Well, the 2016 regular season is over and the Titans haven’t made the playoffs. But they were close, and controlled their own playoff destiny up until the end. They finished the season 9-7 and are poised to contend for division titles for the immediate and distant future. There is a lot of good to take away from this season. There are also weaknesses that were exposed that need to be addressed this offseason.
I figured it would be interesting to see where this year’s team ranks in comparison to other Titans teams since they moved to Tennessee in 1997. The Titans have had eight winning seasons out of 20 since then, this year being one of them. This winning season came after four straight years of losing seasons, and after a combined five wins in the last two years COMBINED. The Ken Whisenhunt era provided a .130 winning percentage, while the Mike Munchak era provided a .458 wining clip. I’ll spare Mike Mularkey from last season’s debacle as he was just the interim head coach on a deeply flawed roster. This season’s 9-7 record with Mularkey at the helm is a .563 winning percentage, much higher than either of the previous regimes. It’s actually higher than Jeff Fisher’s total .542 winning percentage as head coach of the Titans/Oilers.
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Is it a small sample size for Mularkey? Sure, but it was noticeable the type of change in culture and identity that he brought to this team with Jon Robinson having his back. Winning percentage is one thing, but how were the other peripheral stats?
Of the eight winning seasons since 1999, this year’s team actually had the worst point differential. This year’s squad finished with just a +3 advantage. The 2007 team that went 10-6 and got into the playoffs finished with a +4 differential and the 2011 team that went 9-7 and just missed the playoffs finished with a +8 advantage. But the reason for the low point differential this year is squarely due to the poor defense this team played (and losing 38-17 to the Jaguars didn’t help). This team gave up 378 points. If it wasn’t for a fantastic offensive season, who knows what the Titans record would have been.
The 2016 Titans had the third-highest scoring offense since 1997, trailing only the outstanding 1999 and 2003 teams that lost in the Super Bowl and the Divisional Round, respectively. Look back at those teams and see that the top yardage leaders were the likes of Steve McNair, Eddie George, Kevin Dyson, and Derrick Mason. These aren’t the times of Jake Locker and Bishop Sankey anymore. If you look at the total offensive and defensive rankings by total points and yards allowed, the last Titans season that was better than this year’s was 2008. That 2008 team went 13-3 and lost in the second round of the playoffs after a first round bye.
I keep repeating it because it really is true: the future is so bright in Tennessee. This young team with obvious flaws just went 9-7 after winning five total games the past two years, posted the third-highest scoring season for the franchise in their 20 years in Tennessee, and has arguably the best young quarterback in the entire NFL. If the weaknesses on defense are solved during the offseason, then this team will be the favorite to win the division in 2017 and for years to come.