Jon Robinson gambles cost the Tennessee Titans and it led to his firing
By Ian Schiller
The Tennessee Titans fired GM Jon Robinson Tuesday afternoon after suffering an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and former fan-favorite receiver A.J. Brown 35-10.
While a lot remains left to unpack from this unprecedented move, it comes after animosity over Jon Robinson’s roster gambles came back to bite them back in the form of 8 receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
The impact A.J. Brown had combined with the whopping 10 points mustered up by the Tennessee Titans offense, left Amy Adams Strunk needing someone to blame.
Following the game, Sunday there were already signs of tumult. At the post-game presser, Mike Vrabel told reporters that “we are at a crossroads.”
Whether or not Vrabel’s ominous statement meant anything or not, it definitely captures the moment.
It was clear at the press conference that Vrabel was frustrated, especially when the topic came to the roster deficiencies. One moment that stands out clearly was when ESPN reporter Turron Davenport asked about the struggles along the offensive line.
Turron is right to ask the question because the roster is the biggest issue. Jon Robinson was unable to build an offensive line to block for the best running back in the league, and that may not even the biggest mistake GM Jon Robinson made this year.
Tennessee Titans gambled on a few key decisions, but the misses were costly
The reason that he was fired is that his mistakes may not only going to cost the Titans playoff success, but they will also cost Derrick Henry his prime.
Derrick Henry has earned 85% of his yards after taking an initial hit from a defender. That is 6% higher than the next highest in the league.
We cannot talk about the offensive line without highlighting the left tackle situation. In the 2nd quarter against the Eagles, when the Titans got into the red zone after a few big plays while down 14-7, Dennis Daley false starts on 3rd and 1 inside the 10. Which is bad enough but on the following play, he allows his defender to completely smoke him on their way to sacking Tannehill forcing a field goal.
It is impossible to know when the schism between Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson started, but a breaking point might have been when A.J. Brown was traded which seemingly contradicted the wishes of Mike Vrabel. Who can forget the notorious draft night video?
The fear that this might happen again creeped into the Tennessee Titans fan base when this Jeffery Simmons quote came out this season about his contract negotiations:
"“It was, ‘We want you to be here, but we don’t know exactly when we’ll be able to pay you,’” Simmons said. “The Titans were like, ‘We don’t know if we’re going to be able to offer you what you think you are worth. We want to pay you, but we don’t know where it’s going to come from.’ That’s basically what it was, not an offer.”"
And the story of the season is how he failed to create an offensive line for the league’s most notorious running offense. The Tennessee Titans have the face of the running back position and cannot run the ball because the offensive line cannot run block.
Here is who was notably in and out on the line under Robinson:
- Drafted Jack Conklin, but let him walk in free agency
- Signed Roger Saffold, but cut him last year
- Drafted Isaiah Wilson, who might be one of the worst busts in recent history
- Drafted Dillon Radunz, who has been moved to guard
Should they have tried to bring in players to fill that void in the off-season? Yes, probably. But at the time, Taylor Lewan was still healthy and presumably would be holding down the left tackle position.
Unfortunately, Lewan’s knee injury left the Titans high and dry with millions of dollars still constrained to his contract.
Ultimately, Jon Robinson gambled and lost.
He gambled on the A.J. Brown trade, even though Treylon Burks continues to develop into a good wide receiver, trading a top-10 player in his position will go down as a huge failure to invest into a win-now mentality.
Robinson gambled on Taylor Lewan staying healthy, even though Lewan, 31, has not played a full season since 2017. Unfortunately, but really not surprisingly, Lewan went down again meaning Robinson lost his second big gamble of the season.
Hindsight is 20/20 but even then, there were offensive linemen who were rumored to be available before the trade deadline. Andre Dillard who is with the Eagles or Isaiah Wynn with the Patriots were both tossed around in trade rumors, though neither was traded.
Mike Vrabel has seen how this team stacks up against the best teams in the league. Losses to Buffalo, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia has changed the vibe of the season and now they have few options to remedy the roster issues that are wasting the prime years of Derrick Henry.
The playoffs are almost assured, barring a monumental collapse, but it is hard to see this team holding up to compete with many of the upper-echelon AFC opponents the way they are currently playing.
These roster mistakes are haunting the Titans enormously and they have probably limited whatever Super Bowl aspirations the team had coming into the season which is why Amy Adams Strunk made the choice that she did.