The Tennessee Titans will finish this season with a losing record. They haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2008 season and are certainly not an elite team. However, they have recently been making the case that they are a team turning the page, after struggling through a rebuilding period brought on by a change in leadership.
The franchise had some success in the last decade, which started with an aging Steve McNair as quarterback under head coach Jeff Fisher, and progressed with the duo of Vince Young and Kerry Collins taking the snaps. But in 2011, Collins and Young both went to other teams for the last season of their careers, and Jeff Fisher moved to the Saint Louis Rams. The team has been reshaping itself ever since.
And they have done a decent job of it. They may not have a winning record, but the team has shown a lot of promise this year.
First, take a look at the start of their season. With Jake Locker in only his second year as starting quarterback (third overall—he was second-string to Matt Hasselbeck in his first season), they won three of their first four games. Not a bad start considering their opponents were some of the best-reputed teams in the league.
Which leads to the second point: the Titans have had a tough schedule. Their first two games were against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’ve had a winning record four of the last five seasons, and the Houston Texans, who have three winning seasons of the last five (this is before it was evident both teams seemed to have lost their mojo).
The Titans then faced the challenging Indianapolis Colts twice, losing both times but keeping the score close, and had to take on each of the three teams that have, at one point this season, held the best record in the league: the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. They were only one touchdown away from tying the now-dominating Seahawks, and spent the first half of the Broncos game making mincemeat of Manning’s team (yes, they ended up getting destroyed, but it was still a praise-worthy first half).
Third, they’ve stayed playoff contenders despite losing Jake Locker, first in game four against the New York Jets, which took him out of two games, then against the Jaguars after a presumed season-ending injury. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has only achieved one win since taking over, but the team has kept games interesting.
Despite their losing record, the Titans have shown serious potential this season. With a fairly new quarterback they beat allegedly great teams. With a backup quarterback they made some great drives. And they’ve done this all under Mike Munchak, who is only in his third year as head coach of the franchise.
There is a lot of talent within the club—i.e. star player, running back, Chris Johnson, and wide receivers Nate Washington and Kendall Wright. They need a playmaking wide receiver to replace the troubled Kenny Britt, to retain the talent they have, improve the defense’s skill against the run game, and either find a good quarterback or hope Locker heals and stays healthy.
If they can put all that together, the Titans are going to continue blossoming into possibly a top tier team within the next couple of seasons. And although It will be hard without Locker, Fitzpatrick has shown some play-making ability and their final two games are against beatable teams, so they might prove their potential even further by ending the season on a high note, leaving fans more hopeful about the 2013-14 season.