NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel was visibly bothered after a humiliating 34-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Titans (3-7) are stuck in a funk having lost 14 of their last 17 games. A once proud organization is now in unfamiliar territory under Vrabel who has had the team in playoff contention every season, but that looks to be in jeopardy.
“I don’t know what rock bottom feels like, but man this is definitely tough,” running back Derrick Henry said.
Henry said there are a lot of self-inflicted wounds and poor execution. He feels Vrabel has done a great job establishing a culture and standard for the Titans, but the team currently is not playing up to it and it’s costing them.
With all of the losses wearing on the organization, Vrabel’s ability to find a way to maintain the locker room and not let things spiral out of control could loom large. Vrabel, who’s led the franchise since 2018, said he’s going to continue to come to the building with energy and passion regardless of the previous week’s outcome.
“I don’t know how to do it any other way,” Vrabel said of leading the team. “But, I don’t think that [job security] is an issue. I’m not going to compromise the things that I believe are going to help us win. The little things, not letting those slide, and doing my best to hold everyone accountable, including myself, as we go through this.”
Last season, Tennessee lost the final seven games — including a Week 18 loss to the Jaguars with the AFC South title and a trip to the playoffs on the line. The Titans have found a way to win at Nissan Stadium this season (3-0) but have yet to win any games on the road.
They’ve gone from back-to-back division champs in 2020 and 2021 to sitting four games behind the Jaguars and in last place in the division race with seven games left, and for the first time, Vrabel’s job security is in question.
But Vrabel doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.
“I don’t try to concern myself with that,” Vrabel said Sunday. “I really am focused on these players. I hurt for them. I played for 14 years, won some games, and won some championships. I am frustrated for the players. I’m disappointed for the players. I want them to have some success. I know how hard they work and what they put into it.”
Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said he’s tired of losing and having to stand in front of the media trying to explain what happened when he doesn’t have the answers. Simmons, who played 83% of the defensive snaps, vowed to give his all on each play and never quit on the team.
Like Simmons, inside linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair is fed up with losing and feels something has to change.
“Every week it’s different things, but it all comes down to the same thing,” said Al-Shaair, who leads the Titans in defensive snap percentage (94.8). “It might be a different play, but it might be on the same down. We’ve got to correct it.”
It looked like the team might have found an infusion of life when rookie Will Levis debuted to the tune of four touchdown passes in a Week 8 win over the Atlanta Falcons, but that was short-lived four days later when a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on “Thursday Night Football” began their current three-game skid.
One of the changes that won’t happen is within the coaching staff. Vrabel said he’s had the luxury of playing in the league so he knows what it takes to win and what is being coached and taught in meetings and in practice.
Vrabel plans to maintain the locker room by celebrating small wins. He gave the example of inside linebacker Monty Rice being challenged to do well on special teams which has in turn led to him playing more reps on defense.
When asked about continuing to have a handle on the locker room, Vrabel said he’s confident things will remain in order through the tough times.
“I believe in our staff, and I believe in our players,” Vrabel said. “We’re going to get back to work and make sure our guys are confident when we go out there.”
The Titans will put their home streak on the line Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) when they host the Carolina Panthers (1-9) and No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Bryce Young.