Some people are fans of the Tennessee Titans. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Tennessee Titans. This 2020 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Tennessee Titans.
Your 2019 record: 9-7. Even though they benched Marcus Mariota early, the Titans’ entire regular season had a real Mariota sheen to it. Going 9-7. Snagging a wild card slot essentially by default in a rotten conference. We’re talking about four months of unimposing competence. Primo AFC South shit.
But then, Derrick Henry leapt out of the Ark of the Covenant and beat the ever-loving shit out of the Patriots in their house. This team, of all teams, was the one that ended the Brady-Belichick dynasty. Like the rest of 2020, it’ll take me decades to process that. Then the Titans went to Baltimore and savaged the 14-2 Ravens! Everyone was like HOLY SHIT IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?, and then grew suicidal at the prospect of Lamar Jackson being out of the playoffs. Then the Titans went to Arrowhead and hung a 17-7 lead on the Chiefs. COULD IT REALLY BE?
It could not. That 17-7 lead lasted roughly six minutes.
Look at DaQuan Jones sagging on that play. Waits for Patrick Mahomes to get into the end zone and then lays on him like he’s settling into a beanbag chair. It’s like Albert Haynesworth never left this dump. No one was astounded that KC came back against the Titans because no one truly believed that the Titans would hold onto that lead to begin with. Them choking was so preordained as to be dull. And this was the Chiefs, mind you. Until last season, every playoff lead was safe when you were playing the Chiefs. But then the Titans called a screen on 3rd and 9 and the universe got tied into a fucking knot. When you’re the Titans, you will always end up being the Titans when it matters. I can’t believe the Jags made the AFC title game three years ago. Three years from now, I’ll be saying the exact same thing about this team.
Your coach: Mike Vrabel, whose head is no longer on a swivel.
GOTTA PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.
Your quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, who threw for a combined 369 yards in those three playoff games. For all of that incredible toil, the Titans gifted Tannehill a contract extension with $91 million in guaranteed money. $91 million. For a dude who got shut out by Denver a year ago. This is your future now, Tennessee. You guys stumbled into the AFC title game by sheer happenstance and now you’re locked into this extravagantly mediocre core of players FOREVER. Ah, but I have even better news for you…
What’s new that sucks: YOU’RE FUCKING WORSE! It’s true! After showering both Tannehill and Henry in gold kruggerands, the Titans had to stand idly by as Jack Conklin left. And Jurrell Casey. And Delanie Walker. And Logan Ryan, who sealed that victory against the Patriots. Mariota is also gone, but who needs him when Tannehill is here to throw five-yard out routes into infinity? Tannehill’s new starting tight end is Jonnu Smith, whose name makes him sound like a right wing for the Winnipeg Jets. The offensive game plan will be just like last season’s, only somehow less surprising. Henry will get 400 carries and 12 different knee injuries. Tannehill will chuck it downfield to A.J. Brown (now injured!) because no one else is open. Many sacks will ensue. New first rounder Isaiah Wilson isn’t gonna stop that from happening. He’s too busy being shitfaced behind the wheel.
On defense, the Titans won the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes just in time to pay $15 million to guy who probably doesn’t give a shit anymore. They also acquired Vic Beasley and Johnathan Joseph, both of whom have already faded away into being Guys. Joseph is a backup. Beasley is a mystery box of injuries. You’re not going to the AFC title game again. The Clowney signing will ultimately make no difference at all, because this team is still so obscenely shallow they should be fined for it. It’s like they lost half the roster to the rona already. Behind the key starters, there is NOTHING.
Stephen Gostkowski just proved that, as always, you should never import anything from New England.
