I can remember it like it happened yesterday. It being the lowest point in the history of the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers franchise, making many Titans fans reconsider their pride and dignity and emphatically announcing that the team had become the laughingstock of the league. We went in 0-5. We came out one loss ahead and light years of confidence behind.
The year was 2009. One season ago the Titans had been one of the best teams in the league, featuring a ridiculously relentless defense led by Albert Haynesworth (funny, I know) and a double-headed, monster rushing attack that was dubbed “Smash and Dash”. Paired with an accurate ol’ gunslinger–okay, game manager–in Kerry Collins, the Titans entered the playoffs with a fantastic 13-3 record. They lost their only playoff game against the dreadful Baltimore Ravens, but optimism for next season was particularly high.
Remember those days?
Loss after loss piled up, and we were staring down the barrel at a lost season. Maybe the team could salvage it, though. We started with five losses and the New England Patriots were the next opponent. A snow-filled afternoon provided a rather ominous background to what would eventually be one of the worst losing performances in the history of professional football.
59-0 was the final score. 59. 0. One field goal. Eight touchdowns.
Let that process in your mind, then recollect your psyche. It was a classic, lopsided drubbing if there ever was one. Tom Brady took what he wanted. Receivers were always open. Running backs had massive holes to run through. Even their backup quarterback came into the game in the third quarter and has success. It was an absolutely mind-numbing catastrophe that sank a hole in many Titans fans’ hearts.
As much agony and embarrassment that that game brought to everyone associated with the Titans, could it have been a proverbial blessing in disguise?
It might sound crazy, but looking back on it from where we are now, it might have been a necessary wake up call.
That game brought an end to the infamous Kerry Collins era, and begun a short-lived second edition of the Vince Young era. We thought that he had turned a corner and was ready to realize his potential. A little over a year after that game, he did realize potential, in the worst way possible. The mental ineptitude of the former third overall pick, along with a stubborn coach in Jeff Fisher contributed to a colossal meltdown that finished the VY era, and in turn, the Jeff Fisher era.
The 2008 Tennessee Titans were a very good team. Jeff Fisher got the recognition for it, as he always did no matter who really deserved it. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was probably the most responsible for the success of that team.
From 2008-2010, Fisher didn’t adapt to a rapidly changing league. He stuck with his loyalty to veterans, among those Justin Gage and Kerry Collins. He kept playing “Fisherball”, running and running and running, granted he had two pretty good running backs. He never changed, and because of it he got axed. Much needed and much delayed.
Two quarterback eras had come and gone, followed by a mini Rusty Smith era that gave fans a bit of hysteria that nearly swept the nation. That paved the way for a new era; one that would, and will, hopefully give the Titans stability at the position and a new, clean face for the franchise. Everyone is banking on Jake Locker and I believe he will deliver.
If that Patriots game didn’t happen, if we didn’t start that season so poorly, and if Rusty Smith wasn’t so bad, would we be in the place we are now? No one knows, but I think we should be happy that it all has worked out this way.