Tag:Mike Reinfeldt
Posted on: August 16, 2011 9:49 pm
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Why the Titans shouldn't pay Chris Johnson

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Chris Johnson wants to get paid. We don't blame him. It's just that the Titans can't do it. Not because they're cheap, or Johnson is undeserving, but because running backs are fungible. We're not willing to say they're a dime a dozen, but it's close.

Look, there's no disputing that Johnson and Adrian Peterson are the two best running backs in the NFL. But the difference between them and the NFL's 32nd-best back is negligible when compared to the differences between, say, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning and whoever your candidate is for the league's worst starting quarterback. The same holds for wide receivers, left tackles, cornerbacks, safeties -- basically every position but running back.

So why is that?

For starters, the shelf life for a top-flight running back is remarkably short. A study by Doug Drinin of Pro-Football-Reference.com found that RBs usually decline by age 28, WRs by age 30 and QBs by age 32.

In a story published in January 2005 in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Carl Prine explained that the sheer brutality of the position coupled with overuse has also played a role.

"The average career of an NFL back is 2.6 years and falling, according to the National Football League Players' Association. Players, coaches and historians interviewed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review blamed the mayfly careers of rushers on the … high number of carries they get in an age of free agency," Prine wrote. "Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, teams rarely asked their backs to touch the ball more than 230 times in a season.

"Historically, every time a player gets more than that many touches in a season, his production declines the following year by 50 fewer carries and 1.2 fewer games. Nearly three out of every five of these backs are out of the league within four years."

Then there's the research by FootballOutsiders.com which suggests that rushing success is more dependent on the offensive line, but pass protection is more dependent on the quarterback. Put differently: teams can find productive running backs -- no matter when they were drafted (or if they were drafted at all) or how much they're making -- if a good offensive line is already in place. A great quarterback, however, can mask an o-line's shortcomings.

(See Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, for examples. They play two totally different styles -- Manning relies on his ability to assess defenses and quickly get the ball out of his hands; Roethlisberger takes hits, extends plays and waits for his receivers to come open.)

A great running back, in general, is wasted on a mediocre offensive line.

Chris Johnson's Holdout

So what does this mean for the Titans? General manager Mike Reinfeldt said last week that the organization is willing to make Johnson the league's highest-paid back. Johnson is looking for something more than that. This is certainly his prerogative. After all, he's rushed for more yards since 2008 than anybody in the league.

That also means Johnson logged a lot of carries, too. In three seasons, he's carried the ball 251, 358 and 316 times. Johnson's yards per carry have gone from 4.9 to 5.6 to 4.3 over that time. And whether you believe in the Curse of 370 or not (basically, the theory states that if a RB carries the ball roughly 370 times or more in the regular season he will usually suffer a major injury or drop in productivity the following season), there's no disputing that Johnson wasn't nearly as effective in 2010 as he was in 2009.

It's not altogether surprising that Johnson wasn't able to duplicate his 2009 numbers (2,006 rushing yards, 14 TDs, 503 receiving yards), but he wasn't even close. He finished with 1,364 rushing yards, his yards-per-carry dropped by 1.3 to 4.3, and he had 258 fewer receiving yards.

More than that: even with his jaw-dropping performance in '09, the Titans won eight games and missed the playoffs. In 2010, they won just six times.

We could blame that on the precarious quarterback situation, but that's our point.

Here's what FootballOutsiders.com president and ESPN.com columnist Aaron Schatz told CBSSports.com about Johnson's demands for a substantial pay bump. "When was the last time a team with a big-name, big-money back went to the Super Bowl, or even had the best regular-season record in the league? I suppose the 2009 Vikings came close. Otherwise, do you have to go back to the 2005 Seahawks? The best offenses in the modern NFL simply aren't built around a single running back."

Ah yes, the 2005 Seahawks. Here's what we wrote earlier this summer about Shaun Alexander: 

"The Seahawks re-signed Alexander to an eight-year, $62 million deal in 2006, six years into his career. At the time, it was the largest contract ever signed by a running back. Alexander, who had 370 carries for 1,880 yards (27 TDs) in '05, managed just 896 yards on 252 carries (7 TDs) in '06. He gained 716 yards a year later, and by 2008 he was out of the league." 

