The city of Nashville is lucky to have a professional football team. Likewise, the Tennessee Titans are lucky to have inherited a loyal base of football saavy fans. The relationship between the two has always been solid, regardless of the team’s success.
That is, until last season.
Yes, in the beginning, Titans fans were spoiled. That’s to be expected when the team goes undefeated at home, pulls off the Music City Miracle, wins the AFC, and nearly the Super Bowl, all on the first date.
The (late) Bud Adams – Jeff Fisher regime not only won, but they also did a great job of connecting with the city. Fans took pride in making Adelphia Colosseum (as it was known back then) one of the toughest venues in the league for opposing teams. And fans felt that way because the Titans organization made them feel that way.
They got it, and every game was standing room only. Regardless of the opponent.
Mike Munchak, an Adams hire and Fisher disciple, carried on that relationship with the fans during his brief stint as head coach.
But all of that changed when Ken Whisenhunt stepped off that plane in 2014, because shortly after his arrival, the relationship between the Titans and the fans started deteriorating.
The 3-20 record in itself is enough to deteriorate any fan base, but it was not the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Losing their voice did.
In 2006, the Titans started the season 0-5, with the third overall pick in the draft holding a clipboard as the backup qb. Finally, owner Bud Adams stepped in and named Vince Young the starter….something that fans were screaming for since training camp.
One can only speculate if the fans’ groaning’s played a part in Mr. Adams’ decision, but we do know that he understood business. He knew that having VY on the field would get people in the stands. It worked, and Young didn’t disappoint that season.
Fast forward to 2015, and the fans were groaning about head coach Ken Whisenhunt. The record played a part in their frustration, but his complete inability to take ownership for the state of the team infuriated fans.
As the losses continued to mount, there were no pleas for patience, no request to rally around the team, and most importantly, no public comment from ownership.
Just the weekly canned response from coach Whiz reminding us of how much better this team is than last year’s. As if to suggest that the 1-6 record supported it.
Ownership’s silence led Titans fans to believe that they were content, even complicit in the team’s dysfunction. That they were happy to stand from afar, and collect all of that league revenue money. That the fans were an afterthought.
That the relationship was over.
But today, ownership proved that actions do indeed speak louder than words.
I listened to the Titans’ flagship station, 104.5 The Zone, the entire day following Whisenhunt’s firing…and there was a renewed sense of hope amongst the fan base. Not just because coach Whiz is gone, but also because today, ownership said something.
They reminded the fans that they are committed to winning, like their predecessor, and are willing to make changes until they get it right.
Ownership made a good faith effort toward repairing their relationship with the city of Nashville today, the fans found their voice again, and I expect them to rally around the team for the remainder of the season.