Building a championship team in the NFL is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish in professional sports. To find, not only the right players, but also a coaching staff that is able to procure a winning culture that meshes with the strengths of the team is a process that can take years to accomplish. Tennessee Titans General Manager and Executive Vice President Jon Robinson has been able to change not just the culture, but the team’s perception in just six short seasons.

Robinson arrived on January 14, 2016. Upon Robinson’s arrival, the Titans had just one winning season in the previous seven years. The Titans finished 2014 with a 2-14 record before following that up with a 3-13 campaign in 2015 leading to the firing of the Titans GM at the time, Ruston Webster.

Robinson wasted no time in turning things around in Tennessee as the Titans were able to finish with a 9-7 record in his first season as a GM. In his first draft as Titans GM, Robinson assembled a 2016 Draft class featuring Jack Conklin, Derrick Henry and Kevin Byard. Throughout the years he has been able to find a majority of the Titans’ current core through the draft process with more gems such as Harold Landry, A.J. Brown, Jeffery Simmons, David Long and Kristian Fulton.

What makes Robinson special is what he has been able to do outside of the draft. By signing players like DeMarco Murray, Desmond King, Julio Jones and most recently, Zach Cunningham, Robinson has been able to strike gold before and during the regular season. His biggest hit – trading a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick for QB Ryan Tannehill ahead of the 2019 season. Tannehill has accumulated a 29-13 record since taking over at the helm of the Titans offense for Marcus Mariota in Week Six of 2019.

In what may be his best move, Robinson hired Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, who had no prior NFL head coaching experience in 2018. Vrabel has built a winning culture in Tennessee that revolves around an unmatched physicality in today’s NFL which is turning into a league that looks to be heading towards a more finessed play style on both sides of the ball. Vrabel should certainly be in the running for NFL Coach of the Year at season’s end.

However, early misses in the NFL Draft have been Robinson’s biggest criticism during his time in Nashville. Draft busts like Kevin Dodd, Corey Davis, Adoree’ Jackson, and most famously, Isaiah Wilson have raised the ire of the Titans fanbase. Robinson and the Titans have experienced high highs in the NFL Draft, but his criticisms are warranted despite the NFL Draft being far from an exact science and a 100 percent hit rate is impossible in the annual event.

Fast forward to today – the Tennessee Titans have just clinched the AFC South for the second straight season – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the franchise arrived in Tennessee. In fact, Robinson has been the only Titans executive to have led the team to more than two consecutive winning seasons. This marks his sixth straight winning season with the team. The Titans have made the playoffs in four of those seasons and are a win against the lowly Houston Texans away from locking up the No. 1 Seed in the AFC.

This is as gritty of a Titans team as there has ever been, overcoming injuries to key contributors such as Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and many others throughout the season. While Vrabel has done a remarkable job coaching what is the most injured team in NFL history, Robinson deserves his flowers for being able to find talent under rocks during the season. For the first time since 2008, the road to the Super Bowl looks to run through Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Featured image courtesy of Chris Hanewinc – USA TODAY Sports