Johnson does have supporters, however. CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel wrote last week that paying him is the right thing to do.

And Jerome Bettis, one of the most bruising running backs in the modern era, also thinks the Titans have to pony up for Johnson.

"You've got to have a feature [back] because what happens is that when you have that one guy, he becomes a threat all over the field and the defense has to respond to him a lot differently," Bettis told CBSSports.com last week. "I think that's where the difference comes in in terms of a feature back."

But Bettis thinks Johnson's worth to the Titans transcends what he's able to do on a football field.

"The problem is, if you lose [Johnson], now what do you have? You gotta have two things," Bettis continued. "In the absence of a quality football team, you've got to have a superstar for people to come see. If you don't have the quarterback, you better have the running back. If you don't have a quarterback and you don't have a running back then you don't have fans in the seats.

"You can load your team up with players, but who's going to come watch them? Because the NFL is run by superstars … and when you don't have that therein lies the problem. So [Johnson] is not only worth money ... just necessarily (for what he does) on the field, but off the field as well because you don't have the quarterback to position as your franchise guy."

And this is the dilemma facing the Titans. Do they pay Johnson because of not only what he means to the team but to the surrounding area and fan base? Or does the organization try to put butts in seats by using that large chunk of change to shore up other positions?

This reminds us of something Schatz wrote as part of his "Football Outsiders Basics" series: "By and large, a team built on depth is better than a team built on stars and scrubs. … Every team will suffer injuries; the only question is how many. The game is too fast and the players too strong to build a team based around the idea that 'if we can avoid all injuries this year, we'll win.'"

If you're still not convinced, how about this (from something we wrote earlier this month): "The previous eight Super Bowl winners didn't have a high-priced, top-5 running back on the roster. What they did have, however, was a franchise quarterback. Teams can survive without one but not the other." 

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Posted on: August 11, 2011 5:15 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 7:21 pm
 

Titans ready to make Johnson 'highest-paid RB'?

Posted by Ryan Wilson

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.: Via the Twitter feed of Titans' beat reporter Jim Wyatt: "Asked about being offered a deal after lockout, Johnson said: 'Maybe they talked, but I guarantee we never received any offer.'" 

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Titans running back Chris Johnson wants a new contract. Given that he's one of the two best running backs in the league and is set to make just $800,000 in 2011, he's right. The problem, at least until Thursday, is that Tennessee general manager Mike Reinfeldt said that the club wasn't willing to negotiate with Johnson until he ended his holdout. As of this writing, Johnson has been a no-show at training camp, even when faced with the possibility of losing a year of accrued free agency.

We've long been of the opinion that the Titans shouldn't pay Johnson "Adrian Peterson money," even if he's worth it because, in general, running backs are fungible. You can find productive players for a fraction of the cost with either late(r)-round draft picks or the waiver wire.

CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel disagrees with us, and luckily for Johnson, it sounds like Reinfeldt does, too.

According to the Associated Press Thursday, Reinfeldt wants to make Johnson the NFL's highest-paid running back, he just needs Johnson to show up first.

The AP also reports that Johnson's agent was the first person Reinfeldt called once the lockout ended, and Reinfeldt says that the two sides have already talked about the parameters of a new deal for Johnson, and they'd like to get him in training camp to learn new head coach Mike Munchak's new offense while negotiations are finished.

We're not sure if Reinfeldt is performing the one-man version of "Good Cop, Bad Cop," or if he suddenly felt compelled to take his message public, but either way, the timing seems odd.

Surely, Johnson and his agent knew that the Titans wanted the running back in camp before any new deal was drawn up, but at the same time, if Tennessee deems Johnson so important to their future, why don't they go ahead and, you know, make him the "NFL's highest-paid back?" Especially when Johnson made it clear that last year was the "last time (I'll report to camp) without me having a long-term deal. … It won't happen again."

And so far, he's kept his word.

