Biddle’s Beat: Wed., Dec. 21, 2011

JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: July 7, 2013 (Image 1)

So, what do you think the Titans do for an encore?

After being humiliated by the Indianapolis Colts and allowing the Colts to win their only game of the season to this point, the Titans come home Christmas Eve to play the down-in-the-mouth Jacksonville Jaguars.

It's the NFL's Misery Loves Company Game of the Week.

This game shapes up as a beaut. Empty seats at LP Field will be plentiful, as many Titans fans still have a Colts hangover and have lost interest in the final two games.

The Jags are 4-10. Their head coach has been fired and replaced by Mel Tucker. Their team has been sold. Every time there is talk of moving a struggling NFL franchise to Los Angeles, Jacksonville's name is at the top of the list.

And you thought the Titans are in bad shape?

Their status does beg the question: Just where does this franchise stand at this particular moment in history?

We all remember the great start the team got off to after moving from Houston, with one-season stopovers in Memphis and Vanderbilt Stadium. The first season they moved into what is now LP Field, the Titans were 13-3, won the AFC Championship Game and made the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance. St. Louis beat them, 23-17, as a second-half rally led by quarterback Steve McNair fell just short at the end.

The next four years, the Titans had three winning seasons, went to three playoffs, but had a 2-3 record and didn't come close to returning to the Super Bowl.

What I thought was then-coach Jeff Fisher's best team was the 2000 team that equaled the 1999 team's 13-3 regular season record. They earned home field advantage, but lost in their first game to longtime nemesis Baltimore.

Since 2004, the Titans have not fared nearly as well. Their regular season record is currently 61-65. They have had only two playoff appearances and lost in the first round, both in 2007 and 2008.

They are in danger of becoming a middle of the pack franchise. After going 13-3 in 2008, they are 8-8, 6-10 and the current 7-7.

Fisher has been replaced by Mike Munchak, who is finishing out his inaugural season. The best they can finish is 9-7 by beating the Jags and AFC South champion Houston in Houston in the regular season finale. A playoff berth is mathematically the slimmest of odds — another familiar 8-8 is more likely.

How long will owner Bud Adams give Munchak, a Hall of Fame player with the organization, who took over under difficult circumstances when the NFL owner imposed a lengthy lockout that prevented Munchak from even talking to players on his team until the lockout was lifted.

Adams is not an owner who is going to hire an elite, proven coach such as Bill Belichick. He is not going to put out the money necessary to get an elite general manager such as the Colts' Bill Polian.
 
Munchak and GM Mike Reinfeldt both played in the Oilers/Titans organization and Adams didn't have to look far to find either one.

Next season looks more promising. Munchak and his staff will have a year behind them. There are some young players who have a lot of potential. Last year's draft class, led by quarterback Jake Locker, is one of the best in recent years. Unknowns such as Karl Klug, Colin McCarthy, Jurrell Casey and Akeem Ayers have been solid contributors.
Free agents Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Smith, Barrett Rudd and Jordan Babineaux have been worthy acquisitions.

I look for Locker to be a starter at some point next season, perhaps from opening day. He is the future at that position.

They must get more leadership from within, both on the roster and the coaching staff. Efforts such as we saw against Indianapolis are inexcusable.

Muchak is a solid citizen. We will see how good a head coach he is after getting a mulligan this season.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@email.com.

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