Tennessee Titans: Super Bowl run continues for former players
By P. L. Colter
The Tennessee Titans have missed the playoffs for seven straight years, and haven’t been to the Super Bowl in over 15 years.
The same cannot be said for several of their castoffs, however.
In fact, an argument can be made that the road to the Super Bowl can still go through a city with a recent history of postseason futility.
Three former Titans will be vying for a championship ring this Sunday, and each player’s future was in doubt after their departure.
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Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was, figuratively speaking, the little engine that could while in Tennessee. Undersized (5’10, 190 lbs), and unknown (2006 7th round pick out of Samford…not Stanford…Samford), Finnegan earned his way into the starting lineup and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2008.
The Titans released Finnegan in 2012, where he bounced around the league before retiring last March. The Carolina Panthers called him out of retirement two months ago to help their depleted secondary, and now he’s days away from the biggest game of his career. And he’s not just there, he will be counted on heavily Sunday evening.
Michael Oher had just earned a championship ring as a member of the Baltimore Ravens when he signed his lucrative free agent deal to come to Tennessee in 2014. He quickly flamed out, and was released less than a year later. Fast forward eleven months, and he is back in the Super Bowl as a starting offensive tackle for the Panthers.
The same goes for offensive lineman Fernando Velasco, who was brought back by the Titans last offseason after originally signing him in 2008. Velasco never made it to the regular season, as Tennessee released him on August 30th. Who picked him up you ask?
Of course, the Carolina Panthers. But it doesn’t end there.
Linebacker Akeem Ayers was drafted by the Titans in the second round of the 2011 draft, and was traded to New England in return for a mere sixth round pick last year. For his troubles, Ayers was rewarded with a championship ring after their thrilling come from behind victory over the Seahawks in last year’s big game.
And this is not a recent trend, either.
Two players that played pivotal roles in the Titans’ magical 1999 Super Bowl run had similar experiences.
Jevon Kearse, Tennessee’s 1999 Defensive Rookie of the Year defensive end, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 after five memorable seasons in Nashville. The Eagles, just like the Titans in 1999, went on to the Super Bowl that season.
In 1998, the Tennessee Oilers selected wide receiver Kevin Dyson in the first round, and in two short years, he became synonymous with two of the highest profile plays in franchise history (Music City Miracle, one yard short in the Super Bowl). The Titans released Dyson in 2002, and he went back to the Super Bowl with Carolina (them again) in 2003.
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Getting fired is never a pleasant experience, especially in an ego-driven profession like professional football. With the exception of Oher, all of these Titans played well while in Nashville, and were rewarded with a nice parting gift.