A Decade in Review: Tennessee Titans

Ah, the 2010’s. What an interesting decade. A decade that included AirPods, Tide Pods, and dad bods.

It began with Ke$ha’s Tik Tok and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance ruling the air waves for months, Woody and Buzz making both you and your parents weep in public as they watched Andy leave for college, and the first iPad was introduced to the masses.

As football fans, we saw the Patriots dynasty continue, Peyton Manning go out on top, and the most egregious no-call in NFL history that robbed us of a potential Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady Super Bowl in 2019.

The RGIII era in Washington came and went like a shooting star. Adrian Peterson ran for 2,000 yards after tearing his ACL. Tom Brady deflated some balls (allegedly).

It was a crazy decade for NFL fans with countless story lines. Unfortunately for Titans’ fans, much of the decade was spent cheering for an irrelevant team. That has changed over the past few years, but much of the Mike Munchak/Ken Whisenhunt/Mike Mularkey eras were spent looking forward to the next season.

Taking the temperature of an NFL franchise over the span of a decade is pretty easy: just look at their quarterbacks. The Patriots had Brady. The Steelers had Big Ben. The Colts had Peyton and Andrew Luck.

Well, the Titans had…a lot of guys. The best quarterback season in terms of yards for the Titans came in 2011 when Matt Hasselbeck threw for 3,571 yards.We’ll look at each individual season here in a second, but I think it’s a pretty accurate depiction of the Titans’ 2010s overall that Matt Hasselbeck was the single-season yards leader for the last decade. No disrespect to Hasselbeck, of course, but the revolving door at the QB spot has been an issue for this franchise since Steve McNair left for Baltimore, and it’s why fans are so enamored with Ryan Tannehill’s consistent play this season.

But that’s looking ahead. Today we’re looking back to the last 10 years of Titans’ football and what it was like being a Titans’ fan in the 2010s.

*disclaimer: this is a comprehensive look, so if I forget your personal favorite Titans moment of the 2010s, I am sorry. Please feel free to yell at me in the comments.

2010 (6-10)

Leading Passer: Kerry Collins (1,823)

Leading Rusher: Chris Johnson (1,364)

Leading Receiver: Kenny Britt (775)

Interception Leader: Michael Griffin (4)

Sack Leader: Jason Babin (12.5)

1st-Round Draft Pick: Derrick Morgan (16th overall)

The 2010 season for the Titans began with such hope. Chris Johnson was coming off his 2,006-yard rushing season and Vince Young was going into his 5th year after winning eight of his ten starts in 2009. Through seven weeks, it looked as though the Titans were playoff bound, starting 5-2 and beating the Eagles in Week 7 behind Kenny Britt’s 225-yard performance. But as most Titans fans know, this season is most known for Young’s meltdown after their Week 11 loss to the Redskins at LP Field, in which he threw his shoulder pads into the crowd following the game. It was the official end of the Young era in Tennessee, and would eventually lead to Jeff Fisher being replaced after the season. Fisher finished with a record of 142-120 in 16 seasons as the Titans/Oilers head coach.

2011 (9-7)

Leading Passer: Matt Hasselbeck (3,571)

Leading Rusher: Chris Johnson (1,047)

Leading Receiver: Nate Washington (1,023)

Interception Leader: Jason McCourty/Michael Griffin (2)

Sack Leader: Karl Klug (7)

1st-Round Pick: Jake Locker (8th)

The 2011 season opened with many unanswered questions. What will the team look like under first-time head coach Mike Munchak? Will Jake Locker live up to his top-10 draft pedigree? When will Chris Johnson end his contract holdout?

As I mentioned above, Matt Hasselbeck delayed the Locker era in Nashville for a little bit, playing well enough to hold off the rookie from Washington and start all 16 games. It wasn’t a prolific statistical season from Hasselbeck, who finished with 3,571 yards, 18 TDs and 14 INTs, but another solid year from Johnson and a top-10 defense kept the Titans in playoff contention. That is, until a Week 15 trip to Indianapolis, where they lost to the previously winless, Dan Orlovsky-led Colts team. The loss brought them to a 7-7 record and ultimately knocked them out of the playoffs. As an 18-year-old Titans fan at the time, I can say it’s the only time I’ve thrown and broken a TV remote. Sorry Mom.

2012 (6-10)

Leading Passer: Jake Locker (2,176)

Leading Rusher: Chris Johnson (1,243)

Leading Receiver: Nate Washington (746)

Interception Leader: Jason McCourty/Michael Griffin (4)

Sack Leader: Derrick Morgan (6.5)

1st-Round Pick: Kendall Wright (20th)

The 2012 season was a pretty forgettable one for the Titans. Jake Locker’s first season as the starter was a pretty resounding dud, and his career-long struggle with injuries began in Week 4 against the Texans when he exited the game in the first quarter with shoulder injury. Hasselbeck filled in for Locker, but threw only seven touchdowns in the eight games he appeared in during the 2012 season.

