When the Tennessee Titans hired Ruston Webster to be their general manager in 2012, his overarching philosophy of building a roster centered around players with tremendous “potential”.
Even if their potential superseded their actual production.
There is nothing wrong with that philosophy if you’re adding pieces to an already proven core of productive playmakers, but there are, however, some fundamental flaws with that line of thinking when your roster is devoid of proven playmakers at most positions….as the Titans were at that time.
For one, you will find yourself reaching for those “diamond in the rough” players in the draft based on their intangibles (size, speed, athleticism), even if most prognosticators have them slotted much lower based on their actual collegiate production.
Second, if said player is not producing, then you are essentially forced to keep them around. After all, by definition, the word potential speaks to the future….right?
That’s how players like Justin Hunter, Chance Warmack, Bishop Sankey, and Kendall Wright are still on the roster after regressing each year.
And while Webster waited on these players to live up to their potential, the team gradually slipped into the doldrums of the NFL cellar.
But today there is a new sheriff in town, and this general manager is having none of that “potential” talk.
When the Titans hired Jon Robinson as the new gm seven months ago, one of the first things he said was that he had no interest in “project” players. He wanted smart, tough, proven players with a track record of producing.
He wasn’t bluffing, either.
Backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger has all of the intangibles (height, rocket arm, collegiate pedigree), but he didn’t produce on the field the last two seasons, and now he’s gone.
Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was drafted solely on his potential last season. He wasn’t progressing to Robinson’s liking this offseason, and was shipped to Philadelphia for an experienced backup offensive lineman a couple of weeks ago.
Outside linebacker Deiontrez Mount was hardly a world-beater at Louisville, but was still drafted by Webster in the sixth round last season because of his rare blend of size and speed. An injury caused him to miss the final twelve games last year, and after failing to impress Robinson this summer, he was sent packing, too.
Running back David Cobb was drafted by Webster in the fifth round last year and showed flashes, but was injured and inconsistent in his brief stint in Tennessee. He was recently cut by Robinson.
As was Webster’s 2015 sixth round pick, center Andy Gallik, who was waived by Robinson after a short injury-filled tenure with the Titans.
That’s five players from the 2014-2015 draft that were not producing on the field, and are no longer with the team.
Five young players with untapped potential, that would probably still be on the team with Webster at the helm.
Five players that were quickly shown the door by Robinson, who in turn opened five roster spots for players that fit his philosophy.
Players like DeMarco Murray, Ben Jones, Andre Johnson, and Rashad Johnson, Veteran players with a track record of producing at the NFL level.
While improvement this preseason is an encouraging barometer, it remains to be seen if Robinson’s new philosophy will translate to a better outcome on the field this season in Tennessee.
One thing is for sure, though. With Robinson now at the helm, it will not be the same ole’ Titans going forward.