<
>

Running down players Ruston Webster has brought the Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In three years as Tennessee Titans general manager, Ruston Webster's overall player acquisition has been poor.

The Titans lack the sort of players who scare opponents and whom a locker room can rally around. The GM may have followed bad advice from head coaches Mike Munchak and Ken Whisenhunt and their staffs, but ultimately the decision to sign a free agent or to draft a player is Webster's.

A Twitter question from @DerekJBaldwin set off a conversation about Webster's track record in recent days.

As I said at the top of this, Webster's overall record is poor. Frustrated fans look at that and the team's 2-14 record and make over-the-top statements in my Twitter feed or on my radio show in Nashville (The Midday 180, thanks for asking) that suggest he's brought in no one of value.

That's not true, and in the name of fairness I say so and wind up defending someone who's record I am not impressed with.

Webster took over as GM on Jan. 18, 2012.

Let's put all 42 players of note acquired since then into one of four categories: solid starter, role player, TBD and poor.

I don't know precisely what a good batting average is. There is a ton of context surrounding a ton of guys. Webster hasn't hit well enough. But there will be a share of outs for anyone in a similar post.

Take note, having a guy signed to be a role player being a role player doesn't make him a failure. I tried to denote guys who were under the level they were brought in for.

Solid starter (8, 19 percent)

Delanie Walker, TE (free agent, 2013): A home run. Upgraded the guy they let walk (Jared Cook) and Walker just had a record year for an Oilers/Titans tight end.

Kendall Wright, WR (first-round pick, 2012): A talented guy Whisenhunt doesn't seem to care for.

Chance Warmack, RG (first-round pick, 2013): Slow to catch on, but really came on in the last third of the season.

Taylor Lewan, LT (first-round pick, 2014): We saw only six starts, but the guy is going to be a good player.

Avery Williamson, ILB (fifth-round pick, 2014): The best season of the rookie class, a solid every-down guy who was quickly the defensive signal-caller in his first year.

Bernard Pollard, SS (free agent, 2013): Brought the team a swagger it lacked, and while he wasn't the best coverage safety, he made a lot of big hits and did a great deal of tone-setting.

Ryan Succop, K, (free agent, 2014): He hit 19 of 22 field goal attempts. He got the Titans a touchback on almost half of his kickoffs; not a fantastic rate.

Ropati Pitoitua, DE (free agent, 2013): In 2013 he was a nice reclamation project who brought great size. He was better in his first season than second, though a hand and finger injury had a bearing on him in 2014. He signed a three-year deal in the offseason and was a healthy scratch for a couple games. You'd think he'd be a permanent fixture, but that he wasn't may be more Whisenhunt more than Webster.

Role player (11, 25.5 percent)

Sammie Hill, NT (free agent, 2013): Added size to the interior and moved to nose in the new front. Coaches have raved about his season, but for how much the Titans went to dime he played only 51 percent of the snaps. A personnel executive from another team told me he still has upside and makes plays when dialed in. I was close to putting him in the higher category.

Mike Martin, DL (third-round pick, 2012): Hard worker who provides depth but isn't great.

Daimion Stafford, SS (seventh-round pick, 2013): Big hitter who I think has a chance to be a starter. Considering the Titans had three veteran safeties, Webster seems to have timed Stafford's development accurately, not easy with a seventh-rounder.

Charlie Whitehurst, QB, (free agent, 2014): He gave the Titans more than virtually any outsider expected when they signed him as their veteran backup. More a Whisenhunt choice than a Webster one.

Wesley Woodyard, ILB (free agent, 2014): Not my favorite player and part of the run defense and tacking issues, but he finished with a team-high 134 tackles. The Titans definitely were expecting more.

Coty Sensabaugh, CB (fourth round, 2012): Not very good on the outside, where he was exposed in Jacksonville. But can be OK as the nickel in the slot.

George Wilson, S (free agent, 2013): Brought the team a professional work ethic and added versatility to the secondary, though he slipped in his second year when asked to do more and is getting old.

Chris Spencer, C-G (free agent, 2013): A lot of teams would trade their backup interior lineman for him but he didn't play well in 2014. For example, he couldn't snap effectively in the red zone in the finale.

Jackie Battle, FB (free agent, 2013): Solid special-teamer who was moved to fullback by the new staff but played little. Like some here, he was brought into be a role player and is one, so that's no strike on the GM.

