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VOL. 40 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 22, 2016

Robinson the highlight so far of odd offseason

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Newly hired Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson, right, answers questions at this week’s press conference with head coach Mike Mularkey, center, and Titans President Steve Underwood.

-- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey

There is plenty of criticism to go around in the way the Tennessee Titans handled their so-called coaching search, which wound up being Mike Mularkey versus three guys who never had a chance. Amy Adams Strunk had her head coach all along in interim coach Mularkey.

And while that’s fine and dandy – Mularkey deserves every opportunity to fix things around St. Thomas Sports Park – the process of hiring him was a shell game that left raw nerves among Titans fans.

If you’re looking for hope in all of the Titans travails, new general manager Jon Robinson might be that reason.

Robinson came off in his first press conference – on a day where the Titans had to answer for their lax coaching search – as a potential beacon.

He was no-nonsense in belief that the lessons he learned in rising through the ranks of the New England Patriots organization can help him find some cornerstones necessary to turning Tennessee’s fortunes around.

“Our goal here is to win, bottom line,” Robinson said. “That is a measuring stick that all franchises are measured by.

“Mike and I have an aligned vision of what we want this team to look like. We want tough players, we want coachable players, we want smart players and most importantly we want players with a team-first attitude.

“My role here is to insure we find those players. I will coach the personnel staff on the type of players that we want and identify the guys that are true fits of what we are looking for in a Titan.”

Speaking of Tennessee and the Titans, you could see as Robinson was introduced on his 40th birthday before media, family and friends, that maybe it means a little more to him than just your ordinary candidate.

Robinson, you see, is from Union City, where he was an all-state football player in the early 1990s. And his high school football coach, Randy Barnes, as well as his hometown newspaper, were also in attendance for the West Tennessean’s “homecoming.”

“If you only remember one thing from this presser, please remember this,” he said. “This goes out to our fans. This is my home, and you guys are my family.

“I’ve been a Titans fan ever since ’97 when this football team moved here,” he added.

“We’re going to build this team the right way. All decisions that we make will be made in the best interest of this team – your football team. Please let us earn your support.”

In recalling working on the family farm and watching his father go to work at the Goodyear Tire facility in Union City, Robinson stressed he is a product of hard work. For an organization that has squandered a great deal of credibility over the past several years with the work ethic of many being called into question, that is certainly a breath of fresh air.

“I grew up on a small, 10-acre farm in West Tennessee. I watched my dad get up every morning and drive to a tire plant where he worked for 30-plus years,” Robinson recalled. “My mother packed his lunchbox before he walked out. I helped work that farm as supplemental income.

“I know what hard work is. Coach knows what hard work is. I was part of an organization in New England for 12 years that is still the standard of excellence today.

“We’re ready to go to work for you because you’re our family.”

Playoff predictions

I went 3-1 last week, not realizing the Seattle Seahawks would oversleep and miss the first half against Carolina. Must have been traveling across three times zones that did the Seahawks in.

Anyway, it is time to move on to the conference championship games and set the pairings for Super Bowl 50.

AFC Championship: New England at Denver, 2:05 p.m. CT, CBS

It would nice to see Peyton Manning ride off into the sunset with another Super Bowl before he buys the Titans makes everything right with the world as we know it.

Hey, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention on that last part.

Everyone knows the team isn’t for sale, and if they didn’t, we got a nice reminder at Monday’s press conference. But back to the game.

If the Broncos are going to win this game and protect home field, then it will be because of the defense. It’s kind of sad to see, but Manning is now more caretaker than playmaker, which means the Broncos standout defense has to keep the score in check and Denver’s running game has to control the tempo.

The Patriots are always a tough out in the postseason with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski et al, and as long as they can keep Brady upright and out of harm’s way, they can avenge their earlier loss to Denver in what might have been the regular season game of the year.

As much as it would be a nice potential sendoff for Manning, the Patriots look too strong this time around.

Patriots 21, Broncos 16

NFC Championship: Arizona at Carolina, 5:40 p.m., CT, Fox

Somewhere out of this, either Carson Palmer or Cam Newton will be heading to his first Super Bowl.

Palmer is the grizzled veteran whom the Bengals thought would take them to the Promised Land a decade or so ago before knee injury in the playoffs derailed that.

Since then, he has bounced from Oakland to Arizona and has come back from another knee injury last year to put together an outstanding season.

Speaking of which, Newton has also been amazing this year, especially when you consider he lost his best wide receiver in training camp and has been throwing footballs to the likes of Ted Ginn Jr. with remarkable success.

The Panther defense, led by Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, might be the real stars of this team and could make life miserable for the Cardinals, who must protect Palmer and allow him to let his standout receiving corps make plays down the field.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 24.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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