Different results will mean fewer changes.
At least that is what the Tennessee Titans think as they prepare for Monday’s game against the New York Jets at LP Field (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
“When you’re not winning change is inevitable and it’s going to happen,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “So for us on this team, we want to continue to play our butts off and try to win these last three games and show improvement because when you’re winning things tend to change less.
“We love the guys we play with. We like our coaches her. So we want to try to win out and keep things the same.”
The Titans (4-9) definitely are not winning. They have dropped three straight and five of their last six, which makes this their worst stretch to date under second-year coach Mike Munchak.
Still, the feeling is that victories in the three remaining contests, beginning Monday, not only will provide stability in terms of personnel, it will create an attitude and a mindset that will remain constant through the offseason and into the start of 2013.
“You end these three games the way you want to, you come back in OTAs and there’s an excitement about it,” quarterback Jake Locker said. “It’s like, ‘This is what we’re capable of doing.’ We might not have ended up where we wanted to at the end of the year, with being in the playoffs, record-wise, whatever it may be, but you have the opportunity to come back and build on what you set in place toward the end of the year, and that can be encouraging.”
He ought to know.
In 2009, the University of Washington — with Locker at quarterback — finished 5-7 but won its last two over Washington State and California by a combined score of 72-10. The Huskies won three of their first five the following season and ultimately made it to a bowl game and had a winning season (7-6) for the first time since 2002.
Similarly, the Titans won eight of their last 10 following a 0-6 start in 2009 and then started the next season 5-2. Eventually they lost steam and finished 6-10.
So there is evidence to suggest that success late in a season can pay long-range dividends, not to mention create a favorable impression around the league, particularly in a prime-time game such as this week’s.
“We’re playing for our own reasons and for what we need to do as a team,” Munchak said. “We want to represent Nashville. We want to make people proud and [think], ‘You know what? We have a pretty darn good football team here.’ Yeah, this year has not [what] we all hoped it would be ... but our goal is to show people what we’re all about here. All we can do is win this one and from there, build off it for next year.”
Of course, it’s easier said than done.
The last time they finished with three straight regular-season victories was 2007, when they went 10-6 and made the playoffs. They came back after that and won their first 10 games of 2008.
Conversely, they wrapped up 2005 with three straight losses and followed with a 0-5 start to 2006. The last three-game win streak at any time was early last season (Weeks 2-4).
“Our goal is to win three games,” Locker said. “… For us, it’s more of a mindset to focus on us and where we can grow, where we can go and the momentum we can build as a team.”
The Jets (6-7) would like to win three games as well, but their motivation for momentum is based more on the present than the future.
They have won three of their last four to put themselves into the AFC playoff race. Three years ago they won five of their last six, squeezed into the postseason and advanced to the AFC Championship game with a pair of road victories. The following season they won two of their last three and again came within a game of the Super Bowl.
“The records don’t matter when the game starts,” Munchak said. “No one’s worrying about, ‘What does this game mean?’ It means we have a team that’s going to come in here, try to beat us up and walk away with a win. We have to prevent that from happening.”