Over the weekend, a report from Mike Silver and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network on the state of the Titans said that running back Chris Johnson was “almost certainly gone after this season.”
It wasn’t a shocking nugget of information. Johnson is set to make $8 million next season and his production — 820 rushing yards and 3.8 yards per carry — isn’t at the same level as that salary. As Mike Florio pointed out on Tuesday, however, there are a lot of decisions to make in Tennessee and the decision on Johnson will almost certainly wait until the team’s decided on their coach and General Manager for 2014 and beyond.
Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith will be the man pulling the trigger on those decisions and he’s agonizing over what to do with coach Mike Munchak, which may help explain why he says that any talk of Johnson leaving the team is “premature” and that the team needs to make better use of the running back.
“Chris has done nothing but what he’s been asked to do there. He suits up and he plays every game. I think they need to figure out how to use him and his skill set better, but he has been a good teammate and a good player,” Smith said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. “Chris, like every player, we are looking at all of them. … We are evaluating each and every position on this team, and we are only going to keep players we think will contribute and earn their keep.”
If Munchak does stay as coach, it’s hard to imagine that he’s suddenly going to “figure out how to use him and his skill set better” since he hasn’t been able to figure it out after 45 games with Johnson on the roster. How that factors into Smith’s ultimate decision is one of many questions that the Titans will answer once the offseason rolls around.