As with coaches, I’ll have an article where I discuss GM moves in one place at the end of the season, but we surprisingly have an in-season firing to discuss. The Titans have moved on from GM Jon Robinson after their blowout loss to the Eagles this past weekend. This was really a shocker because the team is 7-5 and firmly controls the (admittedly poor) AFC South. The team has great coaching, a good defense, and King Henry at RB. So let’s see why they made this move and whether it was correct.
Robinson had been with the Titans for 7 seasons and was the first executive hire by owner Amy Adams Strunk, who took over for her father, the late Bud Adams, in 2013. In his first year, Robinson helped take a 3-13 Titans team to 9-7 the following year. The team plateaued for a bit, earning that same record for 3 more years in a row. However, they made the playoffs in two of those seasons. In the final 9-7 season (2019), QB Marcus Mariota was replaced by trade acquisition Ryan Tannehill, and the team took off. Tennessee went 11-5 and 12-5 in 2020 and 2021, respectively, winning the division both years.
The 2022 season started off terribly, with Tennessee beginning 0-2. They rattled off 5 straight wins though before losing in overtime to the Chiefs. That game was impressive for the Titans as well, as rookie Malik Willis was starting in place of an injured Tannehill. After two more wins, the Titans have lost their last two games to the Bengals and Eagles, with the latter coming in blowout fashion. Strunk apparently decided that she had seen enough and fired Robinson today.
Coaching has definitely helped this team overachieve, but I can’t discount Robinson’s role in hiring Mike Vrabel in the first place. He’s a rare Bill Belichick disciple who has gone on to do well with another team. The trade for Tannehill was also a shrewd move, as was drafting Derrick Henry. Recent personnel decisions have not been as good, however. The selection of Willis in the 3rd round this year was abysmal. He’s not an NFL QB, as seen against the Chiefs. The Titans have also not been great at drafting corners or edge rushers.
His death knell might have been trading star WR AJ Brown rather than extending him. Brown was a wildly productive 2nd-round pick, but when the 2 sides couldn’t agree to a deal, he was shipped out. The Eagles were happy to pay a first-round pick and extend Brown at $25M per season. Tennessee used that pick to acquire rookie WR Treylon Burks. I think Burks is going to be really good, but Brown was not someone you could replace with one pick. He has transformed the Eagles’ offense, and that was on full display this weekend. Brown torched his former team, as he has done all season.
Strunk may have seen that performance and decided that she was done with Robinson. That feels like a kneejerk reaction to me. Overall, Robinson has been good, building Tennessee into a consistent playoff team. His prior performance was better than his most recent work, however, so you could argue that the team is in decline. I don’t understand what firing him now does though. The trade deadline is over, and we aren’t in draft season yet. This seems like a change that was made to light a fire under the team, and that’s never effective.
I personally would have kept Robinson until the end of the year and then evaluated what his plans were for the team. If that vision didn’t align with mine, I’d let him go then. Otherwise, his track record is deserving of more leash than this. I can’t say I HATE the move based on the abysmal 2022 draft and its associated trade, but I don’t like how it went down or when.