Experts from ESPN to FanSided’s own NFL Spin Zone have expressed a number of opinions regarding this young, talented Tennessee Titans team. Let’s take a look at what they have to say about the team heading into 2018.
After their second straight 9-7 season and a playoff win, the Tennessee Titans felt that they needed a new coaching staff to take that next step towards a Super Bowl. Now they have a new head coach in Mike Vrabel who has earned plaudits from almost everyone who has known him throughout his career as a coach and player. Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson made two great hires in coaxing DC Dean Pees out of retirement and convincing OC Matt Lafleur, previously a possible HC candidate, to leave the Los Angeles Rams and modernize this offense.
This team is set up for long-term success with a bright, young coaching staff, a young core of talented players, as well as a ton of cap space and a full draft to improve during the offseason. 2018 should finally be the year that the Titans can take the next step and compete for a Super Bowl. As many experts are rolling out their “way-too-early-power-rankings”, let’s take a look at what they have to say about the Tennessee Titans and their playoff hopes in 2018.
ESPN.com 2018 Rankings
ESPN hands Tennessee the lowest ranking on any of the early power rankings sampled for this article, at No. 17. Although ESPN expresses concern surrounding Marcus Mariota’s poor performance throughout the 2017 NFL Regular Season, they later express optimism surrounding the offense in the playoffs, saying:
"“As we saw in the playoffs, the Heisman Trophy-winning backfield of Mariota and Derrick Henry could be primed to run wild in 2018.”"
Although I understand that ESPN may be wary of projecting the Titans too high with a new coaching staff, to knock the Titans this much because of the offensive struggles in 2017 seems a bit drastic, in my opinion. The new staff looks perfectly capable of improving an offense that has plenty of room to grow if provided a scheme that meshes well with their individual skillsets, which bodes well for the team in 2018. Look for the Titans to rise quickly in ESPN’s rankings after a few explosive preseason contests.
Brad Gagnon at TheComeback
Brad Gagnon, a name you may recognize if you read articles at TheComeback or Bleacher Report, may seem a bit down on the Titans by ranking the team at 14th in the league, but he expressed an overwhelming amount of optimism about the Titans and the new coaching staff. Gagnon expressed a number of sentiments that most fans can likely agree with.
"Really excited to see what Mike Vrabel’s coaching staff (Matt LaFleur! Dean Pees!) can do with that young, talented team, and general manager Jon Robinson once again has a lot of salary cap space. The Titans could finally emerge as a Super Bowl contender in 2018."
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Whereas ESPN focused too much on a 2017 season led by an entirely different staff, Gagnon focused more on the potential for the team to be even better with an exciting, albeit unproven, coaching staff, a ton of cap, and more experience for several young building blocks already on the roster. This potential for growth is what makes the Titans such a dangerous team heading into 2018.
Dan Parzych at NFLSpinZone
Dan Parzych of NFL Spin Zone hands the team their highest ranking amongst all of the 2018 Power Rankings examined for this article at No. 12 overall. Parzych focuses on the fact that Tennessee finished strong and proved that they were moving in the right direction at the end of the year. He points out that Mariota showed his potential to put the team on his back in the team’s playoff win and that the loss to New England should be a valuable experience for this young Titans roster.
"Whether Tennessee remains serious contenders in the AFC will fall on the shoulders of Marcus Mariota once again … Just look at the playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs in which the former Oregon star literally carried the offense in the second half to help the Titans pull off the shocking win … Losing to the New England Patriots the way they did will hopefully be used as a learning experience to give Tennessee a wakeup call over what it’s going to take to be one of the best in the AFC."
Parzyck also points out that of all the teams expected to take the next step heading into 2017, the Titans were the only one who actually made good on the expectations and made the playoffs. With the team heading in the right direction after a successful 2017, the team is hoping that Mike Vrabel and his staff can push the Titans even further in that direction and build off of the foundation set by Mike Mularkey and Jon Robinson.
Elliot Harrison at NFL.com
Of all the writers featured so far, Harrison expresses the most skepticism regarding the team’s decision to let Mike Mularkey go in favor of new HC Mike Vrabel. Harrison laments the fact that the Titans let Mularkey go after Mike Mularkey “set a tone in the organization that led to success,” and warns Titans fans that there is more to being a head coach than “X’s and O’s or motivating players.” While Harrison’s skepticism may be warranted after Mularkey’s unceremonious exit, the fact that he was offered an extension before “mutually parting” with the team suggests that he was not interested in making the changes necessary to take that team to the next level, which could render Harrison’s point moot.
In summary, most writers seem unwilling to take a risk by projecting this unproven staff to coach a top 10 team, but three out of the four writers expressed great optimism for the future with one writer even projecting the team as a potential Super Bowl contender. Although it is understandable that one might not want to take the leap with a fairly inexperienced Head Coach, but few anticipated last season’s coach of the year Sean McVay finding as much success as he did due to a lack of experience. Sometimes a team has to take a risk with a new coach to keep moving forwards instead of idling in neutral. The Titans have taken that risk and hopefully that decision will prove the right one in the near future.