The problem for the Titans, assuming they consider Johnson an integral part of their offense (and it sure seems that they do), is that either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker will be under center. One's a grizzled veteran; the other the franchise's future, and both are in dire need of a running game to insure they don't get clobbered on a regular basis.

It's seldom the case that a player has leverage in a drawn-out contract dispute, but Johnson seems to be in pretty good shape right about now.

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Posted on: August 7, 2011 1:10 pm
 

Finnegan takes to Twitter to explain absence

Posted by Ryan Wilson

On Saturday, Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan missed a mandatory meeting, and Yahoo! Sports reported that Finnegan left training camp Friday night, upset about a contract that will pay him $3.7 million in 2011.

Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt told the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt that "We were totally surprised he turned around and left camp," adding that Finnegan's "disappointing" move wouldn't help him land a new deal.

Funny story: Finnegan fired up his Twitter Machine to set the record straight. He's not angry about his contract, he went missing from Titans training camp to attend to personal matters.

"My absence had nothing to do with a holdout yet a personal matter that Titan officials were aware of," Finnegan tweeted Sunday.

"I am grateful for being a Titan … I am also thankful for my current contract and direction of team. It's obvious media had no idea of why my absence took place. … I have spoken with coaches and teammates and will resume all things asked. Sad to see media made this out to be about money when I'm happy."

More Finnegan: "Media gets paid to report never knowing but one side of a story. My personal issues needed attention and I will be out there playing ball."

Interesting. Head coach Mike Munchak told the Tennessean that he didn't know Finnegan had left camp until he was a no-show for a Saturday-morning meeting.

“Disappointed is probably the easiest word," Munchak said before Finnegan took to Twitter. "It is not something we expected. You obviously want your best players here, and you want them to be your leaders. So it is unfortunate whatever is going on, that is as much as I am going to say about it. We expected him to be here when we woke up and be a part of practice, and he decided not to be and we had to go on from there.”

So, nothing to see here, at least according to Finnegan. Now the Titans can concentrate their efforts on convincing Chris Johnson to report to training camp.

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Posted on: June 19, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Collins wants to return to Titans ... to start

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Here's the deal: Kerry Collins would like to return to the Titans in 2011. We know this because he's said it before, more than once. Collins mentioned it last week, and again Saturday, this time with one qualification. Via the twitter feed of the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt:

"Kerry Collins reiterates he'd like to return to Titans next year but made it clear he'd like to be starter, not a backup."

There's a huge difference between, "Yeah, I'd love to come back" and "Yeah, I'd love to come back … as a starter." Especially when the Titans drafted their most recent quarterback of the future, Jake Locker. There's also this: Tennessee guard Jake Scott said last month that Collins could decide to walk away from football, rather than play the role of Locker's "nursemaid."

But Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt has said from the beginning that the Titans won't rush Locker and that they'd pursue a veteran quarterback. That could mean giving Collins a legitimate chance to compete for the starting gig, or bringing in another veteran like Matt Hasselbeck. Or, if the lockout is resolved in the coming weeks and Locker plays lights during training camp, he very well could begin the season under center.

If Reinfeldt and new coach Mike Munchak are making a pros and cons list for possible veteran QBs to bridge the gap to Locker, Hasselbeck would have to get a slight edge over Collins. At 35, he's three years younger, and appears to be more amenable to the mentor role at this stage of his career.

You don't get that impression from Collins, who told Wyatt: "(Locker's) a kid who could learn from a guy like me. Hopefully he'd watch what I do and take lessons."

Yes, because that strategy worked so well when the Titans tried it with Vince Young.

(Yes, we know, that had everything to do with Young and nothing to do with Collins. And it's also why Tennessee drafted Locker. But if Locker is the best quarterback in camp, he should win the job. It's not like Collins has to play in order to teach Locker the nuances of the position. Plus, there are worse fates than getting paid a player's salary to be nothing more than a glorified coach.)

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Posted on: May 7, 2011 10:51 am
 

Titans are done with Randy Moss

Moss Posted by Josh Katzowitz

If there was any doubt in your mind – and really, there shouldn’t have been – it’s now official. WR Randy Moss will not be rejoining the Titans squad.

