What’s worse, the score could’ve been much more lopsided had the Bucs not gotten in their own way on a few different occasions.
Mike Evans had a couple of backbreaking drops that directly cost his team points. Yet, the Buccaneers still outscored the Titans by 14 points while he recorded 143 yards and one touchdown on the day.
This was truly a pathetic and lifeless performance by a Titans team that was essentially playing for any chance of being relevant going forward. Instead, all Tennessee did was create more question marks, subsequently turning even the most optimistic fans into pessimists.
This article is mainly going to revolve around some hard truths that it’s time to accept. I will also be discussing one illogical overreaction that has been thrown around by overly emotional fans who are fed up with what they watched today.
Truth: Any lingering playoff hopes are dead
The Titans are still mathematically alive for the playoffs, but let’s be realistic: the chances of a postseason push are slim to none.
Only four percent of the teams with a 3-6 record have ended up making the playoffs. Barring some unforeseen miracle, I don’t see the Titans being one of them.
The rest of this year is all about getting rookie quarterback Will Levis experience. But, unfortunately, he’ll have a tough time with a turnstile offensive line combined with a lack of weapons in the passing game.
However, the reps he’s getting will still be invaluable for his development going into next year. Of course, the biggest concern is him getting out of 2023 in one piece.
The good news for the future is, Tennessee is slowly inching closer to a top-five pick, which could result in securing one of the top offensive tackles (Olu Fashanu, Joe Alt) or wide receivers (Marvin Harrison Jr.) in next year’s draft.
It’s been a while since the Titans were realistically thinking about the upcoming draft by Week 10, but that’s where the team is at right now.
Overreaction: It’s time to bench Derrick Henry for Tyjae Spears
I’ve seen people mentioning this after today’s performance in which Derrick Henry totaled just 24 rushing yards on 11 carries. To put it bluntly, I couldn’t disagree more. I think that’s just being irrational after a disastrous day at the office.
If you want to say you genuinely believe Tyjae Spears deserves to be the lead back heading into 2024, then I can at least understand it, especially given Henry’s status as a free agent and his age.
But the 2023 Titans have much bigger issues than Henry.
The run-blocking he received today was downright atrocious and he’s never going to be the type of playmaker who is going to make free defenders miss in the backfield. That doesn’t mean he’s not capable of being a major contributor.
Not to mention, it’s not like Spears went off in this one. He tallied just 3.6 yards per carry on five attempts.
Coming into the weekend, Henry ranked inside the top five in rushing yards (601), overall grade (88.6), pass-blocking grade (87.0), receiving grade (81.8) and run grade (83.4), per Pro Football Focus.
Those numbers will likely take a hit after today, but it’s clear he’s still one of the best in the league when he’s not being suffocated the second he touches the ball.
Henry also requires a ton of attention whenever he’s out there, which will only help to make things easier on the rookie quarterback, even if that wasn’t the case today.
You could make an argument that a lot of people are on the verge of losing their jobs, but Henry definitely shouldn’t be one of them.
Truth: Defense has been the most disappointing part of this season
Coming into the year, the defensive side of the ball had a ton of hype. Many thought the pass-rush would get back to being a tenacious and disruptive group and the secondary had the potential to be much-improved from the year prior.
Instead, the entire defense has regressed into a below-average, at best, unit.
The Titans’ front four of Jeffery Simmons, Harold Landry, Denico Autry, and Arden Key are inconsistent and non-factors more often than not. The inside linebackers (Azeez Al-Shaair, Jack Gibbens and Monty Rice) are inconsistent, and the secondary isn’t very good altogether.
That is a recipe for disaster, and sadly, that’s what we usually get these days. It’s a safe bet we’ll see a lot of turnover on this side of the ball in 2024.
Truth: Tim Kelly is coaching himself into the hot seat
Earlier this year, offensive coordinator Tim Kelly was a breath of fresh air who was routinely displaying creative play calls and designs. While we still see those things in spurts, they aren’t happening nearly enough these last few weeks.
To make matters worse, he’s suddenly become a coach who calls plays like he’s scared to make a mistake instead of being aggressive. Once the team is in a position to score, Kelly would seemingly rather settle for field goals instead of putting the ball in harm’s way to potentially score a touchdown.
It comes across as if he doesn’t trust his guys to make a play. To be fair, I don’t know if they will, but constantly waving the white flag any time you get a 3rd-and-long inside the red zone isn’t going to work, either.
It’s gotten to a point where you can no longer call these decisions an anomaly, because it’s very clearly becoming a trend — and a very worrisome one, at that.
In my personal opinion, he’s coaching for his job these next few weeks. The Titans should’ve gone outside the building to hire their offensive coordinator last offseason, so if things don’t dramatically improve sooner rather than later, they need to do it at the conclusion of this season.
I’m not on the fire Mike Vrabel train, but I do think that’s a fair ultimatum to give him at this point, unless things drastically improve over the final eight weeks.