The Tennessee Titans just put the league on notice. The Titans are no longer the progressively deteriorating franchise, with a record of 27-53 under three different head coaches since Jeff Fisher left following the 2010 season. One man does not make an organization, but general manager Jon Robinson sure is trying to. Since joining the Titans in January, the former Belichick disciple has seemingly shook things up in Tennessee. Robinson has attacked the off-season in a precisely aggressive nature, carefully selecting the cast to surround now second-year QB Marcus Mariota. It certainly helps to inherit the #1 overall pick but Robinson was able to parlay that one pick into quite the haul, made more impressive by the lack of a consensus #1 pick.
In a blockbuster move two weeks before the draft, The Titans sent the #1 overall pick along with their fourth and sixth round picks to the Los Angeles Rams (a team ironically coached by Jeff Fisher himself). In return the Titans were able to pry the #15, 43, 45 and 76th picks in this year’s draft, and a 1st and 3rd round pick in the 2017 draft from LA. It goes without saying that from a value perspective the Titans just got significantly better.
Robinson handled the process leading up to the trade flawlessly. From the very start there was chatter that Tennessee would look to move the pick. Robinson kept his cards close and when questioned about it by the media, he maintained that it would require a steep asking price. Much of this is fairly common GM talk, of never really saying much of anything. But Robinson could have said right from the start that the pick is available and the Titans would look to trade it. Instead Robinson let the offseason drag on a little and gave other front-offices time to think…“do we really want to start the season with (insert non-franchise QB) as our QB?”.
Negotiation is all about leverage. Robinson realized that as the free agent QB market thinned out, the less leverage other teams had. As free agency went along, names like Robert Griffin and Brock Osweiler came off the market. The QB version of musical chairs, when the music stopped there were a few teams left with a question-mark at the most important position. Now if a team without a QB wanted to acquire one, it would have to be through the draft.
Robinson also realized that if other teams believed the Titans wouldn’t mind selecting a certain player at #1, the more he could ask for it. With highly touted LT Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss right there Robinson seemed to stoke the fires a little bit, doing his best to convince others that the Titans wouldn’t mind selecting at #1. If others believed the Titans would take Tunsil at #1, then Cleveland would most certainly take the first QB at #2 overall. Again Robinson precisely develops this case, in order to maximize his leverage.
Fear starts to set in. NFL franchises without a franchise QB realize its either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff in this draft, or you might have to wait until 2018 for another true first-round talent at QB. In the win now business of the NFL if you don’t solve the QB position, statistics say you won’t be around in 2018. The result is a team like LA mortgaging the future in the manner they did, because quite frankly the QB position is so important that they should.
It would have been really easy for Jon Robinson to come in with the #1 overall pick and select Tunsil, a move that from a risk-perspective is about as safe as it could get. Instead Robinson took an aggressive approach to the process, no-longer settling for the safe pick. Through a patient and well-crafted process, Robinson not only armed the team with the ammunition needed to build a serious contender but also changed the way the Titans do business.