After losing to the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs, the Tennessee Titans have entered offseason mode.
Over the next few months, the organization will be forced to answer some key questions relating to its future. The answers they give to some of those questions could have a major impact on the future of the Titans.
Here are the five biggest questions the Titans will be forced to answer during the offseason.
Is there any hope of Isaiah Wilson redemption?
#Titans Rodger Saffold on Isaiah Wilson: Let’s be real. Being a young athlete, lots of challenges that you go through. You either handle it or not. We have a blue-collar mentality. Everything you get, you earn. Sometimes you have to live w/consequences of decisions you make.
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) January 11, 2021
Offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, the Titans’ first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, has woven a massive path of destruction since coming to Nashville.
Just since August 2020, Wilson has had multiple run-ins with police, been on the COVID-19 list twice, crashed into a concrete wall with his car and been suspended by his own team.
Since being placed on the Non-Football Illness list in December, a move the Titans made because they believed Wilson was “dealing with some personal issues,” Wilson has been living it up on boats with wads of cash in hand.
I don’t know that any player in NFL history, certainly not a first-round pick, has given the team that drafted them as big of a middle finger as Wilson has given the Titans. He’s disgraced his teammates and coaches, and he’s made general manager Jon Robinson look foolish for drafting him.
Yet, the Titans have not given up on Wilson. He’s still on the roster and figures to be a part of the team’s offseason program when it begins.
At a certain point, though, the Titans will be forced to answer as to whether they think a Wilson reclamation project is a possibility. That answer could come in one of two forms.
First, if Wilson’s behavior continues down the same path, cutting him would be a definitive statement of the team’s views of Wilson.
The other option is, if he shapes up to a certain degree, they give him a second (or, more like, 263th) chance by bringing him back into the fold.
It’s very unclear, at this point, which of those scenarios is more likely.
Does Mike Vrabel actually think Shane Bowen is a good choice at defensive coordinator?
More potential coaching departures for Steelers: Senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin is interviewing with the Tennessee Titans today to be their defensive coordinator.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) January 14, 2021
With OLB Shane Bowen at the helm in 2020, the Titans’ defense was dreadful, putting up historically bad marks in terms of both sacks and third-down defense.
Though Bowen didn’t officially hold the “defensive coordinator” tag, that’s essentially was. He ran meetings and called defensive plays during games, head coach Mike Vrabel said.
Based on the results, he didn’t do those jobs very well.
Yet, Vrabel has avoided criticism of Bowen, at least publicly. He also, to be fair, never gave him any kind of ringing endorsement.
The official answer on how Vrabel feels about Bowen will come when he decides on his 2021 defensive staff. If Bowen remains in the same role or gets promoted by being given the DC title, we’ll know that Vrabel didn’t see anything wrong with his 2020 performance.
That would be a travesty for the Titans, because almost every player on the defense was markedly worse under Bowen than under former defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who retired in January 2020.
A dropoff was to be expected with Pees’ departure, but not a nosedive.
If Vrabel hires a defensive coordinator from outside the organization, we’ll know that he, correctly, saw the defense’s output in 2020 as unacceptable.
Who will replace Arthur Smith?
We have agreed to terms with Arthur Smith to become our next head coach.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) January 15, 2021
If there’s one thing that Vrabel has been great at, it’s hiring offensive coordinators.
His first choice, back in 2018, was Matt LaFleur, the Packers’ head coach who’s getting set to play in his second-straight NFC Championship game. His second choice, Arthur Smith, just got a job as the Falcons’ new head coach.
That means, for the second time in three years, the Titans have a vacancy at offensive coordinator.
Smith, who Vrabel hired to replace LaFleur in 2019, was an in-house hire; he was previously the Titans’ tight ends coach for several seasons. LaFleur, on the other hand, was someone with whom Vrabel had no previous relationship.
It will be interesting to see whether Vrabel, in making his 2021 OC hire, will stay within the walls of the Titans’ building or look elsewhere.
The only real in-house candidates would seem to be TE coach Todd Downing, who has some play-calling experience, and OL coach Keith Carter, who’s done a remarkable job coaching the Titans’ o-linemen.
Neither one of those names, though, is terribly exciting. It would probably make more sense, in this case, for Vrabel to peek around the league or even dip into the college ranks for a new offensive play-caller.
Do the Titans think sacks matter?
The Titans finished the 2020 regular season with just 19 sacks, the third-worst mark in the NFL.
It wasn’t one of those situations where you look back on a season and say, “wow, they only had 19 sacks!? That’s surprising.”
Anyone who watched the Titans defense at virtually any point in 2020 understands just how allergic the unit was to getting pressure. That killed them, particularly on third downs.
Yet, Vrabel and several players were, themselves, allergic to bemoaning the lack of sacks. Vrabel very rarely, if ever, used the word during media availabilities over the second half of the season, often using “pressure” as a substitute term.
It was almost as though Vrabel and the Titans didn’t view sacks as terribly important to team success.
We will find out soon, though, whether that’s actually true. If the Titans don’t aggressively go after edge pass rushers in both free agency and the draft (emphasis on the “both”), they’ll prove that they don’t see one of football’s most important defensive stats as too big of a deal.
Hopefully, for the sake of everyone who has to watch this team play in 2021, they’ll go get the help they need to get after the QB.
How much blame for the 2020 defensive woes falls on the players?
Finally, the Titans have some crucial decisions coming up for some of their defensive players, namely inside linebackers Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans.
Brown is set to be an unrestricted free agent, and the Titans will have to decide, with Evans, whether they want to activate his fifth-year option for 2022.
The decisions the Titans make on Brown and Evans will set the tone for how they truly feel about their defensive personnel.
While the Titans’ defense was poorly coached in 2020, a lot of players simply didn’t execute. As the offseason progresses and the Titans make roster decisions on that side of the ball, we’ll start to see how much blame for the defensive woes the organization puts on the players.
Cover image: George Walker IV/The Tennessean via pool