Same Old Tennessee Titans


Dec 23, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) sacks Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

When Bud Adams announced that the Titans were going to retain head coach Mike Munchak and a collective murmur arose from Titans fans everywhere.  Water cooler conversations, blogs, and twitter alike all erupted with the same phrase.  “Same old Titans.”

Next came the coaching moves, or lack thereof, on the next level down.  Munchak kept a few and let go of others, but no one made a move for any of the big names available.  The general wave of malaise and disgruntlement continued as everyone continued to say: “the same old Titans.”

What does “the same old Titans” even mean?

Now I haven’t been a franchise fan that takes me back to the Oiler days, so I can’t speak to events that have transpired pre-Tennessee.  I can only attest to the events that have transpired since the franchise moved and changed names.  Since that time, I’ve seen a number of different things happen to this franchise and I’ve seen it take a number of different paths.  I’ve been to the one yard line in the Super Bowl and I’ve been into the white blizzardy abyss of a 59-0 point defeat in New England that left me despondent for weeks.  What I’ve seen would better be described as a roller coaster ride, and much less so “more of the same”.

The Tennessee Titans (and previously the Oilers) had one constant face to the franchise in Jeff Fisher for a record 17 years.  For better or worse Bud Adams let Jeff Fisher go, but did so late in the year.  Mike Munchak is the new head coach, and although he has been with the organization his entire career, he is still a different direction than the one we were all used to.  He’s had 2 years and one off-season and everyone wants him out already.  I’m not sure that only having 2 coaches in 2 decades, and both coming as internal hires, can constitute a portrayal of habit.

In the glory years from 1999-2003, The Titans did everything they could to hold on to every key player they had.  Floyd Reese and company pushed and pushed cap hits into future years in an attempt to get back to the Super Bowl.  It eventually caught up with them and the Titans were forced to blow up the team and start over.  The worst part was the dead money they continued to pay for years afterwards.  This was one tactic used, and although it failed, at least they tried.

After 2 years of deplorable play, owner Bud Adams stuck his nose into his own business and forced Fisher’s hand into drafting Vince Young with the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 draft.  Up until that point, Adams had always let his hired hands run the operation and make personnel decisions as a good owner should.  He tried it this once and it obviously didn’t work.  But a one time meddling in personnel does not constitute being thrown in with the likes of Jerry Jones and Al Davis.

When the Titans decide to part ways with their “star” free agents is another time the sheep begin to bah about “the same old Titans”.  Just because someone else is willing to overpay for a player that the current coaching staff knows intimately, doesn’t mean the Titans should do so as well.  Remember the salary cap jail the team was thrown in?  What players did the Titans not keep that went on to play lights out for another team and then take that team to the playoffs?  Traditionally they let guys go at the right time.  Maybe a year early, but that’s better than a year late.

Stylistically the Titans were traditionally a ground and pound team, conservative offense led by a good defense.  Keep it close and win by 3 at the end, right?  Even Fisher evolved over time from this as McNair grew into form.  Paired with Heimerdinger, we saw McNair began to air it out on his way to a Co-MVP season.  This transformation and adaptability was far from stubborn, or typical of the regime.  Since the McNair days, the team has been through a number of offensive styles and quarterbacks.  Every time the Titans don’t go for it on 4th down, or opt to run it twice in a row, you can’t say “the same old Titans” are too conservative, because it’s just not true.

When the Titans don’t pay the big money for the star free agent year after year is another time the drones start piping up about Bud Adam’s “cheapness”.  Take out the fact that there is a current floor to the salary cap as well as a ceiling, but Bud spent so much money in the first 6 years that the franchise was here, that it put the team in salary cap jail for years to come with dead money.  The Titans were still paying for players that had been released for years.  Not only that, but the Titans have traditionally resigned their core guys to long term deals instead of constantly bringing in other teams leftovers.

Has everyone forgotten Yancey Thigpen?  David Givens?  What about signing CJ2K to a mega deal?  You can’t say that they haven’t taken their shots.  Are you mad they let the Kearse walk?  What about Haynesworth? Bullock?

Heck, last year the Titans chased Peyton Manning, maybe the biggest free agent ever, for weeks.  It eventually cost them a chance at any of the other players they had previously targeted.  Is that the “same old Titans”?

It’s Munchak’s time to turn this around.  Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-US Presswire

The Results

Since the franchise took the Tennessee name in 1997 here’s how their seasons ended up:

  • 1997: 8-8
  • 1998: 8-8
  • 1999: 13-3, Super Bowl appearance
  • 2000: 13-3, Lose to Ravens in AFC Divisional
  • 2001: 7-9
  • 2002: 11-5, Lose to Raiders n AFC Championship
  • 2003: 12-4, Lose to Patriots in AFC Divisional
  • 2004: 5-11
  • 2005: 4-12
  • 2006: 8-8
  • 2007: 10-6, Lose to Chargers in Wild Card
  • 2008: 13-3, Lose to Ravens in AFC Divisional
  • 2009: 8-8
  • 2010: 6-10
  • 2011: 9-7
  • 2012: 6-10

Overall regular season record: 141 – 115, one of the best overall for that time period, and 6 playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl and an AFC Championship game.

There’s no doubt that the Titans have been down for awhile now and it’s time to turn that around.  That’s exactly what they are trying to do.  Bud isn’t being cheap and the organization is not doing the same thing over and over trying to find a different result.  If anything they’ve tried a number of different tactics.  Currently I applaud the move of keeping Munchak, and trying to legitimately build something for the long term and not going for a quick fix that may or may not have staying power.

You can argue with me on Twitter  @gunnelsj