If there is one thing we know for sure it is that a truly dismal season is not the end of the world for an NFL franchise.
There is any number of examples of teams that have reversed their fortunes and become championship contenders and even Super Bowl champions in fairly short order.
That ought to be of some comfort to the Tennessee Titans and their fans base because — in case there was any doubt — Sunday’s 30-7 loss at Minnesota proved unequivocally that the 2012 Titans are a truly dismal football team.
This team is headed for the bottom. Its only hope now is that it is a soft landing, one that allows it to bounce back quickly. Of course, there’s always the chance that it is a rough, rocky bottom that could shatter this team so severely it takes years to put it all back together.
Previous Titans teams have started slowly yet still managed to play some pretty good — and entertaining — football. The most memorable example, of course, was 2009 when they started 0-6 capped by the 59-0 loss at New England yet still finished 8-8 and remained in playoff contention deep into December.
Those were Jeff Fisher’s Titans, though. They had an identity and a sense of self upon which they could rely. When things got bad, they went back to basics and did what they did best — run the football and play defense. The result in 2009 was Chris Johnson’s 2000-yard rushing season.
These are Mike Munchak’s Titans, though, and in nearly a year and a half they have not formed any sort of meaningful personality.
They clearly can’t rely on Johnson to be their go-to guy on offense, not that they even want to. Their efforts to become a pass-first unit have been hampered by Kenny Britt’s many injuries and the transition to a young quarterback.
Admit it: There was that little bit of doubt about whether the decision to go with Jake Locker over Matt Hasselbeck this season was the right one. Hasselbeck proved, beyond a doubt, that the current issues are well beyond his control.
Things on defense are even worse, unless you consider a spot in the NFL’s record books a good thing. Tennessee now is one of two teams in history to allow 30 points or more in each of the first five games of the season.
It can’t stop the run. It can’t defend the pass. It can’t get off the field on third down or get to the quarterback with any consistency
Quite simply, there is nothing that this team does well. Thus, it seems there is no choice but the ride out the remainder of this season and see just how bad things actually get.
The Dallas Cowboys were 1-15 in 1989, their first with Troy Aikman as their starting quarterback. Two years later they started a run of six straight playoff appearances that included three Super Bowl victories.
The Indianapolis Colts were 3-13 in 1998, their first year with Peyton Manning under center. They reached the postseason 10 of the next 11 seasons, reached the Super Bowl twice and won once.
As long as Locker’s a Hall of Famer in the making, Tennessee is good to go, right?
Maybe not. The Vikings became the latest opponent to expose the Titans’ many weaknesses with Christian Ponder in his first full season as quarterback.
They have a chance to do something similar to those other notable teams given that Sunday’s victory was their fourth of the season, which was one more than they had in all of 2011, and allowed them to maintain a share of first place in their division. This could be their bounce-back.
Things are not going to end well for the Titans this season. The best they can hope is that it is the start of something much, much better.