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VOL. 37 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 06, 2013

Are Titans, new ownership committed to winning?

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Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had perhaps his worst game of the season against Indianapolis  with three interceptions and this lost fumble, courtesy of the Colts’ Robert Mathis.

-- Ap Photo/Michael Conroy

“It is what it is.” That well-worn catch phrase describes the Tennessee Titans perfectly. They are the very definition of mediocrity.

Try as they may to escape that, there is no denying the long-term “averageness” of this franchise.

At 5-7 after Sunday’s loss in Indianapolis, the Titans have some playoff life left but probably not enough to matter. And whatever shred of hope is remaining will probably be gone after next week, barring an improbable road victory vs. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

So assuming that the Titans will just play out the string and miss the postseason for a fifth consecutive season, the bigger question really is what comes next.

There are already plenty of disgruntled fans calling for the firing of Titans coach Mike Munchak and his staff, but there has been no indication that the Hall of Fame lineman is in any real danger right now with one year remaining on his contract.

Munchak is a good man and could very well get the opportunity to finish what he started in 2011.

That brings us to the point, which is no one really knows exactly what direction the organization is headed.

Since the death of owner Bud Adams back in October, son-in-law Tommy Smith has been extremely quiet, showing up a couple of times for home games but mostly being an absentee president.

He runs the team from Houston, same as his father-in-law, but in a far less visible way.

Smith’s only scheduled meeting with the media since taking over was a hurried press conference before the Jacksonville game that was scuttled and never rescheduled when a traffic jam delayed his arrival at LP Field.

That hands-off approach is OK, but it leaves the fan base wondering just how much – from the top down – the Titans are committed to winning.

Last off-season, on the recommendation of Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster, Adams poured $100 million or so into free agent contracts to try and upgrade a roster that had eroded over the past decade due to a combination of bad luck, bad personnel moves and a drawer-full of other excuses.

It made the Titans more competitive than the 2012 version, though that’s about all they have to show for that spending spree. Early indications are that Smith trusts Webster, just as Adams did, to get things on the right track.

But now the franchise is in the hands of Smith and the rest of Adams’ family, some of whom seem to be far less interested in football than their father. Will they be as inclined to do what it takes to be competitive in the NFL, or will they be content to collect their share of the billions that the league generates in revenue each year, no matter the quality of the product on the field.

These are questions that will have to be answered before any on-field or front office moves are sorted out.

If Smith decides to keep Munchak, for example, will it be because he believes the coach is on the right track or because he doesn’t want to pay him in 2014 not to coach while having to pay somebody else to coach.

There are some who believe an entire housecleaning is in order for the Titans to best compete long-term. But doing that has its repercussions as well.

A complete makeover would mean starting from square one to place the right personnel in the front office, on the coaching staff and on the field.

That, too, can be painful. Jacksonville, for example, is 3-9 in its first year of rebuilding after a franchise-worst 2-14 record last season.

The final four weeks of this regular season probably won’t hold much excitement for Titans fans.

But this offseason, the first one without Bud Adams’ fingerprints on it, should give a strong indication of just where this franchise is headed.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.