NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Four quarters are all that remain for the Titans. There will be no playoffs, just a Week 17 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts and the hopes of ending the season with a win against a division rival.
The Titans are working on an adjusted schedule so that the players will have Christmas morning off. The team practiced on Tuesday – a normal day off – in order to compensate for the time off later in the week.
Ken Whisenhunt met with the media for the first time since Friday's day-after-game press conference. Here are the top five things the Titans head coach discussed.
- Preparing for the Colts Starters**
After losing to the Cowboys in Week 16, the Colts essentially have nothing to play for. Colts backup QB Matt Hasselbeck played a majority of the second half on Sunday it would not be a major surprise to see him get more playing time Sunday at LP Field.
Wednesday's conference call with head coach Chuck Pagano should shed some light on just how much he plans on playing Andrew Luck against the Titans. Each coach has a different philosophy. Some bench their guys to avoid injuries and some want everyone to play so that they can gain momentum going into the playoffs.
Whisenhunt said the Titans will prepare the same no matter what the Colts decide to do.
"I really hadn't put a lot of thought into it," he said. "I think you prepare like they're going to play the whole game. That's what you expect, and that's the way you play."
4. Working Until the Bitter End
Whisenhunt has said time and time again that he's admired how hard his team has worked even after being eliminated from playoff contention for weeks now. He's confident that won't change going into the season finale.
"The one thing these guys have been consistent with this year is practice," said Whisenunt. "They've worked hard. We haven't gotten the results on the field on Sundays, but they've worked hard out here. It's no different today. I think they obviously want to finish the right way, and they're working hard to do that."
Much is made from the Titans faithful about the desires for the number one pick in the 2015 NFL Draft – a pick the Titans would own if the season ended today. A win against the Colts would likely cost the Titans the top pick, but that doesn't even come into the minds of everyone in the Titans locker room.
Whisenhunt related to the fans' hopes for the number one overall pick, but said this business is all about winning, and the Titans won't approach it any other way.
"From a fan's perspective, I understand that, but you want to win," said Whisenhunt. "That's what you're geared in to do. That's why we're in this business. We're trying to do that. I don't worry as much about that (draft status) until the season's over, but I certainly respect their feelings on that."
3. The Evaluation Process Begins
The conclusion of Sunday's game against the Colts will be the official beginning of the offseason for Whisenhunt and his staff. That means they will be evaluating every single player on the current roster and begin to make decisions on what the future holds for each player in Nashville.
"I think you judge based on how you play every year, no matter where you are or what team you're on," said Whisenhunt. "One year, just because you do something one year doesn't mean you're going to do it the next year. While we were aware of the players on this football team, it changes every year. I think they're evaluated based on how you play. That's what this game's about."
The evaluation will be a comprehensive look at everything a player has on his resume. That said, it would behoove guys to show out in the season finale on Sunday.
"It certainly can't hurt, that's for sure," Whisenhunt said. "This is a good football team that we're playing. They're going to the playoffs. We haven't had a win in a while. We'll certainly look to it as something that would be good if we could get it done."
- The Toughness of Michael Griffin**
Titans President and CEO Tommy Smith called the team's starting free safety the "heart and soul" of the Titans in an interview with the Tennessean a few weeks back. That came after Griffin dislocated his shoulder against the Ravens, had it popped back in and returned to the game.
Whisenhunt took the time to compliment Griffin himself during the presser when discussing the impact of work ethic and toughness in terms of the evaluation process.
"I think that's an important piece of the evaluation part of it," said Whisenhunt. "You can have guys that prepare great, but if they can't play, then they're not going to help you. It certainly is important to have some guys that are good football players that work hard, that do it the right way. An example is Michael Griffin, just from the standpoint of his shoulder coming out, being banged up, coming back and playing and working hard. Those are the type of guys that you're looking for."
1. Pro Bowl Voting
Getting individual recognition is a tall task for a player on a 2-13 football team. That said, Delanie Walker certainly deserved serious Pro Bowl consideration. Although he did not make the initial list announced yesterday, he still has a remote chance as an alternate if players in front of him drop out.
Walker's 847 receiving yards are a Titans single-season franchise record at the tight end position and rank fourth among NFL tight ends (and second most in the AFC). Walker only has four touchdowns this season, but still ranks second on the team in the category.
He hasn't had the benefit of playing with one quarterback all season or even two. No other tight end of his caliber has had to create chemistry with three separate signal callers. Walker has played through injuries and has often times carried the Titans offense. He's surely been the team's most consistent offensive skill player.
"I think it's always hard when you have a record like we have to get guys on that team," said Whisenhunt. "Sometimes it's really a popularity contest. We've had some guys that have played well for us. Delanie Walker's certainly one of those guys. A lot of times it just doesn't work that way, so I certainly understand that."