Is switch from Kearse to Hayes a sign of rebuilding?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 7:56pm

Lost in the hubbub of Jevon Kearse being deactivated and then leaving the stadium is this little signal that could be the beginning of the rebuilding process.

In benching Kearse, an 11-year veteran who is a free agent at season’s end, the Titans handed the starting left defensive end job to second-year man William Hayes Sunday night. The question is whether or not the move is permanent, and whether it sets off the dominoes of rebuilding in a season gone wrong at 0-5.

Could now be the time the turnaround — not in the standings necessarily but in terms of personnel — begins?

Consider this: The Titans are one of four teams in the NFL still without a win through five weeks of the season. But their situation is decidedly different than their winless brethren in Kansas City, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

Neither the Chiefs, Bucs nor Rams had any grand illusions of the postseason when the year began. In fact, all three are breaking in first-time head coaches in their first season.

The Titans have the league’s longest tenured coach in Jeff Fisher in place, and in training camp and preseason, most onlookers believed this was a strong contender that had upgraded in several areas after coming off a 13-3 season.

But here they stand winless through five games and with the New England Patriots staring down the schedule on Sunday, avoiding being 0-6 at the bye appears to be a tall order.

It’s a road the Titans have been down before, as they began 2006 with a similar record before finally going on the road to win at Washington.

That game was memorable for a couple of reasons. First, Casey Cramer blocked a punt in the end zone for a safety that was key in turning the game around, and finally Lamont Thompson, a favorite whipping boy of Titans fans in his final couple of seasons in Tennessee, sealed the game by intercepting a Mark Brunell pass.

That victory actually sparked a turnaround in ’06 that nearly saw Tennessee become the first team ever to ward off a five-loss start to the season and make the postseason. The Titans failed to take care of business in their final game against New England that year. Otherwise, they would have limped into the postseason at 9-7.

A similar turnaround this year would be even more difficult. Not only have the Titans been saddled with a tougher schedule than that team had, but all five of their losses have come inside the AFC.
At 0-5 in the conference as well as overall, the Titans are doubly behind when it comes to such things.

As it stands now, the Titans will soon be at a crossroads of how to finish the 2009 season, if they're not there already. Do they allow the current group one last shot to gather themselves and close fast, or do they accelerate the rebuilding process already going on in a number of NFL cities?

The first sign of change could have come Sunday night when Hayes stepped into in the starting lineup. Hayes began getting first-team reps late in the week last week, and the Titans pulled the trigger on the lineup switch.

Kearse is a free agent at year’s end, and given the rebuilding that has to be done and his disappearing act Sunday night, probably won’t be back in 2010. There are plenty others like Keith Bulluck, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Kevin Mawae, Alge Crumpler and others who are veteran free agents to be as well.

In a season lost, other young players could start getting a longer look as well. Kenny Britt and Jared Cook might be in line for more playing time on offense.

Rookie corners Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty are already getting their baptism the hard way on defense.

Is the time for other players – including Vince Young – that the Titans need to take a look at in real game action really that far behind?

Truthfully, it probably depends on what this team shows over the next two or three weeks. If there is a renewed spark that could fuel a strong finish, perhaps the Titans stay the course a little longer.

If it’s more of the same, the changes everyone foresaw with the free agents looming in 2010 could arrive a little bit early.

14 Comments on this post:

By: jps13pat on 10/13/09 at 10:18

Start the rooks. Peace out all you under performing no heart veterans in contract years. Out with the old blood. In with the new.

By: blktenn on 10/14/09 at 6:44

One thing for sre it's Not Kerry fault !!!!
The titans have never planned to reach the super bowl. Bud Adams knows a town, state or group of suckers when he sees them. The titan’s formula is to just make the playoffs. Fill up the seats and count this money. The Titans could have locked up Albert years ago if they wanted to build a super bowl team. As for you idiots who say they don’t miss Albert and look at how he is playing. “It is the GROUP of play the recipe of the blend of player that makes a GREAT defense, one powerful piece missing and you see what happens”
As for Rush Limbaugh he should own a TEAM right his in good old TENNESSEE home of the KKK.

