Tennessee Titans firing Jon Robinson sends a powerful message

Tennessee Titans (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Tennessee Titans (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Tennessee Titans have made quite easily two of the most stunning moves in the 2022 NFL season, the first was trading A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles on draft night, and the second came on Tuesday, as they relieved general manager Jon Robinson of his duties. Even for a team that has been average and convincingly below the elite tier, this move is so shocking on so many levels.

Just a few months ago Jon Robinson along with Mike Vrabel signed extensions with the Tennessee Titans. For a GM who had no losing seasons along with being the one to start the teams’ rise from the basement to a consistent playoff caliber, you would figure he would get more time.

Even more shocking was for a team that is all but guaranteed another division title at this point, Amy Adams Strunk pulled the trigger midseason, making everyone wonder what could be going on behind closed doors that led to this decision.

Now, you cannot mention this topic without mentioning that Brown torched the Titans this past Sunday, which could have only been a factor in Robinson’s downfall. From everything we can see, this was a football-related decision that was deeper than just panicking after a former player burned them.

Tennessee Titans organization is not pleased with the current state of affairs

Let’s remind everyone that Jon Robinson was not a bad GM by any means during his time with the Titans. For all the bad moves that played a role in him losing his job, he had many great ones that brought the team where they are today.

The 2019 draft was a near-legendary one for the team, and the 2022 class is looking quite good as well.

Several trades and signings including the acquisitions of Ben Jones, Denico Autry, DeMarco Murray, and Ryan Tannehill (the trade) were tremendous value maneuvers, and under him, the Tennessee Titans were a consistently good team.

But Amy Adams Strunk looked at his 66-43 record, soon to be three straight division titles, soon to be four straight playoff berths, and once again no losing seasons, and said that is not good enough. Even with several years left on his contract and millions of dollars owed to him, Strunk’s message was that none of that matters unless we are meeting our standard, which is being a consistent Super Bowl contender, which the Titans were not under Robinson.

She also showed commitment to Mike Vrabel, who she believes is ultimately most responsible for the team’s ascension. His immediate reaction after the aforementioned A.J. Brown trade, his somewhat out-of-the-blue but brutally honest remarks about the team’s lack of wide receiver talent available in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs, his recent comments about the offensive line after the Eagles’ loss, and his supposed disagreement with several of Robinson’s moves are big hints that the reigning Coach of the Year had had enough.

Now, we will never truly know if Strunk was put in a “him or me” situation by Vrabel, especially with him saying in Wednesday’s press conference that Strunk was the one that made the decision. But Vrabel did reveal that he had a conversation with her on Monday, so at the very least, it is safe to assume that he didn’t try to stop the termination.

What we do know is that Strunk believes that she is rewarding the guy who has consistently gotten more than he should out of the talent he has had, and parting with the guy who ultimately failed to give the Titans a truly elite roster. No matter how you slice it, Strunk made a statement that she cares about the team’s record, accomplishments, and players more than her wallet or anything else, and that alone is hard to find in an NFL owner.

As suggested, Vrabel is in near full control of the organization now and has essentially been given its keys by Strunk. The Tennessee Titans’ next GM hire will ultimately be signed off on by Vrabel, and the team on the field and all throughout football operations will be catered to his preferences.

Once again, I believe that Strunk made the right decision if it actually came down to Robinson or Vrabel staying with this organization, but giving a head coach this much power is always somewhat of a risky move. It is mainly because head coaches are not always the best executives, and between that and his “my way or the highway” approach in some aspects, there is a possibility that he could end up making some bad decisions.

The biggest worry is that he is ultimately the one that is named the GM outright, or that he has the final say on roster construction.

But the one thing that should give fans confidence in Vrabel’s ability to run the Tennessee Titans well is that he always does what is in the best interest of the players. For good reason, that locker room goes as he goes and ultimately rallies around him, so already this is far from a Bill O’Brien in Houston situation.

And contrary to what some people have believed about him and even what he has said in the past, Vrabel does not seem to be satisfied with the Titans’ talent level. As mentioned, we know from his past actions and words that he does not think they have enough at wide receiver and offensive line, and that he did want to keep AJ Brown on the team.

This should give the fans more confidence that Jeffery Simmons will eventually be retained. Surely neither Vrabel nor the new GM would make the mistake of letting him go after the previous debacle was so much of what doomed Robinson. The situation with Simmons also could have played a role in the firing, as there is a good chance that an extension would not have gotten done without it.

But under Vrabel, there is reason to be optimistic that the Titans will be more aggressive in acquiring all the talent that they need. The next GM’s philosophy will align with Vrabel’s, and his great track record as a head coach makes him more deserving of this honor than just about any other head coach in the NFL.