In the timeless words of Swiss Tony, being a Titans fan is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman. You spend months thinking about how fantastic this is going to be, before realizing very quickly that your mother was right; you will always be a disappointment.
I could end the season preview there, but the powers that be want a full dissection of how it feels following each team in the league, and I am sure Patriots fans struggle to sleep at night without hearing how much it sucks to support any other team in the league. So, here goes nothing…
Our season last year was very mixed. We went 1-5 in the division with two losses to the Jaguars and Colts. Yet, somehow, we outscored the Packers and out-defended the Broncos in what is commonly called the “false hope” stage of the season. Then came the draft and we did some interesting but strange things.
The draft is simultaneously the most and least fair concept in all of sport. At base level, the worst team in the league (Browns) get to pick the best player available. This can work in a bad teams favour if they pick well (see Mariota, M.), but it can also completely destroy the team if they pick badly (see Young, V., Wright, K., Locker, Useless). At the number 5 position, with two first round picks (thank you L.A.), we were in prime position to either pick the best available pass rusher to help our nascent defence, or trade away the 5 pick to some quarterback hungry team desperate to move up. Then came the Bears to ruin our plans and we picked Corey Davis.
Now, Corey Davis looks like a good player. Even after being injured all preseason, he played very well against the Raiders. Also, Mariota does need people to throw the ball to – so a receiver at 5 made sense. However, first round wide receivers tend not to win Super Bowls no matter how good they are.
A quick list of recent star first round receivers shows this point:
• Calvin Johnson – 0 Super Bowls
• Julio Jones – 0 Super Bowls
• A. J. Green – 0 Super Bowls
• DeAndre Hopkins – 0 Super Bowls
• Dez Bryant – 0 Super Bowls
In addition, the Titans do not have a good track record of drafting wide receivers. Look at recent years:
• 2016 – Tajae Sharpe
• 2015 – Dorial Green-Beckham
• 2013 – Justin Hunter
• 2012 – Kendall Wright
• 2009 – Kenny Britt
Ouch. Fun fact, Justin Hunter used to train in a jersey that said JAG (Just Another Guy) on the back. This was cute, but one letter out. I propose that all Titans wide receivers henceforth train with JAF (Just Another Failure) on their backs to save us fans $100 in new jersey costs each season. Don’t get me wrong, I want Corey Davis to do well. We need Corey Davis to do well. But ultimately, as cliché as it sounds, defence wins championships. This has been true for years and will continue to be true for years to come (unless you have Tom Brady on your team in which case the basic laws of physics and fairness do not apply). The Titans hit on this front by picking cornerback Adoree Jackson in the first round as well.
Now, full disclosure, I do not follow college football. I do not know all of Jackson’s stats from college and do not particularly care how good a player is at college (RG3 – how does that Heisman trophy look next to all of your NFL accomplishments?) But, I can safely say from watching the draft that if any 200+ lb mass of human engineering ever deserved to be called Adoree, then it was Mr. Jackson. The guy looks like a cherub that can kill without breaking a sweat. Against the Raiders he hurdled another grown man on a kick-off return in a way us mere mortals cannot comprehend. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether he becomes the next lock down corner in the NFL, given our track record with cornerbacks he will leave sooner rather than later. Just keep smiling and defying the laws of gravity. That is all I ever ask.
In free agency, we decided to sign Eric Decker as a new red zone target for Mariota. There are two problems with this. Firstly, red zone quarterbacking has never been a weak point in Mariota’s game. He is fantastic in the red zone. Our issue is getting to the damn red zone. This played out against the Raiders in week 1. Too many times, the Titans get to the opponents 40 yard line, get dizzy, have a nose bleed and decide they need to sit down for a while. Decker cannot and did not help solve this problem in week 1, and I don’t hold out much hope that things will change soon. Secondly, we signed him from the Jets. The freeking Jets. The 2017 Jets are proof that no matter how much your life sucks, things could always be worse. At this point no-one would be surprised to find out that their quarterback was the illegitimate love child of Tim Tebow and Private Pile from Full Metal Jacket. If the Jets cut a player, it is a good sign that this player is not worth your time. Whoops.
Our schedule this year is favourable. Playing the NFC West is always a challenge, but the Seahawks have no offensive line, the Cardinals have no composure and the 49ers and Rams are in transition. The AFC North will give interesting challenges. Watching our secondary try to stop Air Roethlisberger during prime time will be a long night with a lot of liquid assistance needed. But otherwise, the schedule seems favourable for a winning record.
So, what are the Titans prospects this season?
That was the simple question I was supposed to answer 1000 words ago, but I am not sure there is an answer. I have supported the Titans since 2003 and I think I have reached the stage of fandom where I do not know whether I prefer supporting a bad team or want the sweet taste of success. Even if we win our division this year, what could happen in the playoffs? Do we have the defence to shut down the Patriots, or Steelers or even the Chiefs? Do we have an offense good enough to get into a firefight with the Falcons?
In some ways, the best part of being a Titans fan is the chase. Our shining historical moments are defeats. We hold the record for fastest score conceded in the NFL (safety off of opening kick-off of the season). Titans fans are not Titans fans because we love success. We would not even know how to celebrate winning a Super Bowl. So I think this season, I just want to have another “false hope” season somewhere around weeks 10–14. Make me believe in magic again, just before I realize that ultimately I am getting older, uglier and wasting my life supporting rich men who cannot tackle. But we muddle on, hoping our mothers were wrong after all and we can end the year with some dignity still in tack. Either that or pray that the bar stays open late when we are on TV.
Prediction – 9–7, 2nd in division (behind Jacksonville).
But this is the year we beat the Colts!