By: titansfb on 10/14/09 at 6:50

Its all blktenn's fault!

By: knilob on 10/14/09 at 8:32

I'm starting to think the CityPaper needs a policy on comments. I'm tired of reading blktenn's racist vitriol on every article about the Titans.

As for the content of this article, I have a feeling the writing is on the wall for some of these veterans. I doubt the Titans will be renewing too many big contracts in the off season. They need to start taking a good hard look at all of their rookies/non-veterans to see if they have what it takes to play at this level. That includes VY. If he's supposed to be our QB1 of the future, put him in there and let's see where he's at mentally and physically.

I'm also thinking there might need to be a changing of the guard on the coaching staff. Fisher's had a great run, but I just don't see his conservative style surviving for much longer in the NFL. You can't win games with field goals.

By: TITAN1 on 10/14/09 at 9:58

I have sent a couple of emails to the paper on different posts and posters. I'm pretty sure blktenn posts here under another name and just wants to be a troll.

By: wayneCaluger on 10/14/09 at 10:29

First let me say that I agree 100% with knilob. Now the issue with starting VY has risks far greater than seeing what he can do starting with the risk of totally destroying this young mans confidence by setting him up to fail. No quarterback can save this season with the Titans playing they are playing at every aspect of the game. It should have been very obvious last game that VY is still gun shy from last years boo birds when he threw an interception. All three passes he threw were well under thrown making sure there was no way he would be intercepted since no one including his own receivers could catch the ball thereby minimizing getting booed.
The second risk playing VY is raising the probability of him really getting injured setting up some legal issues when it comes to VY contract and their ability to trade VY if either wants a trade.
As for the Titans not coughing up over a $100 million for Albert Haynesworth to keep him, I think the Redskins record and Albert performance this year underscoring what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket. The decision fans should be upset about was not spending $5 million to keep Chris Carr. Not only did fumbled punts and kickoff’s cost the Titans at least one game lacking a seasoned return man like Carr cost the Titans critical field position time after time.
Even after the Titans resigned Mark Jones getting someone who could catch the ball and not fumble it he has only averaged 19.4 return yards on 7 kickoff returns and 7.7 yards on punt returns. Check Chris Carr averages before the Titans signed he, when he played for us and what he now doing for the Ravens. Yes Fisher anybody can catch and return punts and kickoffs.
If we didn’t already have enough field position issues they got worse after Hentrich got injured and Fisher elected to go with Hodges instead of A.J. Tapasco. Hodges is averaging just 41.3 yards a punt (gone are the long high and deep punts) with a net average of 33.2. So every time the Titans field a punt or kickoff and go three and out they are giving their opponents excellent field position. And. you are going to go three and out a lot when you start backed in your own end zone.

And I agree 100% with knilob statement that we need a complete coaching staff change and we two are not alone after spending an hour LD conversation with some fellow knowledgeable football fan who also agrees with knilob regarding a posting policy.

By: wayneCaluger on 10/14/09 at 11:04

More on why letting Carr walk for $5 million hurt much more than letting Albert walk for a $100 million.

Chris Carr Kickoffs Stats for the 2008 Tennessee Titans season: played in 16 games returning 35 kickoffs for 984 yards averaging 28.1 yards a return with his longest being 52 yards with 0 touchdowns. He had 31 returns for over 20 yards and 5 for over 40 yards with 0 fumbles.

Chris Carr Punt Returns Stats for the 2008 Tennessee Titans season: Played in 16 games returning 32 punts for 323 yards averaging 10.1 yards a return. His longest return was 44 yards, 0 touchdowns, 5 returns for over 20 yards, 1 for over 40 yards, 20 free catches and 2 fumbles.

And his Ravens Corner back stats are better with the than our “Pro-Bowlers”. All Carr wanted was the chance to play some corner back. He showed he could when he had to go in for injured players having played some corner for Oakland.

With Mark Jones you have a ho hum return man that cannot help the Titans in any other area.