What has always sucked:
I can’t say I expected Nashville to be ground zero for pandemic denialism, but in retrospect it was inevitable. Not unlike blowing a 10-point lead at Arrowhead. Nashville is now home to both Clay Travis AND Jason Whitlock AND Ben Shapiro, which makes it a top-five worst American city despite appallingly stiff competition. Nashville is the version of New Orleans you’d find in a mall. It’s the Rainforest Cafe of party cities. Think of everything Nashville offers as presently constituted:
- Miranda Lambert cosplayers
- Vanderbilt kids hoping to grow up one day to defend government officials accused of statutory rape
- Corporate-mandated honky tonks where aspiring fascists sing boilerplate country songs about tequila
- Bachelor/ette parties for people too unimaginative to buy a plane ticket to New Orleans
- Televangelists who think rocking a bit of stubble will throw everyone off the scent
- A gentrified food scene that consists of white people stealing recipes from black people who live 10 blocks away
- 782 highway overpasses
- Four-story hat shops
- The only L.A. Chargers fans in this hemisphere
Are you someone who, for reasons unknown to our Lord, would like to pretend you’re a Southern dandy even though you hail from, like, Fresno? KID HAVE I GOT THE SHITHOLE FOR YOU. I’ve been to Nashville and the poser ratio in Nashville blows West Hollywood out into the fucking ocean. Everybody in this city has dyed all the hair on SOME part of their body. And the posers are somehow a relief from the dozen legit Tennessee natives here. East Tennessee features the kind of potato salad–brained Americans whose tenacious idiocy manages to inflict lasting harm on the rest of us. I didn’t ask for these people to be my countrymen. I don’t WANT these people to be my countrymen. I don’t care if they fucking DIE. If East Tennessee seceded and rebranded itself The Sovereign Nation Of Geniustan, I’d fire a six-shooter into the clouds. I wanna be free of these motherfuckers. Let them rot on their own. The rest of America deserves to be shielded from them.
And fuck Amy Strunk.
What might not suck: You killed Tom Brady. How mad can I really be at you?
Ratto says: “Derrick Henry made Ryan Tannehill about a hundred million scoots last year and made less than half that himself as a response. If you wonder why nobody tells their kids ‘I work as a capologist, it’s because the corresponding question is, ‘So just how evil are you then?’ They did manage to have an orderly ownership transition after founder Bud Adams joined the feathered choir, so they have at least gone into the next decade with a relative level of management dignity, and they are proud members of the one division in football that requires that you know all the tiebreaking procedures because every team is essentially the same. Plus, Jeff Fisher did his best 8-8 work here and his legacy lives on, so you know what you’re getting: either an annual battle for the second wild card, or a draft pick between 15 and 22.”
HEAR IT FROM TITANS FANS!
When the team was preparing to move to Tennessee from Houston, one of the suggestions for renaming the team was Tennessee Copperheads (a common snake here). They had a black and gold color scheme. It was awesome. Instead, they chose “off brand athlete’s foot spray” as the aesthetic for this team.
The Memphis Tigers are STILL the best football team in the state.
Their god-awful uniforms looks like the Fox Robot got a skin infection.
If fans are allowed into Nissan Stadium good luck navigating your way to the stadium through the maskless MAGA idiots on Broadway day drinking to own the libs.
Even though they ended Brady’s career in New England and knocked off the Ravens in 2019, that was after they barely snuck into the Playoffs (the only way they ever do) by finishing the regular season with their standard 9-7 record. Only the Titans could have so much success but still be so quickly forgettable as a franchise.
It’s absolutely bonkers that the same team that knocked out the Patriots and the Lamar Jackson Ravens in the playoffs also lost 14-7 to the Bills on four missed field goals. The most exciting season since the Super Bowl appearance still required the blood sacrifice of Marcus Mariota just to finish 9-7.
The Titans surprised the fanbase by becoming not just watchable for the first time since Staind was on tour, but downright explosive at times. They ended the most insufferable dynasty in sports in the most satisfying way possible: a Brady pick six to a former teammate. And yet, all that anyone will ever remember about their season is the time a Bills fan faceplanted right outside the stadium.
Downtown Nashville has become a hellscape of shit-hammered Covidiots from out-of-town — enabled by our city’s longstanding policy of screwing the residents by grubbing for tourist dollars under any and all circumstances. (See: the time in 2019 the city dug up a bunch of cherry trees so Roger Goodell could have a draft stage that was 10-feet wider). Things got so out of hand with the worst honky tonks (allowed to stay open as “restaurants”) and open-air party vehicles full of bachelorettes (woooooo!) that TMZ called us out. When TMZ calls your town trashy and holds the moral high ground, it’s time to raze the city and start anew.
Rusty Smith started two games for this franchise.
