- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Johnson is an easy-going and likeable guy. I don’t find him thin-skinned. But I also think it’s rare for him to say, “My bad.”
Part of that is the mind set a running back, and perhaps an NFL player, might need. A guy has to believe in himself and not second-guess what he does. He’s also got to learn from an honest assessment of it that comes from his bosses.
Mike Munchak said the first play of the Seattle game was a call for Johnson to take a handoff out of shotgun and go outside. He went inside for no gain.
The Titans aren’t questioning their running back’s decision-making, at least not publicly. They are allowing that on that play, and at least a few more, the intent was for him to get outside and he didn’t, or couldn’t.
Which made it appear they were fruitlessly, stubbornly, looking to run him up the middle against Seattle’s staunch defense.
Munchak said it’s part of the problem in the run game, where it’s a different guy doing something wrong every time things go wrong. Sometimes that guy has been Johnson.
“First run of the game was an outside zone and ended up cutting back, he saw something, or he thought he saw it, and you can’t really second guess the runs,” Munchak said, “It’s easy when I am watching the film after to tell him what hole he should have hit. In the heat of the battle you see certain things, it makes you cut back.”
Unsurprisingly, Johnson didn’t react well to the idea that he left opportunities outside on the field by cutting inside and heading North.
“From me looking at the tape, I don’t think there were any runs when I could have went outside and I went back inside,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t there.
“You know a lot of time people may say things, you could have went this way and you could have went that way, but if you’re not the one actually in there running the ball. ... Sometimes it’s much harder than where I can look at it and say, ‘Oh, you could have gone outside, oh, you could have hit this hole.'
“The way I’ve been running since I’ve been here is press the hole and hit what I see. If you look at the game last week there was really no time I could have pressed the hole and kept outside.”
When the coach is saying it while being careful to couch things politely, the running back probably ought to confirm what he’s heard in film review instead of indicating he’s in some level of denial.
He needs better blocking. He needs good play calling. And he needs to make consistently better decisions.
It wouldn’t, and it shouldn’t, hurt him to concede the last point.