It's been three full days since the Tennessee Titans completed their latest foruth quarter collapse in dropping a winnable game to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville, and with that loss, almost any hope that the Titans might have held to somehow find a way to sneak into the playoffs is lost.
That's a good thing, trust me.
This team is not a playoff calibur team regardless of how terrible the AFC South division currently is, and getting into the playoffs with a 6-10 record only to be crushed in the first round would have served to place a band-aid on an arterial bleeder.
There are seriosu deficiencies on this roster that must be addressed and the closer to the top fo the draft this team is for another year, the better the chances of a quicker fix exist.
Make no mistake, I'm not wishing for Titans losses- thought everyone now gets you closer to that top pick, which could be a good thing- but the reality is that there is no way for general manager Ruston Webster, or anyone else at St. Thomas Sports Park to make any impactful changes to the roster this season.
Speaking of Webster, he had been the target of fans disapproval along with a certain former head coach for several weeks. Webster is still the source of scorn for fans now that the Titans have returned to themselves after their win in New Orleans. He will likely continue to be a sore subject for fans moving forward.
There is no doubt that many of the well documented moves Webster has made have not worked out. His record in the draft, especially in the second round has been terrible, but he has done some good things at the same time. I'm not going to sit here and defend his draft record, because it speaks for itself, but what I will say is that he has delt with the ownership issues where the team seemed to be an afterthought to those in charge, and he also dealt with a head coach whose ideas on who to draft now seem to be as crazy as a Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart.
Since his dismissal, it has come to light that Whisenhunt had to be convinced that taking Marcus Mariota was the right move for the Titans, even after Whisenhunt and company had worked him out and spent many hours digging into him in preparation for draft day.
At the time I didn't thing much of it, but with that new revelation in mind I think back to the week we spent in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl and some of the things I witnessed thst week that seemed strange but I brushed aside, now seem to have some clarity.
Every day following the Senior Bowl practices, the players were available for interviews on the field at Ladd- Peebles Stadium. Likewise both Whisenunt and Webster were accessible for myself and the other Nashville media members who knew them and got more access because of our hometown connection.
During the week I made it a point to speak with Webster every day, even if it was jsut a casual conversation without a recorder in place. I also got the chance to see he and Whisenhunt together both on the field and inside the teams hotel where some things struck me as odd about their interactions.
I won't go into detail about what I saw, becaue I could be totally wrong about what transpired, but the things I witnessed lead me to believe that the two were not necessarily working on the same sheet of music. There was no public disagreement where things were obvious, but some subtleties now seem more fact than fiction in assessing their relationship.
Fast-forward to draft day where going into the opening round I was more than confident that a source with close ties to the draft process had told me who the Titans were taking not only in the first round, but the second as well. As it turns out, that source was spot on as the Titans selecte Mariota in the first and then wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in the second.
I questioned both selections at the time because of obvious reasons that we won;t rehash here, but I am happy to say that I was wrong on Mariota, and also feel that I was wrong on DGB as well.
Both players I am told were not Whisenhunt selections, and tht the head coach had to be sold on both in the selection process.
I write all of this today to try to provide some context to where I feel this team is with Webster in the top spot, because frankly, I dont think he is going anywhere at this point. I also don't think he needs to be replaced this season.
Yes there are questionable decisions that have been made, and some of the moves have not worked out, but this roster was improved greatly in one off season, and some of the players who fans and media alike have openly criticized have improved their performances this season. There is still room for improvement however, but the biggest problem this team had was not Webster, it was the person making the gameday decisions on where and how players were used. Proff of that is apparent from the simple changes the team has made since Mike Mularkey took over.
Mularkey was working with the same players his predicessor had, yet has managed to make the offensive line good enough to have not gotten Mariota completely broken in half to this point.
The line is still a disaster area, and the biggest need for improvement on the roster. The team could use another stud pass rusher, a safety, cornerback and stud wide receiver- all of those in no particular order at this time- to help get the team to where it needs to be.
So why do you ask could I possibly say that Webster shoudl return?
He has already put in place the one peice that this team needed most to start a turnaround. Mariota.
I'm willing to allow him another year to see what a new coach, with the common sense to take the players at hand and mold his system to their talents can do as oppsoed to a chaoch who takes the round hole, square peg approach to coahing.
Who knows, it just might work out, and this team also needs some form of stability. Webster could be the guy to give it that during another transitional year.