Where they stand: They’ve been as surprising as any team in the league, and not in a good way. Before these Titans, no team in history had ever followed up a season where it started 10-0 with an 0-6 start in the next one. Things have gotten better in the last two weeks. Even if the turnaround continues, it’s going to wind up being too little too late for a team that came into the season with what seemed like reasonable Super Bowl expectations.
A 59-0 loss at New England qualifies as rock bottom and prompted owner Bud Adams to call for, and get, a change at quarterback from Kerry Collins to Vince Young.
Disappointments: The Titans and Jeff Fisher completely overestimated what they had at the season’s start in terms of the return game and in depth at cornerback. Ryan Mouton’s trouble fielding punts killed them. When a struggling veteran secondary was hit by injuries, rookies Jason McCourty and Mouton were not close to ready to substitute.
A receiving corps including Justin Gage and upgraded with a free agent (Nate Washington) and a first-rounder (Kenny Britt) dropped way too many passes. A Pro Bowl selection in 2008, safety Michael Griffin’s play dropped off substantially.
Surprises: Young had lost the faith of the coaching staff and Fisher fought to keep Collins in the lineup. Still, Young’s been efficient and effective in two games as the starter.
Young’s work, and everybody’s, has been made easier by Chris Johnson. The second-year running back’s been remarkable. Through eight games he is the NFL’s leading rusher, on pace for a 2,000-yard season. And if he maintains it, his 6.7 yards per carry would be the highest by the league’s rushing leader since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Outlook: A 6-10 record now seems possible, and that would be more than enough to ensure Fisher’s job safety as well as a high draft pick. The remainder of the season amounts to an audition for Young, who’s got a $4.25 million roster bonus and a 2010 cap number of more than $14 million pending. They need to decide where they are heading at quarterback.