VOL. 130 | NO. 1 | Thursday, January 1, 2015
20 Years Later, Titans Again at Rock Bottom
TERRY McCORMICK | Special to The Daily News
The lockers have been cleaned out, the shoulder pads and helmets taken up to be cleaned and stored.
But the stench of the worst season for the Tennessee Titans franchise since 1994 still remained after the season wrapped up with a 2-14 mark.
The last time the franchise was in this predicament was 1994, when it was still known as the Houston Oilers and a young interim coach named Jeff Fisher was trying to impress new general manager Floyd Reese enough to show that he deserved the job on a permanent basis.
For what it’s worth, that decision worked out pretty well for a while as the Fisher/Reese combination brought the organization not only through a move from Houston to Nashville but to some of the most productive years this franchise has ever known – highlighted by its only Super Bowl appearance in 1999.
Those days seem oh so far away now for Titans fans who have endured such a bad first season – empty seats and empty hope – under Ken Whisenhunt. They might even long for the mediocrity and occasional competitiveness of the past few years.
Truth is, bottoming out might not be the worst thing for this franchise. The “reward” for such awfulness will be the second overall pick in the 2015 draft and the first pick in the subsequent even-numbered rounds.
Tackle Michael Roos, who is at the end of his contract and contemplating retirement rather than return with a balky knee, perhaps said it best, acknowledging the Titans are further away right now from success than at any point in his 10 years.
“Definitely. The record obviously shows it, and just the way everything unfolded during the year,” he says. “... then we’d get close and lose, again it was the snowball effect.
“You tried and you just can’t get over the hump. It just keeps making it worse.”
Following the 2-14 season, Reese and Fisher dug in together, drafted wisely, grabbing an untested quarterback named Steve McNair to lead the team out of the wilderness.
It took awhile, but that worked out pretty well.
Now, two decades later, it’s up to Whisenhunt and GM Ruston Webster to continue the rebuilding process.
Clearly, there are many questions to be answered – from whether Zach Mettenberger is the answer at quarterback to whether Whisenhunt’s formula can produce the desired results in Tennessee.
“Whenever you have a season like this, there’s gonna be changes,” Whisenhunt promised on Dec. 29, the day after the season ended. “We’re gonna get better and we’ve got work to do. We understand that.
“I’ve been in this thing long enough to know that you’re always going to have some potential changes. That’s just the way it works.”
Beyond that, Whisenhunt didn’t offer many answers for what went wrong in 2014.
My short list of culprits ranges from injuries to coaching inflexibility and inability to adjust to issues with the roster and personnel.
Whisenhunt on Monday offered few if any of those reasons why – just a promise to fix it.
But Whisenhunt was right on one front, even if he was half-joking when he said it.
“In my time in the NFL, it had better get better than this, or you’ll be talking to somebody else next year.”
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for 247 Sports NFL Insider.