NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The timing of the Tennessee Titans parting ways with general manager Jon Robinson was rather odd to say the least.
With five games to go for the Titans (7-5), the closest team in the AFC South is the Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1), and the Titans hold the fourth seed in the AFC playoff seeding. Yet, Robinson found himself without a job Tuesday because Titans team owner Amy Adams Strunk wanted to go in a different direction.
"I believe there is more to be done and higher aspirations to be met," Adams Strunk said in a team statement.
Such a sudden decision raised questions around the league about whether or not there was some kind of off-the-field issue that led to a well-respected general manager like Robinson, who had held the position since 2016, to be fired. A team source told ESPN that Robinson's departure had nothing to do with anything beyond football.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on NFL Live that Adams Strunk was unhappy about not being included in a lot of conversations regarding the franchise.
Robinson selected Brown with the No. 51 overall pick in 2019, and Brown became the first rookie receiver to produce a 1,000-yard season for the Titans/Oilers franchise since Ernest Givins did so in 1986. The Titans traded Brown to the Eagles on draft day and used the first of the two picks (No. 18) on receiver Treylon Burks.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the organization "has to be great around Tannehill" when asked what can be done to not have a repeat of the 19-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs last season.
Trading a player of Brown's caliber was hardly a step toward being great around Tannehill, and Vrabel made it clear before the draft that he was not in favor of trading Brown.
"I love A.J. -- professionally, personally," Vrabel said on the Rich Eisen Show. "I’ve gotten to know him well as his coach and enjoy seeing him as much as I possibly can. As long as I’m the coach here I would want to have A.J. Brown on my football team."
A live shot into the Titans' draft war room showed Vrabel getting up and walking away for a moment after the trade was announced, which was clear evidence that he wasn't happy.
But the Titans contend that it was a move they had to make because of a stalemate between both sides during contract negotiations. Brown told ESPN that the trade wasn't his fault on draft night, and he doubled down on his comments after the game Sunday.
"I wanted to retire a Titan," Brown said. "I tried to do everything in my power to remain a Titan."
Firing Robinson is a clear vote of confidence in Vrabel. Vice president of player personnel Ryan Cowden will take over for now. The search for a new general manager will commence soon.
Along with Cowden, in-house candidates such as director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort and football development coordinator John Streicher figure to be in the mix to become the next general manager.
A source told ESPN that the organization is not pleased with the direction the roster that Robinson assembled is going. Not having 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson on the roster and the struggles from 2021 first-rounder Caleb Farley are two primary examples of the organization's disappointment.
Only two of the Titans' eight first-round selections under Robinson are still on the roster. One of which is Jeffery Simmons (2019), who will likely become the first of Robinson's first-round picks to sign a second contract with the team. The other is Burks.
Free-agent signings such as Vic Beasley (one-year, $9.5 million) and Jadeveon Clowney (one-year, $12 million) didn't work out. Beasley was released by the Titans before the season ended. Clowney was not re-signed after only playing eight games and failing to record a sack.
There has been plenty of good under Robinson, though. Robinson is responsible for a large part of the Titans core players -- including drafting Kevin Byard, Derrick Henry, David Long Jr., Simmons, Amani Hooker and more.
Robinson also added free agent Denico Autry at a three-year, $21.5 million bargain price.
The Titans haven't finished with a losing record in any of Robinson's seasons as the general manager, and they've won back-to-back AFC South Division titles and held the No.1 seed in the AFC last season.
But the early playoff exit, despite being the top seed, didn't cut it. It all goes back to what Adams Strunk said regarding higher aspirations being met.
The next general manager will be charged with meeting those aspirations.