Diving into the Titans' surprising firing of general manager Jon Robinson and what it could mean for other NFL decision-makers

Diving into the Titans’ surprising firing of general manager Jon Robinson and what it could mean for other NFL decision-makers

A 66-43 career record as a general manager is good enough to get you fired in the NFL. After four trips to the playoffs with the Tennessee Titans and a fifth on the way, Jon Robinson is out of work today in one of the NFL’s most shocking personnel moves this season.

From what sources told CBS Sports, the decision appeared to be driven not by an internal power struggle between Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel – although the two men could have disagreements like anyone. what a colleague – but that Week 13 beat the Eagles. and former Titans wide receiver AJ Brown, as well as the previous week’s loss to the Bengals, played a role in Robinson’s dismissal.

The move sent reverberations through the NFL world. And team owners with their own embattled GMs need to look over the hurdles at what just happened in Nashville.

“He should make the seat hotter for a lot of people if he can get himself into it,” said a prominent team executive.

If controlling Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk can fire their winning general manager and be willing to eat up the remaining years of a freshly signed contract, Cardinals owner Michael Bid might be more inclined to do the same with the general manager Steve Keim, who will likely miss the playoffs. for the sixth time in seven years?

Does Nick Caserio have another year to hire a third head coach, with the firm belief in the league that Lovie Smith won’t make it through this season?

And what about Jim Irsay? Its general manager, Chris Ballard, has yet to win the AFC South in his time there and hasn’t figured out the quarterback job in the post-Andrew Luck years.

Robinson oversaw one of the best runs in Titans/Oilers history. A Tennessean native, Robinson has beaten the Titans 13-2 in the AFC South since 2020, including 8-0 in road division games. The Titans are the only AFC South team since 2020 to have a winning record, and they have a +102 point margin in that span.

Robinson was not without flaws on her record, of course. The Titans seemed to clinch in the playoffs every year despite their regular season wins. Although Robinson met plenty of players in the draft — Jack Conklin, Corey Davis, Derrick Henry, Kevin Byard, Harold Landry, AJ Brown — he didn’t sign as many to second contracts.

He also missed a big lead in the repechage. Kevin Dodd, a high second-round pick in 2016, was a bust. Isaiah Wilson hasn’t even made half a dozen snaps in the league after being drafted late in the first round of 2020 amid several red flags. In fact, there is only one player in this draft class starting for the Titans today. And 2021 first-round pick Caleb Farley struggled with injuries (another red flag ahead of the draft) and barely played.

Robinson sniffed out Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney in free agency. He signed them each to one-year contracts for a total of $22.5 million and got 13 games combined and no sacks from them. He traded a second-round pick for Julio Jones and got a career-low 43.4 yards per game and a touchdown from the oft-injured future Hall of Famer.

Brown’s business in Philadelphia stands out, however. Brown’s negotiations with the Titans weren’t necessarily contentious, but there came a time when the Titans wondered if they would reach an agreement before the inevitable resistance. Robinson – with the understanding of the owner and head coach (although both or either ultimately didn’t like the move) – decided to trade the receiver to the Eagles in exchange for their first-round pick. Treylon Burks has played in eight games this season and has just 359 receiving yards.

If the Titans were hoping for a win-win trade like the Bills and Vikings managed two years ago in Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson, they certainly haven’t gotten it yet.

Did Brown’s eight-catch, 119-yard, two-touchdown game last week serve as a tipping point for Strunk? She says no.

“I had already made up my mind,” Strunk told The Associated Press last week. “AJ had a great game. More power for him, but that has nothing to do with it.”


Maybe. What ownership would have seen last week was an objectively more talented roster in Philadelphia, built by a general manager who isn’t afraid to deal with anyone in the league and with a solid record of decisive wins in those trades. . The Week 12 loss to the Bengals, a team that upset the Titans last year in the playoffs and a year later, improved as the Titans looked stuck at neutral.

But is this the best way to do business? Fire the successful GM, not after making the trade you approved, but after seeing the results of the trade in person months later? On a Tuesday in Week 14, as you inch closer to another division title?

Reasonable people can disagree. This gives Robinson and the Titans a jump on the sequel. Tennessee will now be led by vice president of player personnel Ryan Cowden, who will consult with Vrabel on all football decisions. Cowden has been a candidate for several positions at GM and was considered the top-ranked outside candidate in Pittsburgh before Omar Khan was given the Steelers GM job in the spring.

It’s clear that Vrabel will have more of a say in staff moves going forward, this year and beyond. And Cowden will be a top candidate for the permanent position going forward, although a full search will begin in the coming weeks.

The biggest question facing the next GM (and Vrabel) will be what to do at quarterback. Ryan Tannehill has the month of January to show why he deserves to stay another season, and he’ll need a reverse of his playoff performance from last year to prove it.

Cutting Tannehill after this season would save nearly $18 million in cap space while also counting $18.8 million off the dead money cap. Future free agents would include a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and former Vrabel New England teammate Tom Brady.

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