For the second straight season, the Tennessee Titans were awarded with the highest honors the AFC South has to offer.
The heavily coveted division crown.
It’s a milestone this team is certainly appreciative of, but it’s one the organization as a whole has to feel extremely good about, and they have a very good reason to do so. Let’s not forget, this organization was in the depths of purgatory 5-6 years ago. Wallowing in despair, dysfunction, misery, and failure, the Titans as a franchise were among the worst bottom feeders the NFL had to offer.
A revolving door of quarterbacks, numerous names at head coach, poor roster construction, no apparent organizational direction within a business that demands a concrete one, there was just nothing positive you could tie to this franchise that was once a familiar face of NFL success.
Then came the Jon Robinson, the number of players that helped jump start the eye opening ascension towards success, a coach that knows how to get the best out of his players, and we’re left sitting here witnessing a run of triumph many thought was almost impossible some time ago.
“Winning takes care of everything,” head coach Mike Vrabel said.
When you win, of course you forget about the pains and troubles that losing cause, but you also gain an invaluable amount of experience moving forward that everyone needs to ascend higher than “measly” division titles. Past Super Bowl winners have experienced some form of adversity or extended losing, and they’ve used it to fuel future success that helped shape the rest of their careers.
It’s why this year’s division for the Titans feel a bit different compared to last season’s.
Plenty of Adversity Has Rocked the Ship
Unlike last season’s division crown, this specific division title has a mysterious amount of intrigue and creates a bit more dialogue surrounding the team.
Yes, the dangerously abnormal injury situation is obviously one factor involved in this unique equation. But the almost impossible to predict adversity and pain that came as a result are both aspects that make this situation equate to something special.
Derrick Henry’s extended absence, multiple games without starting offensive linemen, pieces in the secondary dropping like flies, skill players succumbing to the dreaded injury bug, there were so many obstacles — injury or not — that the Titans had to avoid up to this point in time.
“There’s many players that we’ve had play for our team [this season],” Kevin Byard said. “To still have the success that we’ve had, it’s just a credit to the culture that Vrabel and Jon [Robinson] have built.”
To give you a bit of insight on how mind blowing the Titans’ injury situation has been this season, we need to discuss just how many players have suited up for the team this season alone.
Tennessee had had to play over 86 different players this season, a new NFL record. The previous record was held by the 2020 San Francisco 49ers, who finished with a 6-10 record and a fourth place finish in the NFC West.
“We’ve been in some tough situations and found a way to win games when we were short handed,” Ryan Tannehill said.
To keep the boat steady during times like this, takes an immaculate culture and a spectacular staff. The Titans have both of those, and the results have been shown to prove why.
Big Dreams, Big Dreams
Although a division title is nice and stands as a true mark of success, the goal of something larger looms on the minds of Titans players and coaches.
No, we’re not talking about a return to the AFC championship game, or a surprise appearance in the Super Bowl.
We’re speaking the language of winning titles, something this organization as a whole has never done, even dating back to their days as the high flying Houston Oilers.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Tannehill said. “We’re just getting started.”
Does this team have the pieces to turn their lofty goals into reality though? Well, it depends on a few things that have yet to be solved.
Can they stay healthy during their possible run towards a title? Can they overcome their lapses, the ones that pop up on both sides of the ball at times like frog stranglers during the summer time? Can they avoid the big mistakes that have killed so many teams throughout the many years of playoff football?
We don’t know, in fact, we won’t know until the postseason begins in a mere two weeks.
But we do know this about the Titans.
They’re a talented football team that looks deep at almost every key position on both sides of the ball, and they’re getting healthier at the right time. Those are two key factors so many Super Bowl winning teams have had, and luckily for the Titans, they have both in their arsenal.
This team is a mixed bag at times. You get a sprinkle of excitement, one that makes you believe in their ultra high potential as a team. Other times, you get a dash of doubt that fills you with nothing but concern regarding their chances to beat the big boy contenders.
Which version will we see once the playoffs begin? We’ll just have to wait and find out.