This just in: Rome is not burning. The sky is not falling. No aliens have landed in nearby cornfields.
What has happened in recent weeks is that Vince Young got in a fight at a strip club, Chris Simms got caught driving while smoking (exactly what he was smoking has yet to be determined, legally speaking), and Derrick Morgan was cited for speeding.
These things all took place in the shadow of running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Stephen Tulloch publically skipping out on all offseason training activities.
It’s fair to say this has not been the best offseason the franchise has had since it relocated from Houston a little more than a decade ago. But to characterize it as by far the worst — as many have done — is not exactly accurate.
Legal troubles are nothing new to the Titans, and they started even before Pacman Jones was drafted. The same is true for contract issues. In fact, if you go back to the summer of 1997, when the moving trucks first rolled into town, both things were part of the cargo.
Defensive end Kendrick Burton, a fourth-round draft pick out of Alabama the previous year, missed the entire 1997 season because he was suspended by the league. Safety Blaine Bishop missed virtually all of training camp that year because he held out in pursuit of a new contract, which he ultimately got.
Now fast-forward several years. Is the current confluence of jurisprudence worse than the winter of 2005, when tackle Brad Hopkins and cornerback Samari Rolle both were arrested roughly a month apart, each on charges of domestic violence? Heck, the incident that led to Hopkins’ arrest happened in a car as he was driving — sort of a combination of Young’s and Morgan’s recent actions.
Defensive tackle Randy Starks continued the trend with an arrest for domestic violence in 2006 and was suspended by the team for one preseason game.
At the time (keep in mind, Pacman was drafted shortly after the arrests of Hopkins and Rolle), the prevailing sentiment was that an increasing criminal element on the roster was inversely proportional to the number of wins.
The Titans went a combined 17-31 from 2004 through 2006, which was the worst stretch of coach Jeff Fisher’s tenure.
The truth, though, is that even in the best of times, there has been bad.
Tennessee led the NFL in total defense and had a league-best 13-3 record in 2000 but spent that entire season without defensive tackle Josh Evans, who was suspended for violating the NFL’s drug policy. Starting cornerback Denard Walker missed the opener of that season because of a one-game league suspension tied to a domestic violence incident.
Evans’ first suspension for a drug violation came in 1999, the year the Titans went to the Super Bowl. He sat out four games during the regular season but was dominant in the playoffs.
“Things happen all over the league,” Fisher said near the end of the team’s offseason workouts. “The focus unfortunately goes on that. What completely offsets it is the improvement of your football team, the improvement of your young players and the anticipation of the start of the season.
… Despite the fact that there have been a few issues, by and large we have had a lot of good things happen here.”
Enough good things, in fact, that the bad ones tend to be forgotten, which is why this offseason might seem worse than it really is.