Leon Washington, KR/RB (free agent, 2013): Blame Whisenhunt for overusing Washington as a third-down back. He was a savior when he arrived in Nashville as the kick returner during the 2013 season. OK at best in 2014.

Antonio Johnson, DT (free agent, 2013): Part of the rotation in 2013. Probably was in trouble in 2014, but an injury made the decision for the team.

TBD (9, 20.9 percent)

Bishop Sankey, RB (second-round pick, 2014): His first season made many of us ask why he was the first back drafted. Way less than expected.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, (sixth-round pick, 2014): Showed a lot of promise considering where he was picked. Fits Whisenhunt's mold with size, willingness to stand in and big arm. Very intriguing.

DaQuan Jones, DL (third-round pick, 2014): Too soon to tell on a guy who played in only seven games.

Al Woods, DL (free agent, 2014): Didn't stand out much in his first season with the Titans.

Brian Schwenke, C (fourth-round pick, 2013): Has played only 20 games in two years because injuries have slowed him, but may prove very capable when the guard situation settles.

Taylor Thompson, TE (fifth-round pick, 2012): Appeared to be ready to be an effective NFL player this year and then got hurt.

Marqueston Huff, DB (fourth-round pick, 2014): Early returns aren't bad, but it's too soon to know.

Brandon Harris, DB (waivers, 2014): He didn't play much, but I thought he made the most of his chances and earned a further look.

Zach Brown, ILB (second-round pick, 2012): Hurt before his third season started, maybe he would have blossomed and helped in 2014. But his resume thus far is not an impressive one, though he worked through early issues Whisenhunt has with him.

Poor (15, 34.8 percent)

Shonn Greene, RB (free agent, 2013): Many in the league marveled at the three-year, $10 million contract he got. Missed eight games in two years due to injuries. As a short-yardage back, he earned only 31 carries in situations where the team needed 1, 2 or 3 yards for a first down.

Dexter McCluster, RB (free agent, 2014): They didn't find ways to use him, but he certainly didn't force them to with 3.3 yards a carry. They didn't use him as a pass-catcher the way they suggested they would.

Steve Hutchinson, G (free agent, 2012): Spent the last year, and surely worst year, of a decorated career with the Titans and didn't help elevate the line.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB (third-round pick, 2013): He could still recover, but in his first year as a starter before his season ended with a shoulder injury, he struggled badly.

Zaviar Gooden, OLB (third-round pick, 2013): It didn't make a lot of sense when they made the pick. He has not been good.

Andy Levitre, LG (free agent, 2013): Was not average his first year as he came back from an offseason knee issue, and was at the root of the line's early problems in 2014. Not close to worth his six-year, $46.8 million contract.

Kamerion Wimbley, OLB (free agent, 2012): A late overreaction by a team needing a pass-rusher. The Titans wound up in limbo while they were chasing Peyton Manning and then overreached.

Justin Hunter, WR (second-round pick, 2013): The Titans gave up a third-round pick to go get him in the second round. Very timid and not close to far enough along before he ruptured his spleen this season.

Michael Oher, RT (free agent, 2014): Lived up to his reputation as overrated and ineffective. A bad signing, but at least they can get out of it after one year and $6 million.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, free agent, 2013): Simply turned the ball over too much as an alternative to often-injured Jake Locker. Did throw six TDs for Houston in a game against the Titans this year.

Kris Durham, WR (waivers, 2014): Just a guy from what we saw.

Lavar Edwards, DE (fifth-round pick, 2013): Traded to Dallas during 2014 training camp. Played in four games for Cowboys. He was drafted for a 4-3 then didn't fit. Webster can't really be blamed for that.

Moise Fokou, LB (free agent, 2013): Seemed like just a guy. Played a couple of games for New Orleans in 2014.

Rob Turner, C (free agent, 2012): Brought in to compete with a rookie, started first six games and was bad.

Darius Reynaud, returner (free agent, 2012): Started off fine but wound up a disaster. The Titans had to cut during his second season.

Not included:

Some late picks: 2012 sixth-round safety Markelle Martin, 2012 seventh-round end Scott Solomon and 2013 sixth-round defensive back Khalid Wooten. A GM shouldn't be scored down for late-round misses.

Four re-signings: DE Jurrell Casey (the team's best defender), WR Lavelle Hawkins (poor decision), backup OT Mike Otto (OK), TE Craig Stevens (good player, too pricey).