Overwhelmingly, Cortland Finnegan is the one guy Tennessee Titans’ fans missed above all others in 2012.
The combination of his underdog story and his oversized competitiveness made him a player who, for six seasons, was easy to root for. A Pro Bowl appearance didn’t hurt either.
Based on what has gone on in the last few weeks, though, it also seems safe to assume that he is the one coaches and management did not miss. The free agent additions – there have been plenty of them – and roster wrangling that has taken place in the last three weeks have shone a light on all the areas the franchise’s decision-makers believe needed improvement following a 6-10 season that included a couple of embarrassingly lopsided defeats.
Just to review, almost every position group outside of the special teams, has been addressed. There’s three new offensive linemen. Three defensive linemen (two ends, one tackle). A backup linebacker. Two safeties. A wide receiver. A running back. A tight end. A swap of backup quarterbacks.
Nothing has changed with the cornerbacks, though.
Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner presumably are still the starters. Tommie Campbell remains a swing-for-the-fences gamble who has yet to realize his full potential. Coty Sensabaugh is an up-and-comer trying to make a name for himself. Expect a draft pick to be added to the mix later this month because the Titans have selected at least one cornerback each of the last 12 years.
And Cortland Finnegan is still with the St. Louis Rams.
Titans fans specifically, and Middle Tennessee sports fans in general are a patient bunch. They tend to trust those who make the decisions and don’t typically demand change for change’s sake.
In other words, their first instinct is not to second-guess. It is part of the reason the average tenure of this city’s coaches, general managers and the like far exceeds the norm. Public pressure is not enough a factor in how ownership gauges the performance of key personnel.
This is one case, however, where public opinion is firmly against the team and the choice that was made.
It is difficult to forget that Finnegan intercepted five passes in back-to-back seasons (2008 and 2009) when no other Titans cornerback has had that many since Andre Dyson had six in 2004. His on-field brawl with Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson is as much a part of the franchise folklore as Steve McNair’s willingness to play hurt, Jevon Kearse’s ability as a rookie to run down much smaller players and Kevin Dyson being tackled a yard short of the end zone in Atlanta. You just don’t forget moments like that.
So if things don’t improve with the pass defense, if free agent safety Bernard Pollard or someone else does not deliver a hefty dose of attitude, if someone does not give the fans a reason to believe, things could change dramatically the skepticism of the fan base in regard to future decisions could change in dramatic fashion.
It’s not as if Jeff Fisher had unanimous support for all the years he coached but the majority of fans believed all the way to the end that he knew best. The fact that he jumped at the chance to get Finnegan on his roster again only fueled the belief for most that the Titans goofed when they allowed him to hit the free agent market last year.
No one can argue that a lot of moves have been made lately to try and make the team better. For many, though, the decision to allow Finnegan to get away remains the worst thing the Titans could have done.