Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson is one of the most revered and respected individuals in his respective position. Robinson’s character traits aided in breathing new life into a fan base that had fallen on dark days.
In his inaugural season as the GM of the Tennessee Titans, Jon Robinson began making moves to churn and improve the roster of a team that had – at that point – produced back-to-back fourth place finishes in the AFC South.
The Titans collected five wins in two seasons and were in a bad place. Robinson was tasked with executing a rebuild. Fortunately, his predecessor had already drafted a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota and a cornerstone left tackle in Taylor Lewan.
Having a foundation to work with and the trust of controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, Robinson went to work. He focused on solidifying the offensive line through free agency (Ben Jones, Josh Kline) and the draft (Jack Conklin), took a chance on an aging veteran running back many felt was over the hill (DeMarco Murray) and transformed the first overall pick into the infamous “King’s Ransom” deal with the L.A. Rams.
Robinson’s vision was clear. In order to fix the Titans, he would have to do his homework on adding the right veteran free agents, spending late nights studying film in preparation for the NFL Draft and sifting through a 90-man roster in search of the “right 53”.
Despite the Titans earning one of the most memorable playoff wins last season – not only in franchise history, but in playoff history – Robinson sent shockwaves throughout the league when he announced the team would be parting ways with HC Mike Mularkey after initial reports indicated Mularkey would return.
In the press conference addressing the mutual parting of the Titans and Mularkey, Robinson earned the trust of the Titans faithful. His promise to tirelessly work to bring a championship to the city of Nashville was as genuine as it gets. Robinson emphatically stated he would find the “leader of men” to help transform that goal into a reality.
Many fans who endured the tumultuous Titans seasons placed their trust in Robinson’s vision.
The short-lived coaching search finished with Mike Vrabel being the guy. Vrabel, whose legacy as a player and a person was put on display on the debut episode of “Igniting the Fire”, assembled a well-rounded coaching staff.
Vrabel added Dean Pees, who un-retired to join Vrabel, to lead the defensive unit. He then went into the college ranks of his Alma Mater to bring in the fiery, Red Bull incarnate Kerry Coombs, who has a history of helping defensive backs reach their potential. Vrabel then brought in the guy who was competing for his job in Matt LaFleur to develop and design a modern offense to put the offensive talent in the best position to be successful.
Robinson, the man who interviewed LaFleur, somehow managed to land two head coaching candidates on the same sideline. That is a skill not many have.
It was a firm belief in the Titans fan base that – with the right coaching in place – the current Titans team was just a few more pieces away from being serious Super Bowl contenders.
After cleaning house of the previous coaching staff, Robinson began making some personnel adjustments.
Robinson continued to transform the roster by making some tough decisions. He parted ways with Murray and cut ties with long-time defensive lineman Karl Klug before free agency. Robinson then plucked a pair of New England Patriots, adding Dion Lewis and Malcom Butler, in the continued process of upgrading the team.
Backup Matt Cassel was replaced with Blaine Gabbert, who is a more desirable and natural fill-in for Marcus Mariota. He spent one of his four draft selections on adding Luke Falk, whose collegiate numbers hint that he could become the number two option once Gabbert’s contract expires.
Speaking of the draft selections, how about landing two first-round, top-20 talents in the first two days?
Known for loving his draft capital, Robinson made the best use of his initial six picks and after a few calls with Ozzie Newsome and Reggie McKenzie, he bolstered his defense, added a potential special teams ace capable of developing into a versatile contributor in the secondary and found a possible long-term solution to back up Mariota.
Robinson followed his four-pick draft by having his crew reach out to free agents profiled prior to draft night, landing a significant amount of bodies to compete to earn a spot on the roster.
A typical rebuild process has multiple phases. Right now, the Titans are in phase three.
A culture has been established and a mindset is in place. The team-first mentality is rooted within the players and coaching staff. There are no glaring major holes to fill; at least not to the degree there used to be in the past.
Depth is a key part of phase three. The Titans will need to spend the next few offseasons building depth at their thinnest positions. Robinson will keep his main assets, make the hard decisions on veteran contacts and continue to be actively engaged in phone calls discussing trades.
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His efforts in finding his right 53 will never stop, even if he achieves his goal of bringing the Lombardi trophy to the state of Tennessee.
The Titans are in a good place and in good hands with Robinson. Sure, his investment in Kevin Dodd hasn’t worked out as planned, but he did add two All-Pro talents in his first two seasons as GM. Mistakes will happen; he will not hit on every pick and not every free agent acquisition will pan out as we would hope.
Robinson will continue to work with Vrabel in developing and establishing the “Titan Way”. Think back to Vrabel’s initial press conference as the head coach of the Titans:
"“ I’m going to make mistakes, I’m not going to make too many of them and I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.” -Mike Vrabel"
The same mindset is built within Robinson. These are the men leading this franchise.
If fans ever find themselves doubting Robinson’s decisions or the character in which he operates, watch the man who proudly held his bidders card at the Juvenile Diabetes Fundraiser. His passion and dedication flows in harmony with the tears streaming down his face.
Robinson’s resolve is unmatched and his belief that the Titans will one day be dubbed Super Bowl champions is undying.
Be patient and enjoy the journey.