That’s the word from Tennessee GM Mike Reinfeldt, who took part in a conference call with Titans season ticket holders and broke the predictable news to them.

“I honestly don’t think we’ll try to re-sign him,” Reinfeldt said, via the Tennessean. “We’ve got some young guys we like and I think at this point in his career he will probably go elsewhere.”

Where that is, well, no one knows, though Moss has made it clear he wouldn’t mind a return engagement with the Patriots, and the Jets might actually be intrigued in perhaps trying to find a place for him – though I think most of us would agree that Rex Ryan’s squad shouldn’t bother.

In other Titans news, Reinfeldt said he liked second-year QB Rusty Smith, but not necessarily as a starter (“He could be a pretty good darn backup for a while,” Reinfeldt said in comments that I’m sure Smith would LOVE to read). Reinfeldt also said he’d love to have back MLB Stephen Tulloch. This, even though Tennessee drafted two linebackers (Akeem Ayers in the second round and Colin McCarthy in the fourth round) with its first four picks last week.

Right now, it’s unclear whether Tulloch would be a restricted or an unrestricted free agent.

“I think what we tried to do (in the draft) at the linebacker position and in all the positions is really create as much competition as possible: Get as many good football players as you can at each spot,” Reinfeldt said. “(But) Stephen Tulloch is a good football player and we want him back.”

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Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Report: Titans give GM Reinfeldt extension

Posted by Will Brinson

Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt's had some nice first-round draft picks in his time with Tennessee -- Chris Johnson, who you may have heard of, was a bit of a reach at the time, but has panned out pretty well for Nashville football. Michael Griffin's been superb, Kenny Britt is obviously talented (but troubled) and it's still early for Derrick Morgan.

But Reinfeldt's set to have, potentially, the biggest of his career coming on Thursday, April 28, when the Titans will select eighth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. But he'll make that pick with plenty of security because, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the Titans gave him a "multiyear extension."

Wyatt points out that the extension was likely "in the works" during the 2010 season and that it's "believed to last through 2014," though the team wouldn't discuss the precise nature of the reported deal.

Tennessee clearly struggled in 2010, going 6-10, but it's hard not to respect Reinfeldt for keeping the Titans competitive over his tenure despite a nightmarish quarterback situation (Vince Young was drafted the year before he took over) and for navigating an even more awkward coaching change when the rift between Jeff Fisher and Bud Adams grew to an irreconcilable gap.

Adams clearly respects the work Reinfeldt's done, though, because he extended the time with which he'll be working in Tennessee -- how that time pans out may very well be determined by the first decision that Reinfeldt makes under his new deal.

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Posted on: February 7, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2011 1:25 pm
 

Mike Munchak hired as new Titans coach

Posted by Will Brinson

The Titans announced on Monday that Mike Munchak, the former offensive line coach, would take over as their new head coach.

Munchak, a Hall of Fame lineman with the Houston Oilers, served under Jeff Fisher as the offensive line coach for the past 14 years and was considered the front-runner for the position as the Titans interviewed various candidates.

"This is a special day for this franchise as one of our former players takes over the team as the head coach," said owner Bud Adams in a statement released by the team. "Mike has been successful at everything he has been associated with at our franchise and I have no reason to believe that he won’t be successful as our head coach.

"He earned Hall of Fame distinction as a player and yearly he has been one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. He understands where we have been and knows where we need to go."

Munchak's obviously a "Titans guy" in that he's been with the organization for a long time. And it probably didn't hurt matters much that he played in the NFL with Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt.

"I have known Mike for 30 years and have always had the utmost admiration for him as a person, player and coach," said Reinfeldt. "He is a smart football man, who commands respect and accountability from everyone around him and I am confident that he will be successful. There were many qualified candidates for this position, but Mike makes sense on so many different levels."

Reinfeldt also cited Munchak's "franchise knowledge" as a "great asset."

Although there are plenty of reasons for fans to complain about the hiring, because it comes on the heels of the awkward Jeff Fisher termination and lacks "flash" and whatnot, it's still reasonably impressive that the team will be able to keep some sense continuity going despite getting such a late start on their coaching search.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com