Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I've gotten some well thought-out notes in the mailbag pertaining to Jason Jones and Albert Haynesworth, and I'll let one of the AFC South Blog's regular contributors represent the bunch.
Rob (Fort Myers): PK...did Titans fans just witness our worst nightmare? With Jason Jones and William Hayes playing so well yesterday, will the front office brass get the impression that they don't "need" Albert Haynesworth? Surely they can see the forest through the trees, and recognize that the Steelers O-Line is one of the worst in the league. Not that Jones and/or Hayes are bad players, but to think that the Titans will just move on from Big Al in the offseason without even giving thought of pairing Al and Jones on the D-Line...that would be foolish, right? Also, I know it's a foregone conclusion that Schwartz will likely get a head coaching job. I agree with you that McGinnis is the likely successor at Defensive Coordinator, but I worry more about Schwartz raiding the Titans defensive coaching staff such as Jim Washburn. What are your thoughts on Washburn being on the staff next season?
Paul Kuharsky: Let me take a roundabout route to answering the Haynesworth-Jones element of this by turning to a cautionary tale.
In a road playoff win that had a huge impact on their franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars may have gotten a false sense of security last season.
The Wild Card round win in Pittsburgh helped coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback David Garrard get contract extensions. It also gave the team confidence, perhaps too much, that they could be OK on the interior defensive line without Marcus Stroud, who'd gone on injured-reserve Dec. 12.
The team believed Stroud was never going to return to form after microfracture surgery on his right ankle in 2007, it saw production in a big situation from Meier and Landri and it dealt Stroud to Buffalo on March 1, 2008 for third- and fifth-round draft choices.
For the Bills, he's played in all 15 games, getting pretty good reviews while the Jaguars interior line has been far less intimidating and productive with Meier starting and Landri in the rotation.
So, we move to the Titans and Haynesworth.
Yes, Jones was excellent Sunday against Pittsburgh and the second-rounder is going to be a good player. But the Titans would be far better off looking to team him with Haynesworth, not asking him to replace the Pro Bowler.
The Titans want to keep Haynesworth. The thing that puts his return in doubt as he heads towards unrestricted free agency is money, not interest.
And the team understands that while they got a great defensive line performance in a huge game, part of it was thanks to a not-so-great offensive line and Ben Roethlisberger's determination to hold on to it so long so a play couple develop and his inability to keep hold of the ball when he got hit.
I don't think the show of defensive line depth Sunday diminishes Tennessee's determination to retain Haynesworth. I still think it will be difficult to re-sign him.
To your question about Schwartz: If he gets a head job, I believe there are three candidates to replace him as Titans defensive coordinator: McGinnis, Titans defensive backs coach Chuck Cecil and Gregg Williams, who's on his way out in Jacksonville.
I don't know who Schwartz might lure to join his staff, but I'd be quite surprised if Washburn left the Titans.
He's got a great deal of loyalty to Jeff Fisher, who gave him his big break in 1999. He's got a great deal of affection for the players he's working with. And I believe he and his wife love living in Middle Tennessee. I envision his as part of Fisher's staff for as long as he wants to be.