If you are a fan of a bad team, and know all three units (offense/defense/special teams) are going to perform abysmally, you can at least have some fun and joke of your misery. Rooting for the first pick in next year's draft is common (Nope, Jacksonville even beat us in that, too). You can sit back and enjoy the other division races, without the stress of riding into battle with your team every week. The emotional ups-and-downs of favoring a title contender are nonexistent. Yes, you can simply enjoy the NFL.
What's frustrating is supporting a team that is competitive in some games, flat in others. What's even more frustrating is seeing incredible flashes in potential in a specific unit, and seeing that disappear completely the following week.
Welcome to Nashville, where we claim the Tennessee Titans as our own. Some weeks, Jake Locker looked like Aaron Rodgers.....okay, maybe once or twice Jake Locker looked like Aaron Rodgers. Twice you probably said "Oh yeah, baby! CJ is back!" only to have him rush for 41 yards the next week. You kept hoping and wishing that the offensive line being healthy would return the Titans to the promised land. Kenny Britt was supposed to be a top three-level wide receiver, but damn it! He just couldn't stay healthy!!!
Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.
Jake Locker was the lead rusher in five games (with the highest total being 51 yards against Indianapolis). You only watched 5 games with a runningback (Chris Johnson) reaching 100+ yards. Locker threw for 300+ yards only twice, and (as my stomach takes a dip yet again reliving this) only two wide receivers had 100+ yard-games in 2012.
That is abhorrent offense, ladies and gentlemen.
I can switch over to the defense and special teams if you'd like? Well.....I won't torture Titans fans any more than I have to. I think I've made my point....the Titans have too much talent to be a bad football team. Instead, I want to point to one of the NFL's model franchises: the Green Bay Packers.
What exactly makes Aaron Rodgers the best quarterback in the NFL? Yes, he has all of the physical tools and stats to back such a claim, but perhaps more important than that, he has multiple weapons to utilize (16 different receivers caught a pass from Rodgers in 2012), and he runs an unpredictable offense. The Packers know exactly what they have, and play to those strengths. The same applies to the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, and New York Giants.
That is the formula for success in the NFL. Establish an identity and conform to it. When you think San Francisco 49ers...you think of an identity! You think dynamic offense and stout defense! When you think of the Jacksonville Jaguars, what do you think about? Cool uniforms, and bad football.
Unfortunately, the Titans don't have enough certainty about the roster to assume such an identity. Sure, there is a wealth of potential...Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Jake Locker, Akeem Ayers, Derrick Morgan, Coty Sensabaugh, etc. How many of these can you absolutely rely on week in and week out?
This is the precise reason the Titans couldn't find an identity in 2012. They didn't know if they were a ground-and-pound and defend kind of team...or if they were a fast, ball-hawking defense, with an offense that could sling the ball around the yard. Why? None of the personnel proved to be reliable enough to establish an identity on the team.
Ideally, you know that Kenny Britt and Justin Hunter are going to stretch the field, Kendall Wright will be a security blanket in the slot, the offensive line is going to open massive holes for Chris Johnson's long-run capability, Shonn Greene is going to punch it in at the goal line, and Jake Locker is going to make all the throws he has to.
You also know that your front seven is going to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks opening up your secondary to make plays on the ball, and giving your offense a chance to get the ball back.
Ideally, that's the identity of your 2013 Tennessee Titans. Unfortunately, the NFL predicates success on actualities, and not ideas.
This is an issue that Mike Munchak and company must resolve before the season kicks off if this regime wants to stay in Nashville.