Once again this offseason, I'll be writing about the 2012 season that was, including picking some team MVPs, highlighting various statistics and trends, and trying to give you a better idea of the season that was. That should lead into our positional analyses, and then we'll start talking about the 2013 draft and free agency. If there's anything in particular you'd like to see, post it in the comments and I'll consider it.
Last year, this was a pretty easy choice. The Titans had a surprisingly efficient passing offense, even without Kenny Britt for most of the season, and that was because of Matt Hasselbeck. 2012 presents a more difficult challenge, as the Titans were not nearly as successful as they were last year. Even more important in terms of picking an MVP, there wasn't really anything on offense the Titans were reliably good at. The run game was productive, some of the time, and terrible unproductive as much or more of the time. The same was true of the pass game.
In the end, I had to sit down, come up with a list of every candidate I couldn't immediately dismiss, and eventually pick a winner. So, here's how it went down, with candidates listed in order by last name.
Pros: Offensive line struggled with him, and when he went down the lack of depth on the interior line was exposed, resulting in a complete offensive collapse late in the season.
Cons: That his name is listed in this post is a sign of the complete desperation I experienced trying to pick a winner. I'm higher on him than most people, in that I think he wasn't great but wasn't really terrible either. As far as impact goes, the Eagles losing maybe the league's best left tackle in Jason Peters this was not. Did not actually contribute to the Titans on the field in the regular season.
Pros: Titans posted their highest offensive scoring outputs in the year with him in the lineup, both in games where he led the Titans to late scores to win the game.
Cons: Had some real clunkers, especially the game against Minnesota. Even with him in the lineup, the offense was not particularly good, even by 2011 standards. Only played six games. Lost a competition for his starting job.
Pros: Clearly had a much better year than he did last year in terms of consistency of effort. Had 1243 yards rushing. Clearly the best, most productive running back on the roster, even if I wanted him cut last offseason. Pass protection has improved.
Cons: Did not run with consistency and productive remains a function of first-level blocking. Is not an offensive difference-maker; even in games where he ran well, like the first Texans game, the offense as a whole struggled. Ranked ninth in yards and ninth in carries. Ranked somewhere around replacement level by Football Outsiders advanced statistics. Was not nearly as much of a factor in the passing game as he was last year. Pass protection is still inconsistent.
Pros: Still a very good pass protector. The only offensive lineman to play 16 games. The Titans were better running left than they were running right.
Cons: Was not as good in pass pro as he was in 2011. That the Titans were better running left than they were running right does not mean they were good running right. Is not and has never been a great drive-blocker.
Pros: By Football Outsiders metrics, the most efficient option among the top three receivers, and the only player in the passing game who didn't experience the same dropoff in value. Overall, the most reliable receiver on the team once again.
Cons: His presence didn't prevent the offense as a whole from being not very good. A highly reliable but overall average #2 outside receiver who's better in the slot, not a player you can build a passing game around. Was not as a big a part of the passing game as he was last year.
Pros: Actually posted better per-play efficiency numbers than Washington, though not by a big margin. Dramatically improved his production from last year, when I wondered how long he'd have an NFL job. Played a much bigger role on the team than I anticipated, obviously.
Cons: The fourth receiver on the team. Posted much better but still not great efficiency numbers. Did well in a limited basis, but it's hard to identify to game where his presence really made a difference. Did not score a touchdown.
Pros: Led team in catches with 64. Tied for team lead in touchdown grabs with 4.
Cons: Should have led team in catches, as he led team in targets. Did not lead team in receiving yards. Averaged less than 10 yards per catch. Ostensibly fast, his speed was never apparent-his big plays, such as they were, came on short to medium passes with big run after catch thanks to defensive failures. Efficiency numbers unsurprisingly hate him.
Picking a Winner
To be honest, I mostly want to not give anybody the award this year. The Titans won six games, but several of those, like the game against the Lions and the season finale against the Jaguars scoring not by the offense was as big or bigger a factor than the offense itself scoring. Still, the strictures of such a thing compel me to actually pick somebody, and the one I'll go with is the only player on the offense I feel I can safely say is above average for his position leaguewide: left tackle Michael Roos. I know, Roos is my favorite player, and I'm decked out in a #71 jersey on gameday. He's kind of my default choice, but I wouldn't have picked him in 2010 (retroactive winner: Kenny Britt). He wasn't as good as he was in 2011, but he was still good, and on a team like this year's Titans, that's enough to win.
I don't agree with this selection. Roos probably wasn't even the best offensive lineman on the team, let alone the MVP. Velasco played better than Ros this year. Do you really think that if Roos hadn't been in the lineup the Titans would have won fewer games this season? Isn't that the test for determining which player is most valuable to the team? As much as I hate to admit it, the MVP has to be CJ. Despite his obvious weaknesses, he almost singlehandedly won the Jets game (with his 94 yard run) and the Bills game (with his 2 TDs and 195 yards). If CJ doesn't make key long runs in those two games the Titans are 4 and 12 this year. Despite his inconsistency and his lack of productivity in a number of games, CJ was the Titans offensive MVP this year. I think that is a testament to how poorly Locker, the receivers and the O-line played this year.
Heh - reminds me of my time playing Tecmo Super Bowl and an OLman would win league MVP. Estonia would be proud.
@Scott P Playing respectably at center is a lot easier than playing respectably at left tackle. I don't think Velasco played all that well, certainly not clearly above league average.
I expected CJ to be most people's choice. Frankly, I thought his lack of production cost the Titans both Colts games and the first Jacksonville game. That would make him 2-3. That's a slightly better winning percentage than the Titans' final 6-10 mark, but not enough to make him MVP in my mind.
As always, thanks for commenting.
@ThomasGower -- I don't think Velasco gave up a sack all year. The lasting image I have of Roos is Chandler Jones abusing him to get to Locker in the endzone in the first game of the season.