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VOL. 37 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 15, 2013

Tennessee Titans: A franchise defined by coming up short

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Rock bottom. For a team that has had plenty of lows over the past several seasons, the Titans probably bottomed out with Sunday’s home loss to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars.

Many were startled to see the Titans lay such an egg with so much to play for. After all, a victory, combined with the Rams’ surprising upset of the Indianapolis Colts, should have had the Titans playing those same Colts for a share of the AFC South lead this week.

But really, should we have been so amazed that the Titans didn’t get it done?

This is a franchise that has been star-crossed for many, many years, dating back to before it arrived in Tennessee. Think about it, two of the franchise’s three most memorable moments have been about coming up just short of expectations.

The Music City Miracle aside, the other two most memorable moments in the Titans franchise’s existence are Kevin Dyson coming up one yard short in the Super Bowl and the Houston Oilers’ epic collapse – blowing a 32-point lead – in the playoffs against Buffalo in 1993.

But those past plays have no real bearing on the current edition of the Titans and their on-going problems.

Indeed, Coach Mike Munchak and General Manager Ruston Webster spent a good portion of the off-season signing free agents and attempting to change the losing, complacent culture that has permeated the locker room since at least the club’s last playoff appearance in 2008 and, perhaps, before that.

There was plenty of evidence that the team had deteriorated into a country club atmosphere at the end of the Jeff Fisher/GM Mike Reinfeldt era. And while the current coaches and front office certainly have plenty of culpability in the Titans’ failures, the problem goes far deeper.

Sunday’s debacle showed that while the Titans may have tried to change the culture in the offseason, the process of weeding out the most complacent players is not a finished.

Two of those import free agents that the Titans brought in to refresh and rejuvenate that locker room spouted off about just that following the inexcusable loss to Jacksonville.

Reading between the lines, Delanie Walker and Bernard Pollard said what needed to be said and spelled out what has to happen for the Titans to end the lackadaisical lapses like Sunday’s.

Walker was livid after losing to the Jaguars, making clear it was completely unacceptable. He also hinted that some of his teammates were not as upset with the loss as he.

And it gets worse

NASHVILLE (AP) — Donald Brown ran for two touchdowns, Andrew Luck added another and the Indianapolis Colts rallied yet again, this time beating the Tennessee Titans 30-27 on Thursday night after trailing 14-0 in the first quarter. 

Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals, including a 50-yarder, and Coby Fleener had a career-high eight catches for 107 yards to help the Colts (7-3) bounce back quite nicely from a 38-8 home loss to St. Louis. They have yet to lose back-to-back games under coach Chuck Pagano and are 8-0 coming off a loss.

The Titans (4-6) lost their second straight and fifth in six games.

Chris Johnson ran for two touchdowns and 70 yards in the first quarter, but had only 16 yards after that. The Titans pulled to 30-27 on Ryan Fitzpatrick's scoring pass to Delanie Walker with 1:54 left, but couldn't recover the onside kick for a second straight game.

“We’ve got to see who wants it. We talk a lot, but play. Show it. The talking don’t do anything. The biggest kid can talk all he wants, until he gets punched in the mouth. And that’s what happened. I don’t know. They’ve got to show up. I’m not used to that,” Walker said.

“I don’t even know how to feel. I mean, we lost to the Jaguars. It still hasn’t really hit me. I don’t know what we’ve got to do to turn that around. I wasn’t here in the past. I don’t know how things work here, but guys better bring it. We’ve got practice (Monday) and people better bring it or they’re gonna get called out.”

The tight end was obviously dumbfounded at what had taken place.

“It’s disgusting. I’m disappointed. I’m embarrassed. A team that’s 0-8 comes in here and beats us? Beats us on our home field, that’s 0-8? The Jaguars? Come on,” he said.

Pollard, whose outspokenness is something the Titans have needed, can only hope his words are heeded by teammates. On Monday, he continued to hit home at unnamed teammates, imploring them to help change the culture in the Titans’ locker room.

“It’s easy to lose, and it’s hard to win. When you’re going through situations like this, you find out who’s in it for the long haul. It’s a curse here, and this curse needs to be broken,” Pollard said.

“To be perfectly honest with you, it’s a curse. We are too talented of a team to go out there and do the things that we’ve been doing.

“Just being complacent with certain things – comfortable. You look at this league. You can’t be comfortable no matter what team you’re on. I’ve been around the block. I’ve been around some really good coaches, and I’ve been around some really good players. I’ve been blessed to play this game for eight years and to win a Super Bowl.

“To see the talent we have, the talent is there. But talent and potential only take you so far. With the players on this team, we need to come together and go out there and play.”

Pollard went on to warn about what happens when problems don’t get fixed and players don’t work hard enough to fix what is wrong.

“If you don’t respond and you don’t play well, they come in and they clean house. You don’t want them to clean house if you are comfortable here.

“If you are a comfortable player, you love the city, you love the team, go out there and play for that coach. Go out there and play for that city. Go do what you’re supposed to do on and off the field,” Pollard says.

“If you don’t care, if you are complacent, you’re gonna see when they bring somebody else in here to shake things up, and he gets you out of here. I’ve been on the other end, and it’s not fun. A fire needs to be lit under our tails.”

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

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