Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 11, 2020

Titans GM’s 2020 puts the ‘off’ in offseason

High-profile draft, free agent fails after stellar 2019

Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield was able to pick apart the Tennessee defense without the threat of a pass ruch during last week’s 41-35 Browns win. - Photo by Wade Payne | AP

By almost any measure, it was not a good week for the Tennessee Titans.

On the field, they were dismantled in the first half by Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns, who rolled up a 31-point intermission lead and coasted to a 41-35 victory.

Off the field, things were no better and maybe even more devastating long-term for the club.

Sunday’s loss to the Browns dropped the Titans to 8-4 and created many more questions about the defense, sending Mike Vrabel and the coaching staff back to the drawing board.

Still, though, the Titans are in control of their destiny regarding the AFC South and the playoffs with four weeks to play.

But there were other problems off the field that added to the on-going issues that have haunted this team for several months. Perhaps some of Sunday’s performance was rooted in those issues. It’s enough to make Jon Robinson, the team’s general manager, probably wish he had a do-over on the Titans’ 2020 offseason.

Saturday brought news that the Titans were placing rookie first-round pick Isaiah Wilson on the Reserve/Suspended by Club list, citing a violation of team rules, adding to his disastrous rookie year. He was restored to the roster Monday, but is unlikely to get meaningful playing time.

It began with him being out of shape at training camp, then escalated with a DUI for crashing his car while doing doughnuts in a downtown intersection. Another incident involving police occurred on the Tennessee State campus. Not a great beginning for the rookie from Georgia.

There also have been two different stays on the COVID-19 reserve list, and then missing practice twice this past week for illness before the Titans decided to suspend him.

Wednesday, he was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list.

"Currently, he is dealing with some personal issues, which will take some time for him to work through," Robinson said in a statement. "We will continue to help him and support him, with the hope that he can ultimately re-join the team."

What’s worse is that Wilson’s on-field contributions this year have been zero. Save for three snaps in a kneel down against the Colts last week, Wilson has not played.

“We’re going to continue to work and support Isaiah. That’s our job,” Vrabel said this week. “We’ve brought him on to this family and we have expectations for everybody that’s associated with it. We’ll continue to coach him, to teach him, support him, but hold him to a standard that we hold everybody else to.”

At least when Pacman Jones and Kenny Britt were causing the Titans headaches as first-round flare-ups, they were producing in games. Wilson, to date, has produced nothing of value.

Then Sunday, word came down that outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, signed by the club just after training camp to bolster a pass rush, had surgery on his injured left knee and is out for the season. Clowney was already on injured reserve, but the surgery shuts him down, and probably completes his Titans tenure with eight games played.

Clowney, who won’t get all the incentives in his one-year Titans contract, nonetheless will cart home $12.25 million for his efforts, which included zero sacks – the very thing he was brought in to produce.

When you add that to the $9 million Vic Beasley collected for being seemingly disinterested in five games played this year, it makes things doubly bad.

That’s more than $21 million thrown at two pass rushers, neither of whom produced a single quarterback sack.

Clowney’s situation is a little more forgivable. Injuries happen. Beasley just didn’t seem to care, much like linebacker Kevin Dodd, a second-round pick in 2016 who was released before the 2018 training camp after missing all voluntary preseason workouts without explanation.

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, the pass rush remains the Titans’ biggest problem. Baker Mayfield had time to make a sandwich in the pocket Sunday before delivering his four touchdown passes.

All this is not to bag on Robinson, who beyond the Wilson issue has had little to show for his draft class this year, thanks mostly to injuries.

To date, Larrell Murchison, a fifth-round defensive lineman losing playing time to undrafted rookie Teair Tart, has been the best of the 2020 draftees.

But lest we forget, Robinson preceded his 2020 strikeout with a home run class in 2019 that features cornerstones Jeffery Simmons, A.J. Brown and Nate Davis, plus valuable role players in Amani Hooker and David Long.

But in the ‘what have you done for me lately’ world of NFL football, you’re only as good as your latest attempt, and the Titans could have used a lot more from free agency and the draft this past offseason. That’s because as it stands right now, the failures of a first-round pick and two high-priced free agent busts could loom large in keeping this Titans team from making a deep playoff run.