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VOL. 40 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 2, 2016

Good to close the book on Wreh-Wilson era

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Titans fans who have blamed cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson for many of the team’s defensive ills will have to find someone else to complain about this fall.

-- Rick Wilson Via Ap Images

The Tennessee Titans closed the book on Blidi Wreh-Wilson on Sunday, waiving the fourth-year cornerback, and in the process began closing one of the darkest chapters in the team’s history since it moved to Nashville.

It’s certainly not all Wreh-Wilson’s fault that the Titans have struggled for the past three seasons, as there have been plenty of players who have not lived up to expectations at nearly every position on the field.

But Wreh-Wilson, a third-round draft choice in 2013, sort of became the de facto face of the Titans’ futility based on one play in the second game of the 2014 season against Cincinnati. If you follow the Titans, you probably remember.

The Bengals were closing in on a score and decided to resort to trickery in the red zone with a wide receiver throwback pass from receiver Mohamed Sanu to quarterback Andy Dalton.

Wreh-Wilson diagnosed the play and had two options. He could try and pick off Sanu’s wounded-duck pass. Had he done so, he probably would have had a touchdown on the interception return.

Or he could have taken a free shot at quarterback-turned-receiver Dalton, perhaps knocking the Bengals QB out of the game or at the very least delivering a message with the hit.

Instead, Wreh-Wilson hesitated. That hesitation allowed the wobbly pass to not only find its target, but also allowed Dalton to waltz into the end zone for a score.

Though Wreh-Wilson claimed to have moved on from the play as his Titans career continued, he remained tied to that play.

As time went on, Wreh-Wilson had other issues in coverage and finally was a healthy scratch over the final month of last season. The writing was on the wall.

Coach Mike Mularkey and new general manager Jon Robinson took over in January and declared the slate was wiped clean with everyone. That said, for players like Wreh-Wilson, to whom Robinson and Mularkey had no draft allegiance, the leash would be very short.

For his part, Wreh-Wilson came into the off-season program and training camp looking much improved. He was learning to better judge the football in the air while defending receivers. The Titans even tried to move him to safety to give him another avenue at making the roster as a backup.

But in the end, it just didn’t happen for Wreh-Wilson in Tennessee, another high draft pick failing to pan out.

The misfortune that befell the University of Connecticut product wasn’t all his fault. In his three years in Tennessee, he answered to three different head coaches (Mike Munchak, Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey), four different defensive voices (Jerry Gray, Gregg Williams, Ray Horton, Dick LeBeau) and a system switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

In some ways, Wreh-Wilson unfairly became the face of what was wrong with the Titans as a whole – somewhat the same way New York Yankees fans derisively dubbed that fabled franchise’s run of mediocrity in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as the Horace Clarke Era.

Like Clarke, a so-so player who became the Yankees’ symbol of futility then, Wreh-Wilson wasn’t the Titans’ biggest problem, just one symptom of what has ailed the team for years now.

In a more stable environment, with a better supporting cast, different coaches, a different system, what have you, Wreh-Wilson might have had a better chance at success. He’s a good, accountable guy and a hard worker, and it’s easy to pull for him to find success with a fresh start somewhere else.

But in Tennessee, the page had to be turned in hopes of a brighter chapter for the Titans in 2016 and beyond.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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