One bright spot of the season was the Week 3 matchup against Detroit. It’s one of the craziest games over the last decade, and nobody remembers it because it was the Titans vs. Lions. The Titans, who scored three non-offensive touchdowns during the game, were up two touchdowns with 1:16 left in the game. The Lions were able to tie the game on a last-second hail mary to Titus Young, sending the game to overtime, where the Titans’ Rob Bironas kicked a 26-yard winning field goal. Do yourself a favor and look up the highlight. Nate Washington makes one of the best catches you’ll ever see.

2013 (7-9)

Leading Passer: Ryan Fitzpatrick (2,454)

Leading Rusher: Chris Johnson (1,077)

Leading Receiver: Kendall Wright (1,079)

Interception Leader: Alterraun Verner (5)

Sack Leader: Jurrell Casey (10.5)

1st-Round Pick: Chance Warmack (10th)

Another season, another leading passer for the Titans. This time it was Fitz-magic himself, but unfortunately the magic was in short supply in 2013. Jack Locker began the season as the Titans’ starter, but again was unable to stay healthy, appearing in only seven games.

I will say, however, that one of my most vivid memories of a Titans game came during this season: the Week 3 game against the Chargers. Remember when Justin Hunter was a thing? That was a fun time. Well, he was never more of a “thing” than this game. He finished with just one catch, but that one catch was the game-winner with 15 seconds left, sealing the Titans’ first win against the Chargers since 1993.

Although 2013 was another below average season for the Titans, they were able to sign one of the franchise’s best players over the last decade in free agency: Delanie Walker. Walker was signed from the 49ers to give Locker a safety blanket in the middle of the field, and what he turned out to be was the go-to option for this offense and leader both on and off the field. It’s been hard as a Titans fan to watch him go through the injuries he’s suffered the last two seasons, but that doesn’t diminish what he has done for the franchise since 2013.

2014 (2-14)

Leading Passer: Zach Mettenberger (1,412)

Leading Rushser: Bishop Sankey (569)

Leading Receiver: Delanie Walker (890)

Interception Leader: Jason McCourty (3)

Sack Leader: Derrick Morgan (6.5)

1st-Round Pick: Taylor Lewan (11th)

I know most Titans’ fans want to forget about the time Ken Whisenhunt spent as the head coach of their team, so I’ll try to keep this one brief.

It began with such promise. Jake Locker led the Titans to victory over the Andy Reid-led Chiefs, throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns. The defense completely shut down Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles.

And then they lost 14 of their final 15 games of the season. Locker, Charlie Whitehurst, and Zach Mettenberger all made appearances under center and the Titans ended up with the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

2015 (3-13)

Leading Passer: Marcus Mariota (2,818)

Leading Rusher: Antonio Anderews (520)

Leading Receiver: Delanie Walker (1,088)

Interception Leader: Coty Sensabaugh/Zach Brown (2)

Sack Leader: Jurrell Casey/Brian Orakpo (7)

1st-Round Pick: Marcus Mariota (2nd)

Overall, 2015 was another disappointing year for the Titans. But with a new, exciting quarterback, there was a glimmer of hope over Nissan Stadium that hadn’t been there for a while. It began in Week 1 when Mariota beat the only guy who was taken before him in the 2015 NFL Draft, Jameis Winston. Mariota threw four touchdowns and posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3. It turned out to be one of only three wins on the season, but it showed the potential Mariota had that many quarterbacks in Tennessee had never shown.

The Titans quickly moved on from Ken Whisenhunt in 2015, relieving him of his position after Week 8 and promoting Mike Mularkey to head coach. Mularkey’s first game was in the Superdome in New Orleans, and the Titans went in and shocked the Saints in overtime, winning on a 5-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano.

Again, it was a lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary season, but the Titans were pretty sure they found their quarterback of the future.

2016 (9-7)

Leading Passer: Marcus Mariota (3,426)

Leading Rusher: DeMarco Murray (1,287)

Leading Receiver: Rishard Matthews (945)

Interception Leader: Perrish Cox (3)

Sack Leader: Brian Orakpo (10.5)

1st-Round Pick: Jack Conklin (8th)

Enter Jon Robinson.

The Titans’ current GM replaced Ruston Webster and immediately went to work. Robinson signed running back DeMarco Murray to bolster the Titans’ run game, which had been pretty non-existent since Chris Johnson left.

