What a difference a year makes!!
Last year at this time the Tennessee Titans had run rough shod over four opponents and were leading the AFC South on their way to 10 straight wins and a 13-3 regular season record.
This year the Detroit Lions have won more games than the Titans, who have now lost six straight dating back to last year, prompting the naysayers and fair weather armchair fans to call for firing Jeff Fisher, the longest tenured coach in the NFL, or perhaps, at least in my mind, the more drastic maneuver of yanking Kerry Collins for Vince Young.
The Titans have a lot of problems right now but Kerry Collins' play is not one of them.
The facts are that they sorely miss their former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, now the head coach in Detroit; they are near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed despite returning three Pro Bowlers from last season.
Schwartz's defenses seemed to be always ranked in the top five, but then again he had Albert Haynesworth as his anchor.
The Titans obviously miss the former University of Tennessee star more than they thought they would. It didn't help that they conveniently ignored the fact that they lost a vast majority of their games the past two seasons without the big guy in there collapsing the pocket and stuffing the run. His presence required double and occasional triple teaming which allowed Kyle Vanden Bosch and the other defensive ends the opportunity to play one-on-one with their man which in turn allowed them to apply heavy pressure on the opposing quarterback on just about every play.
Not convinced? Just check with the secondary. The same bunch that loaded down the plane to Hawaii a year ago is now being shredded on a regular basis by guys like David Garrard.
The defensive backs will tell you to a man how much harder it is to cover for the extra two to four seconds this year. The proof is readily evident that Haynesworth's departure has had a ripple effect on the entire defense.
It may have been the fatal mistake that will ultimately end the 2009 season prematurely for the Titans' decision makers to think that they could afford to let him go and replace him with younger players.
One thing that we have discovered so far this season is that Jason Jones is no Haynesworth, though he has good potential at this level.
Another factor is the atrocious play of their special teams so far.
The loss of return man Chris Carr appears to also be a colossal misread on management's part.
The Titans special teams have cost them games at Pittsburgh (with 2 missed FG's) and in New York when rookie Ryan Mouton fumbled a kickoff and muffed a punt, turnovers that led to 14 points for the Jets in their 24-17 victory.
How will starting Vince Young at QB fix any of that?
One of the big arguments against Collins is that after a successful season, he'll struggle the next. I think Panthers, Giants and Raiders fans would attest to that pattern.
The argument does not appear to hold validity in this instance despite the six interceptions he has thrown this season.
Well informed fans, and certainly NFL talent evaluators would tell you that Collins' play is pretty close to the same level as it was last season.
Think back to a year ago. Do you think folks were hailing him as a savior? Of course not; he was merely the lesser of two evils, he was an effective game manager that let the running game do its thing and allow his defense to be well rested when they took the field.
He has had his share of misfires this season like any other quarterback but for the most part he has put the ball right where it needs to be.
The difference is the ball is not being caught as consistently as it was at this point last season. Not hard to figure that it is extremely difficult to be a great passer when everyone in the park knows you have to throw because you are playing from behind so often.
The addition of former Steeler Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, their first round draft choice, and tight end Jared Cook, who I feel will be a star in the league, was a great start at fixing the passing attack in the future but it takes time for young receivers to adjust to the NFL game and four games is simply not enough.
Add one of the toughest opening schedules of any team and it is not that hard to go 0-4.
By the way, it doesn't get any easier for Tennessee the next two weeks with Indianapolis and the Patriots looming on the schedule making 0-6 a real possibility.
Young may or may not be a legitimate NFL quarterback for some team in the future but he lost his teammates in Nashville when he refused to go back into the game after being booed by the hometown fans in 2007.
It was an egregious and selfish act not conducive to team play that most of his teammates or coaches will not ever forget.
There is no repairing that rift.
All indications are that Young's salary cap hit next year will be his ultimate undoing but players often refer to their games as battles or wars. Very few soldiers would want to go to war with a guy that they can't trust to stay in there and fight with them to the end regardless of the circumstances.
There is little doubt that the Titans are a team that is desperately searching for a team leader and catalyst to put some heart back into their team before it is too late.
It is a noble endeavor but putting a guy more suited for the role of the Tin Man back in charge of the team is simply not the answer.
Jimmy Jones is a Times-Gazette sports writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.