A Trip Down Memory Lane: The Last Tennessee Titans Playoff Team

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 31: safety Kevin Byard
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 31: safety Kevin Byard /

A look back at the last Tennessee Titans playoff team on the day of the Titans’ 2017 playoff debut against the Kansas City Chiefs.

As the Tennessee Titans gear up for their first playoff game in almost a decade, now is as good a time as any to reflect on that 2008 playoff squad and impress upon ourselves just how long ago that playoff season took place. For instance, rookie cornerback Adoree’ Jackson noted yesterday that he was only in 7th grade when the Titans earned a first round bye in ‘08.


Say what you want about head coach Mike Mularkey, but he deserves at least some credit for bringing the playoffs and two-consecutive winning seasons to a fan base that had been mired in mediocrity for almost a decade, and was coming off of a 5-27 record in the two years prior to his hiring.

For those of you who have a tough time remembering the last Titans playoff team, or for those of you (like me) who are too young to remember, let’s take a trip down memory lane and in doing so, better appreciate the current Titans organization for their 2017 season and upcoming playoff run.

The 2008 Offseason

After a 2007 playoff spot as the No. 6 seed wild card team that lost to LaDainian Tomlinson and the (then) San Diego Chargers, the Tennesee Titans faced high expectations heading into 2008. Despite being in a highly competitive division that fielded three playoff teams only one season before, with what they thought was a young cornerstone QB in Vince Young, two solid receiving options in Bo Scaife and Justin Gage, a bruising back in LenDale White, and a stout offensive line, many anticipated the Titans offense consistently moving the chains while a defense headlined by stars like Keith Bulluck, Michael Griffin, Cortland Finnegan, and Albert Haynesworth locked down the opposition.

The Titans improved over the offseason by signing OT Jake Scott, but mostly focused on improving via the draft. Most of their selections, like Jason Jones, Craig Stevens, and William Hayes, did not have an immediate impact, but as some attest, it’s the first round picks that make or break a front office and GM Mike Reinfeldt hit his 2008 first round pick out of the park.

To the surprise of many, Reinfeldt drafted speedy running back Chris Johnson out of East Carolina despite the presence of a very capable LenDale White already on the roster. Chris Johnson later became the focal point of the Titans offense and the only offensive identity to speak of for several years, but in 2008, he would go on to form a potent running back tandem with LenDale White that earned the moniker “Smash and Dash”. After a 3-1 preseason, the Titans entered an ‘08 season that would become one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.

Regular Season

After much was made in the offseason about Young’s ability to lead the Titans back to the playoffs, a Week 1 injury sidelined Young and turned the Titans offense over to the former top pick turned journeyman quarterback, Kerry Collins. Due to a strong performance by the Titans’ two running backs in Week 1, the Titans held first place in the AFC South, but without their star quarterback, the future looked dim.

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However, Johnson and White put the team on their shoulders as Collins effectively managed games (Collins’ ability to manage games later kept Young on the bench). Johnson and White combined for just over 2000 yards with 24 touchdowns. They formed a perfect duo as Johnson led the team in rushing yardage and White led the team in touchdowns, as each of their distinct identities as runners perfectly complemented one another.

Meanwhile, on defense, the Titans fielded four Pro Bowlers and two first-team All-Pros in Finnegan and Haynesworth, as their No. 2 overall defense clamped down on opposing offenses.

This combination of a devastating running back duo and a stifling defense allowed the Titans to cruise to a 10-0 start before dropping three of their last six games. Even with their dreams of a perfect season shattered, the Titans locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and were considered a favorite to win the Super Bowl.

2008 Playoff Appearance

Following their first round bye, the no. 1 seed Tennessee Titans prepared to face the no. 6 seed Baltimore Ravens. Though the Ravens sported an imposing defense with future Hall of Famers like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs along with an up-and-coming offense spearheaded by rookie Joe Flacco, running backs Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee, and former Titans wide receiver Derrick Mason, the Titans still possessed one of the most well-rounded teams in the league and were expected to dispatch the Ravens with ease.

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Come game time, however, the Titans fell apart. Their heretofore high-scoring offense was limited to only 10 points and turned the ball over three times. After Johnson left the game due to injury in the first quarter, White only managed 45 yards on 15 carries. Meanwhile, the Titans’ vaunted defense failed to record a single sack or turnover. The Ravens only managed a meager 13 points, but the Titans’ poor play meant that 13 was enough to win, and the Titans made a swift, unceremonious exit from the 2008 playoffs.

From that point on, the Titans failed to make any kind of impact in the playoffs until now in 2017. After such a long playoff drought, the Titans are finally in a position to play in January and compete for the Lombardi Trophy. Despite this, there is some palpable pessimism and disappointment surrounding this year’s team. Hopefully by reflecting on our last playoff appearance and the many long years since, Titans fans can gain a newfound respect for the outcome of this season.

Once a team is in the playoffs, anything can happen. The Baltimore Ravens clawed their way to a playoff spot, defeating the Titans en route to the AFC Championship game. Perhaps the Titans can emulate that success, assume the role of the underdog, and make waves in the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

Next: Who has playoff experience on the roster?