Titans’ on-, off-field decisions defy imagination

Friday, December 12, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 50

New England Patriots linebacker Akeem Ayers, who started the season as the Titans’ second-best player and was later traded, recently tweeted “the grass is in fact greener on the other side.”

-- Ap Photo/Greg Trott

When the Tennessee Titans hired Ken Whisenhunt in January, it brought a breath of fresh air to an organization that sorely needed a change.

But it hasn’t taken long for that breath of fresh air to quickly become stale and toxic.

The day Whisenhunt was introduced was also the last time that new team president and CEO Tommy Smith fielded questions from the full contingent of the Nashville media about the hire and the team.

With Sunday’s 36-7 debacle against the lowly New York Giants just the latest example of just how far this franchise has fallen, it’s time someone provided some answers.

The Giants had come to LP Field losers of seven in a row, and the Titans didn’t even bother to put up a fight for the few fans who cared enough to show up.

And if you think that’s bad, wait till you see how few bother to see the Geno Smith-led Jets stroll into town this week in a battle of 2-11 “contenders” for the first pick in the 2015 draft.

Despite their problems, the Giants at least had a little remaining star power in Eli Manning and rookie receiver sensation Odell Beckham Jr.

Something tells me Sunday’s visit by the Jets, complete with the return of Chris Johnson to Nashville, won’t exactly produce a packed house.

What’s worse is there seems to be no real cause for future optimism – other than having a high draft pick for 2015, perhaps even the first overall choice.

Head-scratching moves abound.

Whisenhunt said, when was hired, he wanted a team that would be versatile on offense, able to attack with the run or the pass, and seemingly one that could adjust to what an opponent’s plan of attack might be.

All we saw this past Sunday was one of the few bright spots – rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger – take shot after shot until he finally succumbed to a potential season-ending shoulder injury.

That was in large part because he was playing behind a patchwork offensive line that has been a sieve for the past two weeks. The Titans’ quarterbacks absorbed eight sacks on Sunday.

Monday’s excuse from Whisenhunt? “We threw the ball too much.”

So much for versatility. The Titans dropped back to pass 45 times on Sunday (35 passes, eight sacks, two scrambles) and ran the football 12 times.

And the defense is no better. Coordinator Ray Horton said at the start of the season that it would probably take eight weeks for his unit to show what it was really going to be.

Now we know. It’s a group that is old and slow and misses a lot of tackles and assignments.

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The defense’s most talented player – Jurrell Casey – has been swallowed this year because the Titans have so few playmakers around him.

Their second-best player, Akeem Ayers, now plays in New England after the Titans gave away.

Ayers, who inexplicably couldn’t find his way onto the field here, has provided an upgrade for the Patriots and might even be wearing a Super Bowl ring at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, the Titans languish at the bottom searching for answers.

And the reason they remain at the bottom really starts at the top, where absentee owner Smith spouts off a few lines here and there in the newspaper or on the team’s flagship radio station, saying he expects this to be fixed and has confidence that Whisenhunt and Ruston Webster are the people to do it.

All the while, Smith has shown himself so disinterested in the team’s dwindling fan base that he has not made one appearance before the Nashville media at large since that day he gave Whisenhunt the keys to the franchise 11 months ago.

Like it or not, the media is the conduit for the fans to the team, and Smith owes them some explanations and answers as to why the Titans are where they are.

His lack of interest in doing so tells me that if Tommy Smith doesn’t care enough to answer the concerns of the fans, then why should the fans care enough to be interested in his flat-lined franchise?

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for 247 Sports NFL Insider.