NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Titans have finally slumped to a new low: They’re the first NFL team with 13 losses this season.
But wait, there’s more.
Their ninth straight loss assured their worst season in Tennessee and worst since going 2-14 in 1994. Their 21-13 loss in Jacksonville on Thursday night also moved the Titans into the top overall draft selection with one game remaining. The last time this franchise picked first overall was 1978 when they traded with Tampa Bay to select Earl Campbell.
First-year coach Ken Whisenhunt said Friday he hasn’t even had one thought about picking first April 30 and isn’t concerned with draft status right now.
”That’s something there’s plenty of time to talk about, worry about,” Whisenhunt said. ”We’re coming off of a tough loss in a game last night in a game where we felt like we could’ve won just like the last two weeks. I mean it’s tough. We’re trying to get better as a football team, playing a lot of different guys, and we’ve had a lot of injuries and our guys are battling.”
The Titans (2-13) placed their 15th player on injured reserve Thursday, the second-most for this franchise since 1990.
Right now, they rank ahead of Tampa Bay (2-12) in the draft order. The Titans wrap the season hosting AFC South champ Indianapolis (10-4). Tampa Bay hosts Green Bay (10-4) and New Orleans (6-8) with the weaker schedule strength the first tiebreaker.
”We need to win and nobody wants to end the season with a loss, no matter what it takes we just need to go out there and win a game,” wide receiver Kendall Wright said after the latest loss. ”That’s really the main thing.”
The Titans scored on the opening drive for the first time all season and their first TD drive to open a game since Dec. 8, 2013, at Denver. They didn’t turn the ball over for the first time since Oct. 12, also against the Jaguars, and they held the ball for 34 minutes, 52 seconds for their best time of possession since their season-opening win in Kansas City.
Charlie Whitehurst, the veteran journeyman backup, threw for a career-high 287 yards.
”Nobody is giving up,” Whitehurst said. ”You can see how hard we fight until the very end and that locker room expects to win next week. That’s the way we’ve been all year and we just have not been able to put it all together yet.”
Yet they couldn’t manage more than a field goal in the fourth quarter, and six Titans couldn’t protect Whitehurst from three Jaguars with Sen’Derrick Marks earning a $600,000 by sacking the quarterback to end the game.
Running back Leon Washington said there was no consolation in playing better in a loss.
”As a team, we have to learn how to win football games,” Washington said.
The right to draft a future Hall of Fame running back in Campbell in 1978 cost four draft picks and a player sent to Tampa Bay. Their other No. 1 draft picks came 40 years ago after the then-Houston Oilers went 1-13 in 1972 and drafted defensive lineman John Matuszak at No. 1 overall in 1973. Another 1-13 record got them the 1974 top pick they traded to Dallas for a couple players.
This franchise hasn’t drafted as high as second overall since 1984 when they took offensive tackle Dean Steinkuhler of Nebraska. The Titans last picked third overall in 2006 taking Vince Young.
One more loss gives the Titans the chance to pick between either Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston or the luxury of trading back if they decide rookie Zach Mettenberger, who started six games this season, can be their quarterback in 2015.
”We still have another week of this season left,” Whisenhunt said.
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