Something finally seemed to click for this team around halfway through last season, and for the first time in a long time, I actually feel like the Titans are trending in the right direction. There’s a lot to be excited about—they finally figured out how to properly utilize Derrick Henry and build an offense around him, it looks like we finally have a true #1 receiver in A.J. Brown, and it turns out that Ryan Tannehill is Good Actually? Even losing in the AFC Championship was still a way better outcome than we could have possibly hoped for at the start of last season. I finally feel like the pieces are there for us to rise above the constant 7-9 or 8-8 finishes and start contending.
So, I give it until about Week 6 for something to happen to completely and utterly destroy that optimism. It has now been 20 years since that devastating Super Bowl loss, and that was this team’s peak.
9-7, 9-7, 9-7. Three years into the Mike Vrabel era and he’s beginning to look like a slightly better version of Jeff Fisher. Oh boy, it only took 15 years for that slight modicum of improvement! After the Pats and Ravens fucked around and let them sneak into the AFC Championship game, everyone in Nashville thinks the Titans are worldbeaters who are destined to be contending for a Super Bowl every year. ” If a member of the national media misstates the slightest thing about the Titans, this fucking fanbase will get more pissy about it than a Trump supporter being told to wear a mask.
Our owner, who inherited BILLIONS when ol’ Bud “Two Fingers” Adams passed away, made a show of donating $1 million to relief efforts when the tornados hit Nashville in February. This is the equivalent of somebody who makes $60,000 a year donating $60 (except that the hypothetical second person actually earned their money by working.) Thanks for your table scraps, lady who lives in another state! #NashvilleStrong
Vic Beasley, our marquee offseason signing before Clowney, showed up to camp 10 days late and then failed his physical. I have nothing pithy to say about this, it’s just a statement of fact.
But if you really want to get to the douche-y core of this thoroughly mediocre football team, look no further than the Titans franchise left tackle. Taylor Lewan entered the league as a hipster asshole with a mustache tattoo on his finger. Now he’s a fucking Barstool Sports personality who refers to himself as “Dad” (and somewhow grown ass men in the Titans fanbase are fine going along with it.) When he’s not busy getting busted with PEDs in his system, Taylor can be found doing cornyass shit like getting married on a date that matches his uniform number, flirting with free agents who couldn’t give a fuck about the Titans, and dressing as Boss Hog. I’m amazed there aren’t any videos of him saying the n-word floating around the internet yet. You know it’s only a matter of time.
I thought about coming up with some clever way to end this email. Instead, like most Titans’ seasons, I’m gonna let it just fizzle into nothing… (We can’t all be Sahel Kazemi and go out with a bang)
I can’t shake the feeling that last year was all of the stars aligning, and that was the best possible result for the Titans. And it still wasn’t good enough. I mean, you’re gonna try to convince me that the Titans are going to make it through the Ravens another time and somehow beat the Chiefs? Of course not, because that would be delusional.
Ryan Tannehill will at best be about 80% as good as he was last year, which will be perfectly serviceable. But I don’t believe the Titans will get over the hump with him, so we’re destined to a few years of being pretty good but not good enough. That will be a new turn from the usual mediocre, so I guess I’m excited for this new level of heartbreak every year.
The Titans cycle like cicadas. Every 10 years they’re relevant for a season and then vanish in a cloud of failure. Warren Moon and the Oilers got curb stomped by the Bills in the worst playoff loss this side of Atlanta. Steve McNair and the Titans got wrecked in consecutive years by Jesus-humpers Kurt Warner and Ray Lewis. Vince Young was going to save the franchise until he lost his goddamn mind and whatever middling ability to throw a football he once possessed.
They went back to back on PAC-12 failures Jake Locker and Marcus Mariota and sandwiched them around Ryan Fitzgerald’s ridiculous beard and failure disguised as mediocrity. Our current hope for the season is Tannehill and a 1986 style running game that doesn’t start working until eight games into the season.
Nashville is the Chicago of the south, sporting an inferiority complex about Atlanta that beggars the imagination. It’s got all the down home charm and casual racism you’d expect out of Tennessee and manages to combine it with being the home to the worst version of country music ever made.
Ownership is a shitty episode of Succession. The head coach is another poisoned fruit from the Belichick tree. The saving grace is that much like cicadas, after a year of relevance, they’ll bury themselves for 10 years before making me hate football all over again.
Fuck Bud Adams with an oil derrick.
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