After A Failed Season, It’s Time For The Titans To Consider A Full Rebuild [Column]

Mike Vrabel. Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Titans

A seven-game losing streak, blowing a four-game division lead and failing to score more than 27 points in a single game is how the Titans ended their 2022-23 campaign.

Just a year after the Titans held the No. 1 seed in the AFC, head coach Mike Vrabel was named NFL Coach of the Year, and both Vrabel and now former General Manager Jon Robinson were given contract extensions, the Tennessee Titans look in absolute disarray.

Many people outside looking in may be asking the question, what the hell happened? But it’s really quite simple.

The Titans injuries and severe lack of depth caught up with them this season, and they could never really make up for their struggles. In 2021-22, the Titans suffered nearly the same amount of injuries but were able to pull together a 12-5 record.

Ryan Tannehill. Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Titans

The problem is doing that two years in a row in nearly impossible, especially when your quarterback is Ryan Tannehill, who has recently been inconsistent.

Everyone has been talking about why the Titans stunk this season.

Was it Todd Downing? Probably, as his play calls continued to be as interesting as watching paint dry.

Was it the moves Robinson made that weakened the team? Yes, his move to dump AJ Brown and draft Treylon Burks definitely hurt the team’s chances of winning, as well as a handful of his past draft picks that wound up being total duds.

But the real question, at this point, is where do the Titans go from here?

With the lack of depth, the age of some of the team’s top players and the lack of funds due to paying a handful of stars, the most logical answer is to blow it up and rebuild strategically, though ownership will most likely want to retool and compete while Derrick Henry is still in his prime.

The Titans will have a cap space deficit of $18,736,349 and will need a lot to be competitive next year, which includes a wide receiver, as well as an entire offensive line. Unless they dump a few contracts, there is very little room to expand.

Taylor Lewan wearing the new Guardian Cap. Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

Tennessee’s offensive line was atrocious this past season and arguably the biggest issue on the team from Day 1, and the team knew it. When injuries came and starting left tackle Taylor Lewan was ruled out for the season, the offensive line issues worsened and was never able to bounce back.

A player like Nicholas Petit-Frere is someone the team can work with, but other than him, the O-line needs a full overhaul. Regardless if they decide to retool or rebuild, offensive linemen need to be their top priority this offseason and moving into the draft.

Another question is whether Tannehill remains their starting quarterback in the future. They owe him a lot of money, but he struggled this season and was unable to play the final games due to an ankle injury. He had two turnovers against the Jaguars in early December when Jacksonville dropped a hammer on the Titans at Nissan Stadium. If the team decides to rebuild, which they will need to, they need to dump his contract as soon as they can.

Henry had a decent season after needing surgery last year and missing nearly half the 2021-22 season. He is still at the top of his game and will most likely be at the top for a few more years. However, if the Titans can’t build around him, what’s the point of wasting him and running him into the ground? His contract is also taking up significant cap space, and he’s someone whose future prospects the team legitimately needs to consider.

There are a few questions surrounding Henry.

If they decided to retool and continue to build the offense around the run game, they only have a short window before Henry begins to enter the fall of his career. Another option is to trade him for a massive haul and use that to rebuild the team from the ground up.

This means draft picks.

With a new GM expected to come in, Vrabel will most likely be taking on a bigger role with the overall management of the roster, as well as drafting.

Former Titans GM Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel with other members of Titans front office on Draft night 2021. Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

Days before the 2022 NFL Draft, Vrabel said Brown would be a Titan as long as he was head coach, but we all know what happened next. It’s safe to say Vrabel was most likely not a fan of that Brown trade.

Trading a player like Henry and/or Tannehill for a plethora of draft picks could be Vrabel’s opportunity to build the team he wants.

However, there is another route the team can take if they decide to trade Henry.

By trading Henry, they will open up cap space to build an offense based on the passing game. This means more room and play calling based around Tannehill, or another QB, as well as players like Burks. There are enough top receiving talent in the upcoming draft that, with a few picks in the first and second rounds, the Titans could completely upgrade its receiving corps.

It’s hard to tell what the Titans plan to do this offseason, though.

By ownership firing Robinson mid-season, it shows that they want to be more involved and were obviously displeased enough with Robinson to finish the season without a full-time GM. The move would insinuate that ownership was all-in on winning.

It’s also hard to believe that Vrabel will want to stay on a Titans team that goes into a full rebuild, dumping players like Henry, Tannehill and Kevin Byard. If he has a hand in picking the next GM, and an even bigger hand in future roster decisions, he will likely want to retool and keep the team competitive.

For sustainability, the Titans’ best option is to thoughtfully and strategically rebuild. However, its more than likely that we will see much of the same team next year with a handful of upgrades that will bring the hope of change.

Until then, we will have to just wait and see.

Steven Boero