Titan fans through the ringer

What’s happened to Titan fans? We’ve been through the emotional ringer over the past 15 months. The team was a playoff squad in 2007, but predictions for 2008 ranged from wild card to last place in the division. During the season-opening ten-game winning streak, the national media did not believe that the team was for real until a Sunday night win over the Colts. Fans, used to close games no matter how good the team was, didn’t know what to do with the winning streak and the fact that almost all the games were not in doubt. This wasn’t the Titans they knew. Then the Jets came in and blew them out. The air was out of the balloon. A middling finish was seasoned by an impressive win over the second best team in the AFC.

A playoff disaster tore the hearts out of fans who hadn’t seen a postseason win since Vince Young was a freshman at Texas. It became apparent in the offseason that the window was there. Brady was hurt. Peyton took half a season to recover from a knee injury and had a typical first-round playoff defeat. The Steelers didn’t have their usual stalwart offensive line. The Cardinals were hot but beatable. No Titan fan will be able to resist wondering that might have been for years.

Each new season brings a fresh optimism, especially for the 31 teams who didn’t win a title. The experts deemed the Titans frauds, relatively speaking, each and every one of them predicting the in-flux Colts to win the division and the Tennessee franchise to struggle to make the playoffs. We had been dissed before. It was no big deal.

It was when the team lost three heartbreakers to start the campaign. That was tough, but deep down all fans knew that a good team was there. There were too many mistakes and opportunities missed. We were frustrated but hopeful. A blowout in Jacksonville made no sense. A home loss to the Colts was less devastating although it put the team back in their place, far from first place in the division.

The Patriot game was a new low. It was apparent that the team had lost all confidence. There was nothing to hang one’s hat on. No fan base had ever dealt with such highs and lows within a season and a half. It was torment. As the bye week progressed, most people just wanted the season to end. There wasn’t anything to play for anymore.

Fisher jerseygate aside, things turned around during the off week. A visit from the same Jaguars team that toyed with the Titans a few weeks ago turned fruitful. Chris Johnson completely emerged in this game, and another point of torment was that this running back was posting the best yards per carry average since the NFL merger. And the team had one win? How? The defense still had flaws but made up for it with opportunistic play. Vince Young came back.

Tell me if any quarterback in NFL history has had Vince Young’s career trajectory. College superstar turned rookie savior turned disappointment. A knee injury early last year all but ended his season, and almost his career. I don’t think that Kerry Collins is necessarily a better quarterback than Vince, but he was the better quarterback last year. He was better with that defense and a set of hands-challenged receivers. He was veteran and made the plays he needed to make when he needed to make them. It’s hard to believe I would write this after VY led the team to three double-digit comebacks in his rookie year. There were no such comebacks in 2007. The mojo was gone.

It’s apparent that he’s the right QB for the 2009 team. His resurgence, along with the team making turnovers instead of committing them, has turned the season around. It’s turned around so much that fans have a new emotion. Overconfidence.

How could fans of a 2-6 team be overconfident? Look at last year’s record.
Remember that Vince was the QB in similar circumstances in 2006 and a team that started 3-7 nearly made the playoffs. The Bills are awful. It’s safe to assume that the Titans should win. In this kind of season, nothing should be taken for granted.

Can you blame us, though? Save the Rams game, this is the last shot for fans to really believe that they’re going to win, instead of wishing so. Let us pretend that Alge didn’t fumble that ball. Let’s imagine what the Ravens would have called had they been penalized for the delay of game on the third-down conversion that got them into field goal range.

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