NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When a team is in a situation like the Tennessee Titans are, where they frequently manage to look like world-beaters one week and totally overmatched the next in an endless cycle, there is some sort of problem at hand.
At least some Titans players and coaches are convinced that this problem doesn’t have anything to do with coaching, talent, culture or scheme.
Rather, they think the problem merely lies in a lack of “execution.” That is a poor excuse.
What’s the problem?
“I think the culture is extremely good, this team gives a ton of effort,” said struggling guard Rodger Saffold. “The problem seems to be execution. And if we can’t execute, that’s when we start having these plays where we’re driving down the field but can’t get ourselves in the end zone.”
Head coach Mike Vrabel showed where he stands on this issue when he answered a question about offensive line coach Keith Carter. Carter’s group has been objectively subpar over the last two seasons, but Vrabel said that he’s “very confident” in the assistant coach.
“We know who to block, and if we don’t know and we’re not teaching them, and they say, ‘Coach, I didn’t know what to do on this play,’ then we’d have a problem,” Vrabel said. “We have to sit there and block our guy. It becomes a lot of one-on-one matchups in this league.”
What’s the solution?
So if the true problem with the Titans is a lack of execution—which just means that players aren’t doing their jobs—what is the solution? A better question might be, is there a solution?
LT Taylor Lewan, unsurprisingly, gave the best answer to those questions.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” Lewan said. “Whether it’s watching film, whether it’s guys not resonating things from other people or not understanding the concepts, I really don’t know.”
Some players, like QB Marcus Mariota, said that they believe the issues can be fixed with better efforts in practice and more attention to detail.
“Some of it I think is just trusting what we do in practice, trusting the looks, trusting that everything that we’ve done through the preparation is going to happen, and we’ve just got to go out there and do it,” he said
“Those are just things that we have to continue to carry over in practice, and just reiterate to our guys that what you see is what you’re going to get.”
This doesn’t make sense.
Mariota’s sentiments are nice and they’re probably accurate to a degree. But Lewan’s “I don’t know” is the most correct answer to how an overall lack of execution can be fixed.
Why? Because blaming every problem on a “lack of execution” just doesn’t make sense.
It comes across as cliche coach-speak.
If anyone in the world did their job poorly and, when they got a call from their boss or supervisor, blamed the problems on a “lack of execution,” that call probably wouldn’t end well.
“Why did the letter I sent to corporate have a ton of typos and grammatical errors? Lack of execution, boss!”
“Why was I woefully unprepared to argue to the judge why you should receive community service instead of jail time? Lack of execution!”
Yet, that’s the reasoning that at least some Titans players and coaches are comfortable with accepting.
That’s unfortunate because the reasoning is poor. Getting out of the “win one week, lose the next” rut that the Titans have been in since Vrabel took over as coach will require some sort of legitimate, actionable change at every level of the team.
Cover image: Jim Brown/USA Today