Sunday, April 21, 2024

Korked Bats

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Oh Lord, I Can’t Believe I’m Actually Saying This, But That Titans Loss Was Not Todd Downing’s Fault

I’ve made my position on Todd Downing abundantly clear. I’ve blogged about it plenty. I flat-out don’t like him as a coach of the Tennessee Titans. At least not at a position higher than tight ends coach, because when it comes to playcalling, he’s the Big Bang Theory. You can watch him for an entire season and still never find a single punchline or redeeming quality. His offenses are lackluster. They’re predictable. They’re – dare I say – boring. His offense doesn’t create space, which makes it easy to defend. Now, I know he’s filling the shoes for arguably one of the best offensive minds in the NFL with Arty Smith, but after one season with the Waffle House menu in his hand, he’s proven there are better O.C. options out there.

However, I think you know what conjunction is coming next.


The Titans’ Week 1 loss isn’t on him.

I know. I know. For some of you reading this right now, the screen is about to turn red like it did on MTV’s Boiling Point because you’re about to hit yours. You’re livid. “OF COURSE IT’S ON TODD!” you’re probably currently screaming at your phone, laptop, or refrigerator door screen.*

(*- for the rich people who get the internet on their refrigerator doors)

As a proud member of Titans Twitter, I know that won’t be the case. We need a scapegoat. We need someone to pin this loss on. And since Tannehill played his damn ass off, it can’t be him. So we go to #2 on the Titans Twitter Most Wanted list. And that man is Todd Downing.

I just don’t think he’s the one to pin this loss on. Many of you will quickly point to the end-around to Chig on 3rd and 1. I understand your frustration, but I don’t hate the call.

How many other people can smoothly drop a T-Swift lyric into their NFL analysis? But that’s legitimately how I feel. The box was loaded. I’m ok with them trying to get to the edge. The problem there wasn’t the play call. It was the execution. The FOX play-by-play broadcaster on the call immediately questioned the call, which I’m sure only added kerosene to the fire among Titans fans. But if the nimwit calling the game was expecting 22 to get the ball on 3rd and 1, then you better believe all 11 on the Giants D were too. If you want to get mad at someone on that play, get mad at Taylor Lewan for blowing an assignment and Nick Westbrook-Ikhene for choosing to block the safety rather than the free linebacker.

If Lewan seals that block and NWI doesn’t run right by a backer, Chig has one-on-one with Adoree Jackson. And I like that size matchup for Chig.

What else would you like to get on Downing for? The Wildcat — excuse me the Kingcat (even tho WildKing sounds better) — on the earlier 3rd and 1? Derrick dropped the snap. Pretty sure any Titans fan would take Derrick in the Kingcat in short yardage. So how is that failed conversion on Todd?

And sure, you can get nitpicky here and there. But overall, the Titans just didn’t execute. Tannehill looked insanely sharp, but dropped passes by Kyle Philips, Geoff Swaim, Dontrelle Hilliard, and Treylon Burks didn’t help. Those guys catch the footballs, the offense looks better, and no one is calling for Todd’s life. I MEAN JOB! I said job! I know this may seem like I’m carrying the water for Todd, but again, I assure you, I am not. I do not want him to be the Titans O.C.. I don’t know how many times I have to say it. But I’m also not going to force blame on him when something isn’t his fault. Although, like I said, Titans Twitter needs a scapegoat. So don’t worry, I came prepared with some potential scapegoats for you to choose from.

Take your pick:

The fact that pretty much no starters played in the preseason. Now, this is an easy point-your-fingers excuse. The Rams started this trend in 2020, where they didn’t play any starters through (at that time) all four preseason games. Since then, many teams have followed suit – the Titans being one of them. And over the last two years, the Titans have come out playing flat in season openers. I’m not saying the two are correlated, but it’s ironic how we’ve essentially gotten the same outcome in two straight seasons. Especially when you look at a team like Kansas City who allowed their starters to play most of an entire quarter in the preseason, and they came out on fire in Week 1. Plus, we all know it takes Derrick a game or two to get up to full speed. Why not give him a couple reps in the preseason and quit letting them use the regular season to get back to speed. But again, that’s an easy excuse to make from your couch.

Kyle Philips muffed punt. This one doesn’t feel fair, because this dude played incredible – including what should’ve been the game-winning catch to put the Titans in field goal range in the final seconds. But for as goos as he was, mistakes were made, and none bigger than setting the Giants up for a drive at the 11-yardline. This was a backbreaker, and for anyone who’s seen The Dark Knight Rises, you know backbreakers take a while to come back from. Sorry, I felt like I had to make a Hollywood reference since Philips is from L.A.

The Titans defense’s 30-minute halftime. Maybe this one goes back to the not playing in the preseason thing, but the Titans defense clearly forgot that halftimes aren’t supposed to last that long. They took their sweet time in the second half showing up – allowing both Saquon and Sterling Shepard to break off big plays on them. Although, personally, I have a hard time holding this one against them. There have been countless times where I, too, have taken a dump during halftime and I didn’t come back out until halfway through the third quarter. Which it appears is exactly what the Titans defense did. They took a dump and took a while to come back.

Saquon Barkley. He’s just really good. Much like Derrick Henry, I feel like many of us forgot about his greatness while he was injured.

The Titans using their last timeout to avoid a delay of game on the final drive. This one was bad. Really bad. With :18 seconds, the Titans had a chance to run another play, use the middle of the field and get even closer for Fat Randy. But like me, they procrastinated and forced Vrabel to use their final timeout. Then ran a play to center the ball which lost them 3 yards and ultimately led to…

Fat Randy missing his field goal. Kickers are paid to make kicks. This isn’t the 1990s or early 2000s anymore. Anything inside 50 should be automatic. But instead, Fat Randy just put a little too much cankle on it. Vrabel should bribed him with some Mickey D’s after the game or something.

T-Rac. This one turns out to be a failsafe. When things go awry, I always look to that damn rodent first. As a Tennessee native, I know just how annoying raccoons are. So I’m sure amongst all of his costume changes, T-Rac had something to do with this loss.

So look, if you want to place blame on Todd, that’s fine. I’m not gonna stop you. But I just think this loss was squarely placed on execution. Todd can’t catch. Todd can’t block. (One could argue Todd can’t call plays either – but not in this game’s case.) Todd can only signal in plays and hope the players execute. Which they did not. And look, it’s also important to note: It’s Week 1 (or in the Titans case, the first preseason game). Last I checked, the first week of the season does not make or break a season – we learned as much last season. Things will be fine. Especially considering the rest of the division sucks.

Plus, what did you expect? For the Titans to take down New York on the anniversary of 9/11? That would just be disgusting, you monsters!


Austin hosts a country music morning radio show in Chicago after nearly a decade in sports talk radio (The Jim Rome Show, Steve Gorman SPORTS!) Colin Cowherd and Smash Mouth follow him on Twitter and he wears pants every day.