During the time the late Mike Heimerdinger was the Titans offensive coordinator, he knew it was useless to show up in the draft room until late in the draft.
‘Dinger knew defensive minded Jeff Fisher was going to load up with defensive draft picks. Begging wouldn't change Fisher's mind. Bribery was useless. ‘Dinger shrugged it off and waited to pick up the crumbs.
Friday night, ‘Dinger had to turn over in his grave. The Titans not only took a highly touted wide receiver, they moved up in the draft, making a trade with the 49ers in order to bring Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter to Titans Town.
It was a shot out of the blue, highly unexpected. But it served as a sign that General Manager Ruston Webster and Coach Mike Munchak are not afraid to think outside the box.
Boy, did they?
Munchak was offensive line coach under Heimerdinger. He, too, always had to wait his turn to get an offensive lineman in the draft.
“(Heimerdinger) would be excited,'' Munchak said. “You're right, the offense for some reason it was about the third day (before) we started getting picks. I tried to get an offensive lineman for a lot of years myself and I had to become a head coach to get an offensive lineman drafted in the first round.''
With the first two draft picks being offensive players, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and assistant Gregg Williams found themselves playing a waiting game.
“I think we're doing what is best for the football team,'' Munchak said. “This is a team thing. (Gray and Williams) realize that if we get more and more talent on offense, then we better stay on the field for 40 minutes and let them play 20 minutes, and all of a sudden they're better coaches. And vice-versa. If we load up on defense, then they ought to give up three points and we win, 7-3.''
The Titans jumped over six teams, making a deal during the day Friday to acquire the 6-4 Hunter with the second pick of the second round. The former Vols star was the 34th player picked in the draft. Hunter is a playmaker with huge upside and a 40-inch vertical that allows him to not only stretch the field, but make plays in the red zone, two areas where the Titans needed improvement.
“For us, he was on a different level on the board. It wasn't even close,'' Webster said. “He's a young receiver with a lot of upside. He was a target for us.''
Hunter suffered a torn ACL in 2011, but is back to full speed. Titans Director of College Scouting Blake Beddingfield scouted him a number of times in past years.
“You can go back to the 2011 season, before the injury and he was really coming on. He had 21 catches in two games and a quarter. He was really emerging as a playmaking type player,'' Beddingfield said.
“He has excellent speed (4.44 40-speed at Combine, has run a 4.35). He runs good routes. He can always get better at that. He is a guy who can stretch the field downfield. He can catch the ball across the middle and he is also a red zone threat with his length and jumping ability.''
The addition of Hunter should serve notice to current receivers Nate Washington and Kenny Britt. I don't see a scenario where both of them are on the roster on opening day. Perhaps neither one will be here.
It is part of the Titans plan to stack each position room with players who have to compete to earn a roster spot. That alone should go a long way in turning a 6-10 season into a winning record.
To get to the playoffs, all eyes will now be on quarterback Jake Locker. He needs to have a breakout year. With a rebuilt offensive line for protection and more playmakers on offense, he will have no excuses.
The Titans made an unprecedented bold move by getting Justin Hunter. That message should be heard loud and clear in the Titans locker room.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.