Titans Turn 60, Search Continues for First Super Bowl Ring
by Tim Nave
The Tennessee Titans started 2020, by ending the 2019 postseason, only one win away from going to the Super Bowl for the first time in 20 years.
And the team they lost to..? Well, they went on to Miami to become Super Bowl LIV Champions of the National Football League (NFL), instead.
The football season celebrating 150 years of college football and 100 years of NFL football comes to a close with the Kansas City Chiefs getting the win in their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years (Super Bowl lV, 1970). The end of the season leaves the Titans still searching for their first Super Bowl ring.
Sixty years ago, it was Bud Adams that helped Lamar Hunt found the American Football League (AFL). Adams founded the Houston Oilers (who moved to Tennessee to become the Titans) and Lamar Hunt founded the Dallas Texans (who moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs).
In 1960, the Houston Oilers won the first AFL Championship with the last Heisman winner from LSU, Billy Canon along with University of Tennessee star and Giles County native Bobby Gordon.
The franchise would go on to win the AFL title again in 1961, and make it back in 1962, only to lose Hunt’s Texans (Chiefs). The Oilers (Titans) have not won a league championship since then.
The Titans loss to the Chiefs in this year’s AFC Championship sent the Lamar Hunt Trophy to the franchise he founded for the first time since the AFL-NFL merger became official in 1970.
Meanwhile, Bud Adams was not included in the expanded NFL100 Hall of Fame class.
This organization enters 2020 with one goal, one vision, that gold ring.
Under the leadership of controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, CEO Steve Underwood, GM Jon Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel, great strides have been made in recent years.
Speaking of great strides, Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry was named “FedEx NFL Ground Player of the Year.”
Henry led the NFL with 1,540 yards rushing in the 2019 regular season and tied for the league-lead with a career-high 16 rushing touchdowns. Henry was also the only player to average over 100 rushing yards per game (102.7) this season.
According to NFL statistics, from Weeks 10-13, Henry joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1985), Eric Dickerson (1984) and O.J. Simpson (1976), as well as Adrian Peterson (2012) as the only players to record at least 145 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in three consecutive games in NFL history.
Although Ryan Tannehill did not get to return to Miami completely triumphant, ironically enough, he did get the satisfaction of receiving the honor of “NFL Comeback Player of the Year” the night before Super Bowl LIV.
Tannehill led the NFL with a 117.5 rating during 2019. Not getting to start until week seven, he still threw for 2,742 yards with 22 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
Taking over a 2-4 team, the former Miami QB guided Tennessee to a 7-3 regular season record as starting quarterback and ended the postseason with a 9-4 overall record with wins over the Patriots and the Ravens on the way to the AFC Championship game.
Henry and Tannehill also both had the honor of being named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster along with teammates Jurrell Casey and Brett Kern.
Now the Titans have two huge decisions to make, or huge contracts to negotiate, for their two biggest offensive weapons.
With Super Bowl LIV in the books, the NFL calendar began the 2020 waiver system on Feb. 3, but with the big finish Tennessee had, they have a slim chance of picking up any bargains there.
Beginning Feb. 11, NFL teams can now sign CFL (Canadian Football League) players whose
contracts have expired. After all, this franchise’s number one NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, Warren Moon, came from the CFL. But, the big date for the Titans comes on Feb. 25, the first day to designate (tag) “Franchise” or “Transition” players.
Prior to February, many NFL analysts reasoned that Tennesse would most likely use the “Franchise” tag on Henry and the “Transition” tag on Tannehill.
However, the Titans have yet to tip their hand and continue to hold a steady poker-face in regards to their next move. Rumors and rumblings about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady possibly looking to change teams for the first time in his career saw Nashville pop up as a possible destination for the Patriot south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Another veteran NFL QB also made his move official. Athens, Ala., native Philip Rivers, has long made known his desire to move closer to home.
Rivers has already switched coasts and moved south by buying a home in Florida and leaving Los Angeles.
Also note-worthy is the NFL Scouting Combine that rounds out the February calendar Feb. 25 through March 2 in Indianapolis.
But, if Tennessee decides to play “Tag” with their top two players, they must do so by March 10, prior to 3 pm CST. It will be March 16 before they can talk to those veteran Unrestricted Free Agents.
Then, Free Agency officially begins March 18, the first day of the 2020 league year.
Then again, if they like what they see in Indianapolis, they could always try their luck at the NFL Draft, in Las Vegas, April 23-25.
But, whatever they decide, Tennessee has to have a clear vision for 2020; with the focus on that ever-elusive Super Bowl Ring next February.