Robinson was also busy during the 2016 Draft. Following the 3-13 year, the Titans had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 Draft. Since they’d taken Mariota the year before, Robinson saw an opportunity to trade the pick to a quarterback-needy team, which is what he did. He traded with the Rams and ended up with extra draft capital that he ultimately turned into, among a few other players, Jack Conklin and Derrick Henry in 2016 and Corey Davis in 2017.

As for the season itself, Mariota had his best season to date, throwing for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews led the pass catchers and Murray had a nice resurgence after a disappointing year in Philadelphia.

The high point of the season had to be the Week 15 game in Kansas City. The Chiefs had one of the best offenses in the league, with one of the fastest guys to ever play the game: Tyreek Hill. It didn’t look good after the first quarter, but the Titans were able to come back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and win the game on a Ryan Succop 53-yard field goal. Oh, and did I mention the temperature was around 10 degrees? It was one of the most improbable game-winning kicks I can remember and the elation after the game was well warranted.

That elation only lasted a week, however, until the Titans lost to Jacksonville to end their playoff hopes, but that win in Kansas City was one of my fondest memories over the last decade.

2017 (9-7)

Leading Passer: Marcus Mariota (3,232)

Leading Rusher: Derrick Henry (744)

Leading Receiver: Delanie Walker (807)

Interception Leader: Kevin Byard (8)

Sack Leader: Derrick Morgan (7.5)

1st-Round Pick: Corey Davis (5th)/Adoree Jackson (19th)

The year of the playoff win.

There’s not much else to say. I could talk about how the offense took a step back and the “Exotic Smashmouth” offensive mentality that the team adopted in 2016 seemed to be lacking anything exotic. But I won’t.

Because between the Week 17 win against the Jaguars and the Divisional Round playoff win against the Chiefs are some of the best Titans’ moments over the last decade. Derrick Henry’s 66-yard touchdown pass from Mariota against the Jags. Mariota’s stiff arm of Barry Church. Mariota’s touchdown pass to himself. Eric Decker’s go-ahead touchdown catch amid a swarm of Chiefs defenders.

It’s all great. Why harp on the negatives? Why start off 2020 on a bad note?

2018 (9-7)

Leading Passer: Marcus Mariota (2,528)

Leading Rusher: Derrick Henry: 1,059

Leading Receiver: Corey Davis: 891

Interception Leader: Kevin Byard (4)

Sack Leader: Jurrell Casey (7)

1st-Round Pick: Rashaan Evans (22nd)

One of the more disappointing seasons in recent memory, the 2018 Titans seemed like they were ready to make another run to the playoffs. The talent seemed to be there. The new coaching staff had guys who seemed ready to prove themselves and had contributed to other teams’ successes over the last couples season. After all, Matt LaFleur was Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator. He had to be good!

But 2018 will be remembered as the season of “what ifs?” What if the Dolphins game doesn’t get delayed twice and Mariota doesn’t get banged up? What if Delanie Walker doesn’t break his ankle in garbage time in Week 1? What if Derrick Henry hadn’t waited until the final month of the season to get going? What if Mariota plays in Week 17 against the Colts?

That’s not to say there weren’t any memorable games in 2018. There were many, in fact. The overtime win against the Eagles. The Titans’ first London game that was a 2-point conversion away from being a win for the Titans. The dismantling of the Patriots. And you can’t forget about Derrick Henry’s 99-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars. I get chills now just thinking about it.

It was a season full of fun moments, but if just a few things bounce the other way, it could have been a fun season that ended in the playoffs.

2019 ()

Leading Passer: Ryan Tannehill (2,544)

Leading Rusher: Derrick Henry (1,540)

Leading Receiver: AJ Brown

Interception Leader: Kevin Byard/Logan Ryan

Sacks Leader: Harold Landry

1st-Round Pick: Jeffery Simmons (19th)

All of us knew that going into this season, Ryan Tannehill would become one of the most efficient passers in the NFL, right? I mean it was a pretty easy prediction to make. Right up there with Vader being Luke’s father and Bruce Willis being dead the whole time (spoiler alert for Star Wars and The Sixth Sense).

It’s been incredible to watch this offense become one of the best in the NFL behind Tannehill and Henry taking their games to another level. Henry was expected. Tannehill was not. If you told me after the game in Denver that this team would have one of the hottest offenses heading into the playoffs, I would have accused you of smoking something that’s legal in the Mile High City. Who knows if this version of the offense will continue to succeed going forward? The young nucleus of playmakers and a resurgent Ryan Tannehill makes me think anything is possible for this team in 2020. But why think about that now? All I know is that Mike Vrabel is going up to Foxborough to face his former coach and mentor, and I cannot wait.

By Matt Gray 104-5 The Zone

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