The Tennessee Titans find themselves at 1-3 for the third straight season, and we all know how that worked out the last two years.
5-27 to be exact.
After Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Houston Texans, head coach Mike Mularkey stood at the post-game podium and reiterated his belief that the Titans are making progress…even if the record doesn’t reflect it. He also acknowledged that fans and media are tired of hearing him say that.
And you know what? He is right on both accounts.
Yes, fans are getting tired of hearing about progress when week after week the outcome remains the same. Especially this season, when the influx of new faces raised their optimism and expectations.
But that doesn’t mean Mularkey is lying, either.
If you take the team’s goals for the season at face value, then you will see that the Titans are who they’d hope to be so far.
Minus the losing, of course.
When Mulrkey was hired as the full time head coach several months ago, he was asked what his team goals were for the season.
Mularkey responded, and I’m paraphrasing, that he wanted a tough, physical running team that protected the quarterback and controlled the clock.
There was no mention of a super bowl, division title, or playoff appearance for that matter.
Coach Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson understood that a team that squandered their draft picks for several years under the previous regime would take time to rebuild. Even with the pieces acquired by trading away the number one overall pick, rebuilding the team would still take time.
And along with that, winning.
After four games, though, the Titans have improved in the areas mentioned above.
Tennessee was 26th in rushing offense in 2014, and 25th last season. Neither time did they average more than 92 yards per game on the ground.
The Titans are currently 4th in rushing yards per game (127.0) behind newly acquired running back DeMarco Murray. He is currently fifth in the league in rushing yards.
Tennesse also wanted to improve their pass protection after giving up 104 sacks the last two seasons. They gave up the sixth-most sacks in 2014 (50), and led the league in that category last year (54).
Behind a retooled offensive line that includes a first round draft pick and veteran free agent center, the Titans have given up the eighth-fewest sacks (7) so far this season.
They have also controlled the clock, winning time of possession in each of their four games.
So yes, the Titans are making progress if you are realistic with your expectations for them this season.
Be honest, how many wins did you predict for them in 2016? 5?… 6?… 7?
Certainly no more than that, right?
And when you consider that Tennessee’s losses came in close fashion to teams that are a combined 10-2 (Minnesota 4-0, Oakland 3-1, Houston 3-1), then you can see how Mularkey sees progress with this team.
The next few weeks will really tell the story with equally or less-talented teams coming up on the schedule, and if the Titans continue to do what they do well, then they should beat a few of them.
That’s the only progress that matters going forward.