It was Fishers choice to let Carr walk and it him that stated after cutting Mark Jones because the only thing he could do was returns that anybody can catch punts and kickoff's. That speaks a volume to me as to his coaching ability.

By: TITAN1 on 10/14/09 at 11:32

While I am frustrated and I think at this point it starts with the coach, I'm not sure firing coach Fisher would solve anything. He is the highest paid coach in the league for a reason. He did not forget how to coach over night. I think our biggest concern is who he gave the defensive backs coaching job to. He can correct that mistake, it is our weakest area.

By: wayneCaluger on 10/14/09 at 2:29

TITAN1 I would have agreed with you regarding Fisher up until the Houston game. While I admire anyone who stands by their decision there comes a time you have to own up to one’s bad decisions and then go about fixing them even if it requires Fisher taking over as Defensive Coordinator demoting Cecil to defensive secondary coach. It’s now too late to call Greg Williams; he has a job as the Saints Defensive Coordinator and is being mentioned as a mid season replacement Head Coach. My hunch he will stay the course with the Saints and pick and choose from long line of owner suitors after the season or Super Bowl.

Fisher has to get in step with the NFL like the Bears have. Running a 1950 to about 1960 Bear style offense doesn’t cut it. We are the only NFL team that still has a full back whose only purpose is blocking. Hall does a good job as a blocker, but you are wasting a position if that’s all he can do. I admire him from helping the old guys out, but looking to Shady Pines for your free agents has earned the Titans the distinction of being number 2 when it comes to having the oldest players. The Washington Redskins has the oldest lineup in the NFL at 28.63 years with 16 players 30 or older and nine in the starting lineup, both league highs.

Our free agent selections have stink over the years. We pick Gage up after the Bears cut him because he couldn’t catch the ball. We pick Crumpler up after the Falcon’s cut him because he couldn’t hold onto the ball. Washington may have potential, but the Steelers didn’t see it having him third on their depth chart and no effort to re-sign him.

It was Fisher who pushed for Collins and thank God he did since Bud made the VY decision based on his Texas heart and not his football head. However, Fisher cut Ramsey who is the best of the backups Fisher has picked to date. He cut Ryan Fowler who we need. But to clear a roster spot he needs to cut bait and put Nick Harper on Inactive reserve if we are no going to re-sign him. Ditto on Fuller, but I’m sure they will keep Vinney.

There is a time for the heart and time for the head and Fisher is as it appears he is doing using his heart for old players, loyal buddies like Dinger and Cecil then look KC and Rams here we come fighting for the number one draft pick. Getting the top draft picks year after year didn't work for the Saints until they got a good head coach who put together a group coaches including Greg Williams. Sad to say, but sometimes it requires a head coaching change to change a team course.

By: gratefulted on 10/14/09 at 11:28

Fisher has lost it. On his Tue, tv show, he says repeatedly that a holding call on Hall was not a penalty.
Wait a minute, coach. It was obvious holding. Everytime they replayed it. We are not stupid, coach.

Also, the teatment of Jevon Kearse was handled in an unmanly, unprofessional manner on both sides. The head coach needs to stand up and admit he screwed that up.

Unfortunately, he won't.

By: Alphadog7 on 10/15/09 at 6:11

By: knilob on 10/14/09 at 9:32
I'm starting to think the CityPaper needs a policy on comments. I'm tired of reading blktenn's racist vitriol on every article about the Titans.


By: slacker on 10/15/09 at 6:51

Don't let blktenn's comments offend you, he obviously has an inferiority complex. He should be pitied, not banned, he has the right to post.

By: courier37027 on 10/15/09 at 2:42

To Terry McCormick, we need to know how that preseason nickname contest affected our running backs. One running back wanted a nickname "Every Coach's Dream" . Yet they went back to "Smash and Dash". Is it too late to submit more nicknames?

TITAN1, since you have a conspiracy theory, under what other aliases does blktenn post? Don't be a coward. Put some names where your wild guesses are.

By: TITAN1 on 10/15/09 at 5:35

Oh I don't know courier, it could be anyone.