On Cook's perspective on Titans' changes

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
8:41
AM ET
The Titans failed to maximize Jared Cook’s talents in 2012, and it was one of many disappointing storylines.

Among all the players in the offensive meeting room, he may have had the hardest time understanding what coordinator Chris Palmer was trying to do, and that was at least a small part of the reason that Palmer was fired with five games left.

Cook is a dynamic player, but he can still be about potential as much as production. While he’s progressed, he’s still not guaranteed to show up in the right spot on a route. And he is not a great blocker. Pro Football Focus is not the end-all, be-all of judging performance, but they rated Cook the 34th-most productive tight end, behind a guy like New England’s Michael Hoomanawanui, who got most of his playing time because of injuries to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

I’m sympathetic to Cook’s cause. And I appreciate his willingness to speak out.

But I’m not sure his latest comments are on point.

He’s puzzled by Mike Munchak’s staff moves, particularly the firing of his tight ends coach, John Zernhelt.

“I am very surprised at that, very surprised," he told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “I just don’t understand that move. Point blank. Period. Coach Z was a great run-blocking coach and he really explained the run game, and he really broke things down to where you could really understand things better.

“And he was great in the development of all of us. I just don’t get why you would want to let a guy like that go.”

I think Zernhelt is a good coach.

But Cook should understand why Zernhelt was let go. In fact, he should understand that he’s a big part of why Zernhelt was let go.

Cook has elite tight end talent but he didn’t blossom into an elite tight end under Zernhelt’s tutelage. If Cook wanted to ensure Zernhelt’s job security, he could have done better work for him. If Zernhelt really explained the run game, then why wasn't Cook better in the run game?

Is it unreasonable that Munchak could have looked at Cook and Craig Stevens and thought his tight ends had hit a ceiling that wasn’t high enough? If that’s the case, isn’t it appropriate for him to go find someone who can raise it?

Cook’s heading for free agency and I fully expect him to get a franchise tag. Then, playing for a new coach, perhaps he’ll finally get closer to the peak the team imagines for him.

That could earn him the increased playing time and bigger role in the passing game he craves, and a lot of money.

I admire his loyalty. But his perspective probably isn’t the best one on this move.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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