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Accountability is lacking for Tennessee Titans' mess. Unless you're Craig Aukerman | Estes

We’re speculating so much about these Tennessee Titans — the term would be “palace intrigue” — because what we do know is so bleak and uninteresting.

What’s there to say?

For the most part, they’ve stunk this season.

They are 4-8, with likely embarrassment looming in prime time Monday against the track team known as the Miami Dolphins, a better squad with better players and a much better vibe about them, as evidenced by the in-season “Hard Knocks” in which they are starring.

Used to be that you’d expect Mike Vrabel’s Titans to bring something for a big occasion. Not now.

Titans fans have a right to be angry and disappointed and also confused. Because their team won’t be straight with them. The Titans’ continued lack of transparency about the chain of command — is Vrabel in charge, or is it general manager Ran Carthon? — has devolved into a tiresome soap opera of never-ending conjecture.

It has become fair game for fans to examine every important development from the lens of “Gee, I wonder who really made that decision?”

The Titans don’t care. Carthon has made himself scarce all season. Hasn’t held a news conference with local media, even after trading Kevin Byard. It was on Vrabel to explain that one publicly, and it was Vrabel who Byard said initially called to tell him about the trade.

Owner Amy Adams Strunk hasn’t fielded questions at a news conference in years, even after abruptly firing former general manager Jon Robinson with five games remaining last season. Again, Vrabel was left to discuss that decision. Vrabel, as you may have noticed, isn’t usually forthcoming in discussing decisions with the media.

Explanations for fans are lacking. Accountability is missing.

Well, unless it’s Craig Aukerman.

Aukerman was held accountable.

Oct 13, 2023; London, United Kingdom; Craig Aukerman special teams coach during Tennessee Titans practice session at The Grove, Watford for their upcoming NFL London game. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2023; London, United Kingdom; Craig Aukerman special teams coach during Tennessee Titans practice session at The Grove, Watford for their upcoming NFL London game. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans’ special teams coordinator was fired after his unit melted down Sunday in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts. In the process, punter Ryan Stonehouse – the Titans’ best player when weighing him against others in the NFL at his position – was seriously injured, and demoted quarterback Ryan Tannehill had to come in cold and unprepared to hold a missed extra point.

The score was tied at the time. Because of course it was.

The Titans' special teams were indeed bad enough Sunday to result in Aukerman being fired. But it was still surprising. Wasn’t like Vrabel to do that during the season.

He also had indicated that he wasn’t going to make in-season staff changes. Two weeks prior, Vrabel had shrugged off that question, saying he hadn’t considered it.

Tennessee Titans punter Ryan Stonehouse (4) is helped off the field after being hit by a Indianapolis Colts player who also blocked his punt during their game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.
Tennessee Titans punter Ryan Stonehouse (4) is helped off the field after being hit by a Indianapolis Colts player who also blocked his punt during their game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023.

And then he fires Aukerman? Didn’t add up.

“Just trying to evaluate what we do, who we do it with,” Vrabel told reporters Monday. “I just felt like the timing was what it needed to be and felt like it was best for the team and for the players, especially, going forward.”

Cue the soap opera music: Adams Strunk had to make Vrabel fire him, right?

(Heck, I don’t know. Can you ever know with these Titans?)

Looking back: Derrick Henry explains why he was removed from Titans' loss vs. Colts

Looking ahead: Titans NFL draft big board: 8 options if they are picking at No. 8

It’s noteworthy that firings have already started, hinting at a tumultuous offseason. But the firings started last season. Since Adams Strunk canned Robinson, her Titans have been 4-13. At the time, it felt like an emotional move, not a calculated one.

As for Aukerman, regardless of who wanted to fire him, this was also an emotional move. It was symbolic, like an example was being made. Wasn’t practical, though.

“A little bit more work. We were used to doing it with three, and now we’re doing it with two,” said Tom Quinn, the special teams assistant who was tapped to replace Aukerman and continue to work alongside fellow Titans assistant Anthony Levine.

I’m not sure how being shorthanded will help the Titans protect their fill-in-the-blank punter any better, but I’ve ceased to be sure about a lot of things with this organization.

Except for what’ll probably happen Monday night in Miami.

Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on the X platform (formerly known as Twitter) @Gentry_Estes.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Firing Craig Aukerman was symbolic for Tennessee Titans, not practical