Requiem for a Titan

I have to admit. Last Sunday’s performance by the Titans was beyond anything I had expected. Did you think Kerry Collins still had the fastball to give someone a concussion?

William Hayes was one of the breakout candidates of 2010. With Kyle VandenBosch and his mean-looking contacts hitting the road to Detroit, Hayes needed to step up. He was injured in the preseason, tallied 1.5 sacks in limited snaps and finished his year by getting concussed when Kerry Collins threw the ball away. Here’s the teaching moment. Pay more attention to the game than Vince Young paid attention to Jeff Fisher.

Sunday’s game was fantastic if you’re a long-suffering fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. Every fan of the Chiefs is long-suffering. I was in Kansas City when they broke a 20-year-plus streak of not winning a playoff game. I watched them go from horrible to just good enough to lose in the playoffs. After they let Marty Schottenheimer go, the team had a brief flirtation with quality with Dick Vermeil. They couldn’t stop Peyton Manning in a home playoff game. In fact the team’s gone 0-3 with a bye in the playoffs. So all in all it’s probably a good thing that they’re playing in the Wild Card week. The Ravens or Jets are going to have a tough first-round contest. I expect the Chiefs to show up more than the Bengals did last year.

As a fan of the Titans, I have to say that I’m disappointed by the team’s performance. Last year’s team should have been better than 8-8 but an 8-2 finish obscured the start. The 2008 team was much better than expected but a first-round choke as bad as a David Buehler extra-point miss tarnished the whole experience. 2007 was a logical progression from 2006, despite Vince Young’s backsliding. The team had a dominant defense, which the NFL seems to be lacking this year. 2006 was fun despite the putrid start and the nightmare scenario of Derrick Mason, Steve McNair and Samari Rolle playing for the Ravens.

The 1999 to 2003 seasons were great despite the playoff failures. Neither the Buffalo nor the Jacksonville fan bases have recovered from losing to the Titans in the 1999 playoffs. Sadly, with the probable dismissal of Jeff Fisher, the team’s about to become the Jaguars or the Bills. With no coach and no quarterback, it’s hard to see any sunshine upcoming for the team.

Sunny moments for 2010 were the brief resurrection of Vince Young the passer, Marc Mariani the transcendent kick returner, Jason Babin turning his career around despite him being a key reason why they lost the Washington game, Kenny Britt as a long-awaited number one wideout, and the signing of Randy Moss. Oh, the signing of Randy Moss. Moss was woefully underused until the return of Kenny Britt, after which he became indistinguishable from Lavelle Hawkins. For weeks the coaching staff explained that Moss and Britt both played the split end spot, so they couldn’t get both on the field at the same time. Man, if the 70s Steelers had just played Stallworth and Swann at the same spot. That is so indefensible. That’s almost as bad as people whining about growing deficits before continuing tax cuts that the nation can’t afford.

I can’t even finish a paragraph about bright spots for the Titans without going negative. Anterraun Verner was a bright spot. He was a turnover machine, and when he stopped getting them, the team started losing like they were the 2008 Detroit Lions. Michael Griffin seemed to overcome a sub-par 2009. The linebacking corps as a whole was a disaster. The team couldn’t shake free a few bucks to hold onto Keith Bulluck? OK, Stephen Tulloch was a tackling machine. He’s not bad. The team needs new outside linebackers. If Jason Jones could stay healthy, I’d say sign in long-term. Tony Brown was injured most of the year.

It’s possible that the team will enter 2011 with none of the 2010 QBs. Collins is a free agent and is ready to retire as the worst 40,000-yard passer in league history. Jay Cutler, you have your work cut out for you. Vince Young is in the last year of his contract and probably needs new scenery to win. Either he has to have a coaching staff that’s 100% behind him and will tell him that the crowd booing him is really saying “VinceBooyah” or he has to accept that he’s not in Austin anymore. Rusty Smith seems like a guy who doesn’t have the skill set to stick around. Maybe his second offseason is off the charts and he becomes a backup type.

Chris Johnson could have the most disappointing 1400-yard season in league history. He never felt like the threat he was last year and took too many hits in the backfield. Seriously, the offensive line moved Amano to center and Harris plugged in at guard and it never worked.

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