Kindly Shut Up About The Titans Shutting It Down

Titans 615 WallNASHVILLE, Tenn. – Games are played all the time, in leagues all over North America and beyond, with no playoff implications.

Titans fans aren’t used to them. They haven’t happened for you since 2015, when they team went 3-13.

"It's new, right?" Mike Vrabel said. "It's a new experience for me. So, I'll have to give it some thought and try to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to continue to try to teach them, to develop them, inspire everyone the best that we can."

Let me remind the readership how it works.

They just play. Same as if they’re in contention.

There is a kickoff at the start and the clock expires at the end. Handoffs and throws and punts and kicks. Penalties and timeouts. The whole deal. 

They don’t bubble wrap up every guy who needs his ankle taped and they don’t put every project who’s been inactive in the starting lineup. Yeah, it’s unfortunate that the games don’t have playoff implications, but they are still scheduled and broadcast. People who’ve paid for tickets still expect a product and players and coaches still get direct deposits.

The video department still records the games and film of performances is still watched, reviewed and graded. It still becomes part of resumes for guys under contract trying to maintain and improve job standings and it's still important for others heading into the job market.

All this being the case, fans are still tossing out wild scenarios, concocting stuff that might as well just have the Titans cancel the games as if the Lions, Browns and Jets haven’t played December/January football games for the bulk of their existence like the three coming up for Tennessee. 

Look, the Titans are out of it, they are bad and they are frustrating to watch.

But don’t you spend six months a year pining for football season? Don’t you like it? Are you a fan of your team through thick and thin, even if you’re protesting the current state of things?

What will Vrabel be thinking of?

"Well, certainly love football," he said. "I love helping players. Remember that, remember why you got into this. Watching them improve and have success, embracing their competitive spirit and making sure that we're doing everything we can to put them in the best positions to go out and enjoy it. Enjoy it from having success and winning and making plays. It's a fine line each and every week."

You can be as down on him as ever. I can't understand what he and his staff were doing with the fruitless first-down running against the Texans. I wish he'd made different choices regarding his staff. I'm baffled by many of the organization's personnel decisions over the last several years.

But I don't doubt his love of the game or that he will continue to try to convey it no matter what's changed from last week to this week. 

I bet you’ve got a college team in a bowl game – the absolute definition of a meaningless game – and you find a way to convince yourself that it's got some meaning. You may even throw a party for the occasion. It’s got recruiting repercussions and so much meaningful carryover for those darn kids, Paul. And if they win one for alma mater it won’t hurt our draft position.

An earlier pick is better, sure, but be honest with yourself. It hardly guarantees a better player. You can comb through every first round and see that once we find out about guys in the NFL, it shakes out in somewhat scrambled order. And you can look at this team and see it fared worse at No. 5 than at No. 11 (Corey Davis as opposed to Taylor Lewan). 

Sure, the Titans would be more inclined to push an injured Will Levis back into action if there was a playoff possibility. But if he’s OK and not at risk of further damage, he should play again and I’m confident he will. Same for Jeffery Simmons (knee).

If you’re a hardline tanker you’re sadly beyond my reach.

But the Titans who are out there and their coaches are going to try to win, and the closest they will come to not doing so is fielding some lesser guys in the finale. The one big exception could be if Levis can’t go Kuharsky megaphoneand the team and Ryan Tannehill agree to preserve him for free agency and throw Malik Willis out there to show us how bad it can really be. But that would be a bad look both ways.

Why will Levis, Simmons, Kyle Philips, Josh Whyle and Sean Murphy-Bunting want to get back out there if it’s possible? Because they are football players who play football for a living. They aren’t looking for reasons not to play, they are looking for reasons to play. 

I don’t understand why so many people are so desperate for them not to. 

It’s not that complicated. 

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