tennessee Titans receiver Taywan Taylor was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to the Titan Sized crew.
When it was announced by members of the national media on Sunday evening that the Tennessee Titans would be offering head coach Mike Mularkey a contract extension, fans erupted. They threatened to stop watching games, stop buying tickets, and give up permanent seat licenses.
While this was certainly an overreaction to the situation, it showed a genuine disconnect between the Titans organization and their fans. It would usually make sense for a team to extend the contract of their head coach coming off of the franchise’s best season in over a decade. After all, Mularkey did get the Titans to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and they won a game against the uber-talented Kansas City Chiefs.
Nonetheless, a strong majority of the Titans’ fanbase had no desire to see Mularkey on the Nissan Stadium sidelines in 2018. Most of the unrest stemmed from Mularkey’s season recap press conference, in which he made multiple comments that could have been perceived as tone-deaf.
Though most fans were elated when the Titans decided to part ways with Mularkey, the actual members of the football team did not feel the same enthusiasm. Just a week before, outside linebacker Brian Orakpo told a Nashville news station “What more do people want?” when asked about Mularkey’s job security.
However, the players likely realize that they’re in a pretty special position. Sure, the coach that everyone loved is out the door. But if the locker room is able to continue gelling under the new head coach, the Titans could morph into a Super Bowl caliber football team.
So, despite their frustration, Titans players would be wise to get behind the new coach, whoever that may be. If they don’t, the team could find themselves right back where they were in the miserable years of 2014-2015.
Some would argue that Titans receiver Taywan Taylor’s lack of production as a rookie was the fault of Mularkey and the often-scapegoated Terry Robiskie. Taylor, however, shares the same sentiments regarding Mularkey as his teammates. But, he also realizes that success in the future requires moving on.
He expressed those thoughts when he spoke with myself, Matias Wodner, and Will Lomas about the transition he and his teammates face this offseason.
"“I feel like all our guys and our team was definitely behind coach Mularkey 100%. He was our coach and we gave him all of our support. But I feel like we’re going to stay focused as a team, and we’re all excited about what Jon Robinson is doing, and he’s leading the coaching search. We know that Jon has the same thing in mind as we do, and that’s getting back to where were this year, but going farther…We’re excited and we can’t wait to get to work.”"
Even so, Taylor likely did not have a rookie campaign that he was pleased with. After being a featured weapon in the offense throughout Training Camp and the preseason, he disappeared once the game started to count. He caught just 16 passes in his rookie campaign, totaling only 274 all-purpose yards.
This lack of playing time and production was undoubtedly difficult for Taylor to deal with. The year prior, as the featured receiver in Western Kentucky’s offense, Taylor hauled in 98 passes for 1,730 yards.
Yet, he didn’t let the frustration bring him down. Instead, he made an effort to continue to show the same traits of high-character and leadership that made the Titans fall in love with him prior to the 2017 NFL Draft.
"“When you come from that position into a new situation and have to ajust, it’s definitely a challenge. I think the biggest thing for me was just staying focused and controlling what I can control. Just being humble about everything, keep working, keep improving. The amount of snaps and not being on the field much was out of my control. I just stayed locked-in the whole time and kept motivating my teammates even when I wasn’t out there. When my number was called, I tried to do the best job of making plays.”"
Ever since the Titans began their coaching search earlier in the week, the popular debate among fans and media members has become whether the team should hire a coach with an offensive or defensive mind and history.
Two of the candidates the Titans have interviewed, Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel and Panthers DC Steve Wilks, come from the defensive side of the ball. The other candidate interviewed, Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, is an offensive guy.
The reality of the situation is that it doesn’t entirely matter to the players. If a defense guru becomes the head coach, he will bring a good offensive coordinator with him. If an offense guru becomes the head coach, he will likewise bring a good defensive coordinator with him.
For Taylor, it doesn’t matter what side of the ball the coach is from. All that matters is the team getting behind him.
"“I believe that we’re all excited about who we’re going to get. Whether it’s a defensive minded coach or offensive minded, we feel like whoever it is will be a great fit. We know that our general manager, Jon [Robinson], is going to do a great job of finding a guy who fits all of us. We’re looking forward to it, and we’re just ready to find out who it’s going to be.”"
Finally, though the Titans regressed at an alarming rate on offense, their defense was perhaps the biggest reason why the team was able to go as far as it did. The run defense was superb against every back against Todd Gurley, and the pass defense allowed the least explosive plays of any team in the NFL.
The biggest reason for this change was the team’s infusion of talent at cornerback. After suffering through being forced to start the likes of Perrish Cox and Valentino Blake in 2016, rookie Adoree’ Jackson and free agent signee Logan Ryan were refreshing to watch.
But, if it was Taywan Taylor going up against those guys on a Sunday, he thinks he would have the upper hand.
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"“If I’m in a room with [Byard, Jackson, and Ryan], I’m picking myself all day, they know that and you can tell them I said that. All those guys they compete and I love going against them in practice. I definitely love going against Adoree’, he’s elite out there. He’s fast, he’s a playmaker, he’s an athlete. He challenges all the receivers everytime we go against him.”"
Whoever the new Titans coach is, their staff will have to do a better job of getting Taylor involved in the offense. He’s too smart and talented to be standing on the sideline for much longer.
In year two, expect Taylor to hit the ground running and be a focal point of the Titans’ passing game. But even if he isn’t, he will certainly continue to conduct himself with class and be a good teammate. It’s hard not to be a fan of someone with that attitude.