The Titans chose in the offseason to try to make another go of it, adding a number of veteran free agents while riding Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry for one more go-around.
But with a poor showing in the opener, how long can the Titans afford to wait to see if that decision will pay dividends?
Tannehill has been arguably the most successful quarterback in the Titans’ era. (Yes, even on par or maybe slightly above Steve McNair in terms of success). But at 35, Tannehill put up one of the worst showings of his career in Sunday’s opener in New Orleans.
It could just be one bad game, something like the Titans had in the season opener two years ago when they were whacked by Arizona at home and recovered to win 12 games and claim the top seed in the AFC.
But what if it isn’t? Tannehill is coming off ankle surgery and a season where he played in 12 games. Statistically, his numbers have dropped since his outstanding seasons of 2019 and 2020. Some of that, though, must be attributed to the trade of A.J. Brown and the offensive line woes.
Still, at some point, all players begin to decline in play, and you have to start to wonder if all the hits Tannehill has taken over the past couple of seasons playing behind a sieve of an o-line are taking a toll not only physically, but on his psyche and skills as well.
Rather than opting for the total rebuild, the Titans elected to give it another go. This offseason, they tried to patch holes with veterans for the present, while also attempting to build for the future by keeping 11 rookies on the 53-man roster.
That’s why in order for this team to stay afloat, the Titans need the Tannehill of a few years ago to reemerge.
Tannehill said all the right things in his postgame news conference at the Superdome, owning his mistakes and saying that he and the offense must work to correct them.
“We weren’t good enough in the red zone. (We had) missed opportunities and mistakes, all of it. There were a couple of bright spots, but on the whole, we just have to be better in a lot of areas,” Tannehill says. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter (what caused the interceptions). We just have to eliminate them and give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
But in the next few games, marked improvement must happen in order for the Titans to survive in 2023. Anything short of that, and it would feel like all the changes of 2023 did were to delay what some see as an inevitable rebuild.
Handing the reins of the offense to second-round pick Will Levis to see if he can be the future would seem like waving the white flag. And though Malik Willis has shown improvement, it still feels like it would be a rocky path if he were forced into any extended action this season.
But unless things improve by the time the Titans return from London in early October, the rebuild the Titans tried so hard to avoid this year might be confronting them anyway.