Are the Tennessee Titans the next team to make an unconventional Super Bowl run?
Following another grueling 16-game schedule, the Tennessee Titans found themselves in familiar territory once again as they finished 9-7 for the fourth straight year. However, this year’s 9-7 team has a much different feel than years past.
After failing to make the postseason last year, the Titans earned the the right to play January football for the second time in three years by winning seven of their final 10 games following a lackluster 2-4 start.
The offense came to life in a big way following the mid-season quarterback change to Ryan Tannehill which helped them go from a stagnant offense that averaged 11 points per game from weeks two to six to an offense that averaged an explosive 30.4 points per game the rest of the way.
As many reasons as there are to be optimistic about this team going on a potential run, there is a misconception within the fan base that being 9-7 once again or being a wild card will somehow be the demise of the team.
As amazing as it is to have the double-digit win seasons, and home playoff game(s), the ultimate goal is to find a way into that 12-team tournament in order to give yourself a chance to compete for a championship at the end of the season.
What really matters is what you do with the opportunity once you punch your ticket to the dance. The Titans have checked that first box off and have officially given themselves a puncher’s chance at a world championship.
What makes the NFL playoffs so amazing is the fact that records do not matter once you’re there. Having a strong record may get you a noise advantage, but it’s ultimately going to come down to what happens in between the white lines on that day. You don’t have to be the better team over a 16-game schedule, or be the better team four out of seven times. You just have to be the better team for those three hours in order to move on.
The Titans currently have a quarterback that is playing as well as anyone, a mammoth superstar running back, a rookie phenomenon out wide, and a defense that is getting healthier by the week.
These are just some of the many components that should give all Titans fans valid reasons to believe that they could beat anybody and could potentially be the next ‘surprise’ team to go on an unexpected super bowl run.
Something that happens a lot more frequently than many realize. No one is acting like being the wild card team is the ideal scenario or anything, but to say that there is absolutely no chance as some have implied is simply inaccurate.
In fact, since 2005 there have been four teams to reach the Super Bowl as either a No. 6 or as a team that finished with a regular season record of 9-7.
In 2005, despite suffering a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers got hot at the right time and found themselves as the No. 6 in a brutal conference.
The Steelers were able to overcome going on the road through the duration of the playoffs and found a way to survive and advance their way into a championship. It wasn’t always pretty, but they were able to overcome the adversity because they were led by a tough-minded head coach that knew how to get the most out of his players similarly to how head coach Mike Vrabel does now.
The 2008 Arizona Cardinals were probably the most surprising super bowl run in the last 20 years. Despite the skepticism nationally, the Cardinals went on to reach Super Bowl 43 after a 9-7 season that is eerily similar in some aspects to the 2019 Titans.
The ‘08 Cardinals were led by a surprisingly high-powered offense that averaged 26.7 points per game. That offense was led by a quarterback in Kurt Warner who was basically kicked to the curb by both the Rams and the Giants.
Warner found his way on to the field after his new team’s first-round quarterback didn’t exactly pan out like they had hoped, and Warner took full advantage of the opportunity in Arizona and never looked back.
The ‘08 Cardinals also possessed a humble superstar in Larry Fitzgerald that had the potential to dominate anytime he stepped on the field and was borderline unstoppable whenever he was on his game. Similarly to some guy that wears No. 22 for the Titans.
Although Arizona ultimately fell just short of capturing the crown that year, the similarities in their run should give Titans fans hope that they could potentially be that next team to come out of nowhere and make some serious noise in January.
Two years later, the 2010 Green Bay Packers won super bowl 45 after finishing as the No. 6 seed in the NFC. This team faced relatively similar adversity as the 2019 Tennessee Titans as well.
The Packers dropped two games in a row late in the season to drop their record to 8-6 and needed to win their last two games in order to get into the playoffs. They played a division rival that already had their playoff seeding locked up in their season finale and found a way to win and sneak their way into the dance.
Once Green Bay was in the tournament, the talent within that locker room allowed them to take over regardless of being on the road the entire playoff run. In fact, the New York Jets were five points short of making 2010 the first ever season where the No. 6 seeds from both conferences made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Another prime example of how records and seeding become relatively meaningless once you reach the postseason.
One year later the 9-7 New York Giants rallied their way to winning another unconventional Super Bowl. The 2011 Giants were led by a top-10 offense and a team that always seemed to find different ways to win games.
Whether it was finding ways to win through the right arm of their extremely efficient quarterback Eli Manning, who often had ice in his veins in the biggest moments, or by wearing their opponents down with their bruising running game led by Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, this team was built to stand toe to toe with anyone, anywhere — something that this 2019 Titans team has certainly shown that they’re capable of doing as well.
Only time will tell whether this Titans team will join this list of remarkable Super Bowl runs. However, there is no denying that Tennessee has some glaring similarities to those teams who have done what they’re ultimately hoping to do.
If those teams can go on that type of unorthodox run, then there is no reason why this extremely talented and battle tested Titans team can’t do the same.