NFL: Week Twelve, 2008

Will We Remember the Titans?

by Rick Rockwell

Is this really the Year of the Titans?

Already, there’s a new man headed to the White House who swept to victory on the strains of the song “Titans Spirit,” a song from the film Remember the Titans. (A film about integration and football, something that wasn’t lost on either Barack Obama or his campaign team.) So the name Titans, as it is associated with a winning political team, is already part of the subtext of this very political year.

But who would have predicted last year that the Tennessee Titans would be the team competing for the mantle of regular season perfection, left behind by the New England Patriots of 2007?

Last week, this column weighed in on how Kerry Collins has rehabilitated his career as a top-flight quarterback at the helm of the Titans. But the team is more than just Collins and his arm (although the Chicago Bears found out a few weeks back that Collins and the Titans’ receivers are indeed enough to produce a win).

First, the Titans’ success begins with Coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher is not among those the sports pundits call a genius. But he’s a survivor. He’s on at least his third generation of players with this team and he began his tenure when the team was still the Houston Oilers in 1994. (Currently, Fisher is the longest tenured coach in the National Football League.) Not only did he survive the long move to Nashville (which stretched over several seasons) but also a Super Bowl loss and the eventual rebuilding. Before this season, few football pundits saw Fisher leading a team back to the Super Bowl without personnel that matched the quality of the stars of the past, running back Eddie George and quarterback Steve McNair (both now retired). And few saw the Titans succeeding without young quarterback Vince Young, the superstar who led the University of Texas to a national championship, as the starter.

But Young’s early season injury and subsequent emotional meltdown (after getting booed) opened the door for Fisher to install Collins as the starter. Fisher built his offense around the veteran quarterback who is not prone to the freelancing that makes Young so fun to watch, but not yet the steady leader needed in a pro football huddle. Fisher’s early vote of confidence in Collins also created the necessary stability and consistency for the Titans.

Fisher has followed the usual template he uses – a template that is modeled on the classic championship teams of the league’s past – to construct the latest version of the Titans. The team usually depends upon a steady ground attack and a staunch defense. This team is less about flashy comeback wins (something that Young could produce) and more about grind it out close contests often decided by the defense. The Titans may not win pretty, but they win. That’s typical of teams coached by Fisher.

The defense, as called for by such templates, starts with a solid front. Jevon “The Freak” Kearse is back from a stint in Philadelphia for his second go-round with the Titans to anchor one end of the defensive line. But Kearse is no longer the key to the Titans’ defense as he was in their Super Bowl year. Instead, that falls to both defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (who has been injured the past few weeks) and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who jams the middle and can be a terror on opposing quarterbacks. The level of play on the defensive front makes the linebackers and secondary better. The Titans have 15 interceptions this season as a result: not league leaders, but a high enough number to make opposing quarterbacks think twice, at times.

Will the Titans go undefeated this year, making fans of the Patriots and the 1972 Miami Dolphins frown (the other teams with perfect regular season records)? Well, not likely. But you can just about guarantee the Titans are playoff bound and perhaps good enough this year (unlike last year) to win in January.

Week 12 Office Pool Predictions

Game of the Week: Giants at Cardinals (Cardinals)
Upset Special:
Packers at Saints (Packers)

Vikings at Jaguars (Jaguars)
Raiders at Broncos (Broncos)
Patriots at Dolphins (Dolphins)
Texans at Browns (Browns)
Bills at Chiefs (Bills)
Washington at Seahawks (Seahawks)
Eagles at Ravens (Ravens)
Colts at Chargers (Colts)
Bengals at Steelers (Steelers)
Bears at Rams (Bears)
Buccaneers at Lions (Buccaneers)
Jets at Titans (Titans)
Panthers at Falcons (Panthers)
49ers at Cowboys (Cowboys)

Last Week: .533
2008 Season: .660

For other blogs calling NFL games, please see:

  • The D.C. Universe,
  • Gun Toting Liberal, and
  • The Liberal Journal.

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