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Midway through his first press conference welcoming everyone to training camp on Tuesday, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel gave his team’s fans great hope for the 2022 season.
That shouldn’t seem unusual considering the Titans have made the playoffs three consecutive years, advanced to the AFC Championship game in the 2019 season, and were the top seed in the AFC last season.
But despite the history of success, Titans fans have this offseason been teetering on Nashville ledges, needing convincing not to jump, because they’ve seen what’s happened in the AFC and what’s not happened with their club.
In the conference, the Denver Broncos added Russell Wilson to play quarterback.
The Cleveland Browns added Deshaun Watson to play quarterback (barring a suspension).
The Indianapolis Colts added Matt Ryan to play quarterback.
The Chargers still have Justin Herbert, the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, the Bills have Josh Allen, the Ravens are getting Lamar Jackson healthy again, the Raiders have Derek Carr, and defending conference champion Cincinnati has Joe Burrow …
The Titans, meanwhile, still have Ryan Tannehill.
So, it seems, the team that won as many games as anyone in the AFC last regular season seems to be at a talent deficit at the sport’s most important position.
That’s where Vrabel stepped in.
Because he’s not too worried about who has the most talented team, or most talented quarterback, or most talented roster.
“Well, I don’t want to rely on talent,” Vrabel said. “I don’t want to be a coach that relies on talent. I want to be – I want to coach fundamentals, technique. I want to teach. I want to make sure that they play with great effort. And I know that we’re talented.
“So my job is to not try to rely on talent. I want to try to coach. There’s a certain way that we want to play the game, and when we do, we’re a good football team. And when we turn it over, and we do, we don’t protect the guy with football, whether that’s a quarterback or a running back or receiver, we’re not very good. We can’t operate like that.”
What Vrabel is implying is that great fundamentals and technique and error-free play can overcome superior talent because football is a team sport. And, as George Allen famously once said, 11 men together can’t lose.
(Never mind that Allen’s Washington Redskins then promptly went out and lost to the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII).
“Yeah, that’s what this National Football League is,” Vrabel said. “I don’t want to just roll the ball out there and say, ‘Well, let’s hope we have the better players.’ That’s why we come to work, is to try to find ways to develop guys, to give them one more thing.
“If you can find one way to make Kevin Byard play better than he did last year or Jeffery Simmons or Derrick Henry, right? I mean, every single player, that’s our job as coaches. So, I just don’t want to have a cop-out and say, ‘Well, you know, they’re better.’ I don’t buy that.
“We want to give them the knowledge to be able to go out there and do their job and most especially give them the confidence to go out there and do their job.”
That sounds inspiring.
And it is often true. Good teams playing soundly and turnover-free can sometimes overcome star-studded squads that don’t play well together.
But here’s the problem: Sometimes teams with the superior quarterbacks also play free of mistakes. Sometimes the superstars play with great technique and within the scheme and game plan.
Look at the Los Angeles Rams.
Then what? Well, then the team with inferior talent at quarterback often loses, particularly in the playoffs.
Yeah, never mind that. It’s July.
Live the dream, Titans fans. Your team can overcome an opponent with superior quarterback talent as long as it is well-coached and tougher and more disciplined than the opponent.
This can definitely be true — at least until January.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero