Sei sulla pagina 1di 64

1

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

1 Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans 2007 Tennessee Titans by Will León Cover photo by Ray

2007 Tennessee Titans

by Will León

Copyright © 2008 by Will León. All Rights Reserved

2

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Preface

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans is a relatively unvarnished compilation of articles I posted on my blog, TitansTracker.com, from August 2007 to February 2008. This ebook is a free gift to fans of the Titans and the NFL. Feel free to share it with others. I hope you find it worthwhile.

TitansTracker.com allows me to combine two of my favorite things: writing and NFL football. The blog is a labor of love. I wish I had started blogging about the Titans sooner.

Anyone who regularly writes in a public forum is fairly certain of his opinions, but I've learned a lot about football, the Titans, and myself over the past year.

My belief that the National Football League is the greatest professional sports league promoting the greatest game remains unchanged.

The Titans, under owner Bud Adams and Head Coach Jeff Fisher, is a model of stability and exemplifies the team-first approach in a "me-first" sports world.

And, after years of showing half-hearted interest in the franchise that left Houston behind, and a brief flirtation with the Houston Texans that ended in 2006, I am firmly committed to supporting the team that makes its home in Nashville.

While compiling this ebook, I realized I spent an awful lot of time defending fellow Longhorn alum Vince Young. For some reason, I felt obligated to defend him against what I thought was a great deal of unfair criticism.

If you read what I wrote about his professional and emotional struggles in 2007, his "incident" in September 2008 was not a surprise. His professional future is uncertain, but he's in good hands with the Titans organization. I'll continue to watch, cheer and write as the future unfolds.

TitansTracker.com has been the one positive constant in my life in a year in which I've faced unprecedented personal and professional challenges. I thank God for TitansTracker.com, and I do not use these words lightly.

Happy Holidays, and Go Titans!

Will León December 23, 2008

3

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

August 11, 2007

Welcome to TitansTracker.com.

I have been a fan of the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers since January 10, 1982, when,

after the San Francisco 49ers’ Dwight Clark made “The Catch,” I switched allegiances

from the Dallas Cowboys to the Houston Oilers.

I watched Houston during the lean years of the mid-80s and was elated during the “House of Pain” years which soon followed. I was disappointed when the Oilers left for Tennessee but an appearance in Super Bowl 34 helped me get over it.

Now I watch with excitement as fellow Longhorn Vince Young leads my favorite team. Here’s to another Super Bowl appearance. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

August 19, 2007

The Titans won its preseason game against the New England Patriots. The Titans defense looked good, particularly cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and rookie Michael Griffin.

The Titans offense, especially Vince Young, still needs work.

Nevertheless, it is not time to panic, despite Young’s 5-for-17 performance. He showed his trademark competitiveness in an unsuccessful dive toward the end zone. Most importantly, he walked off the field without injury.

Yes, statistics are important to a degree. But here’s a little perspective.

John Elway, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) quarterbacks ever, completed 47.5 percent of his passes during his rookie year, along with 7 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

4

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Number of Super Bowl championships? Two.

Dan Marino is the current all-time leader in passing yards attempts and touchdown passes. He completed 58.4 percent of his passes in his rookie season and had an out-of- this-world second year, throwing for 5084 yards and 48 TD passes.

Number of Super Bowl Championships? Zero.

There’s no need to panic over Vince Young’s preseason performances.

Vince Young is a big game player. This was not a big game.

The New England Patriots, however, played defense as if it were in a Super Bowl. The team was true to character Friday night. They were ruthless.

Any franchise that would put Vinny Testaverde, an over-the-hill backup quarterback, into a game simply to extend an NFL record, has to be ruthless.

From reports, the Patriots defense attacked Vince Young and the Titans offense with the same intensity as it would during a playoff game. Young took a vicious hit from safety Rodney Harrison, a player not known for his sportsmanlike conduct.

Here is a highlight video from the Titans-Patriots game.

August 25, 2007

Titans fans are undoubtedly relieved that Vince Young played well in last night’s preseason victory over the Buffalo Bills. Young went 13-for-19 and passed for a touchdown during the first half. He also ran for a touchdown.

Watch highlights of his game and note Young’s incredible footwork as he ran out of the shotgun and dived into the end zone.

5

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Rookie Michael Griffin was burned by Bills receiver Lee Evans. Here’s the deal with Evans:

Memo

To: NFL Players and Fans From: Will Subject: Lee Evans Date: August 25, 2007

Lee Evans is fast. Really, really fast

Look at what he did to the Houston Texans last season. I watched him run past Texans cornerbacks for two 83-yard touchdown passes on his way to a 265-yard receiving day. You’ve got to do what you can to keep Evans in front of you.

Next for the Titans: a home game on August 30 against the Green Bay Packers. Typically, starters play very little in the final preseason game, but you wonder if Young might get a little extra work on Thursday.

August 28, 2007

Continuing a trend of former Indianapolis Colts signing with the Titans, Corey Simon inked a deal with Tennessee today. Simon joins fellow ex-Indianapolis Colts Nick Harper and David Thornton on the Titans roster.

Simon was released by the Colts in 2006 after signing a mammoth contract in 2005. Why didn’t Simon play last year?

The “undisclosed illness” Simon had in 2006 was polyarthritis.

If it sounds serious, it is.

6

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Polyarthritis is arthritic inflammation in multiple joints and has many possible causes, such as an autoimmune disorder or an infection.

After terminating Simon’s contract earlier this month, Colts owner Robert Irsay called the team’s relationship with Simon “a bad mistake.” If the Colts were not willing to commit to Simon after signing him to a five-year, $30 million contract and a $14 million signing bonus, why are the Titans taking a chance on him?

Besides the enigmatic Alfred Haynesworth, the Titans must not have much confidence in the prospects of the defensive tackles currently on its roster.

Perhaps the Titans should have kept talented defensive lineman Robaire Smith, who from all accounts is having a very productive preseason with the Cleveland Browns.

However, as former Titans GM Floyd Reese said in this article about Kyle Vanden Bosch:

Just like every team in the NFL, you spend countless hours during each off-season evaluating your roster and ultimately making choices you hope will pan out in the long run. Some are slam dunks, some are risky and some simply take time to find out.

Let’s hope this risk pays off for the Titans … and for Simon.

August 29, 2007

Note: One reason I chose the tagline “all Tennessee Titans and Houston Oilers all the time” is because, in addition to writing about current Titans news, I intend to write about the Houston Oilers and the current activities of former Oilers and Titans players. Here is the first post on TitansTracker.com about the greatest Houston Oiler, Earl Campbell.

7

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Earl Campbell has become the poster child for what can happen to a football player, particularly a running back, who carries too great a burden for his team. Larry Johnson had this to say after recently signing a contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs:

“I never know what shape my body is going to be in six years from now. Will I be like Earl Campbell or will I be able to walk like Lenny Moore? You can never gauge that.”

Yet, despite the toll the game of football has taken on the Oilers legend, Earl Campbell is very active in the business world.

Some of you may know that Campbell is part of a number of successful joint ventures. He is president of Earl Campbell Meat Products, Inc. The company’s signature product is its spicy sausage, which now will be served in the new Earl Campbell’s Sports Bar located in the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The sports bar opens August 30.

Also, the “Tyler Rose” has partnered with Triton to open a chain of sports-themed auto dealerships named “Earl Campbell’s Pro Player Auto.” The first dealership opens in Texas City, Texas on September 8. And, of course, Campbell’s barbeque will be a featured item at the grand opening.

I do not know whether Campbell’s soup will be served at either the new sports bar or the auto dealership barbeque.

August 30, 2007

Based on LenDale White’s preseason performance, along with his status as a 2nd round draft pick in 2006, TitansTracker.com projects that White will start at running back for the Tennessee Titans in 2007. Tonight, White had 15 carries for 58 yards against the Green Bay Packers in the Titans’ 30-14 victory in Nashville.

8

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

White’s performance is also important for fantasy football managers, as he joins Vince Young as a legitimate Titans fantasy prospect.

As I suspected, Vince Young got extra playing time tonight after being benched for the first preseason game. He completed 11-of-16 passes for 96 yards and had two touchdowns: one in the air and another on the ground.

The biggest mystery for the Titans before the start of the regular season is which receivers will remain on the roster. I’m pulling for underdog Biren Ealy. Unfortunately, Ealy didn’t help his chances much in tonight’s game. He had no catches.

September 1, 2007

I was happy to read that ESPN’s John Clayton picked the Tennessee Titans as one of his five sleeper teams in 2007.

Veteran center Kevin Mawae says there is togetherness on this team that defies statistics. Maybe he’s right. Maybe this is a team that shouldn’t be judged on paper.

If there was ever a player who should not be judged on paper, it is Vince Young. How much more does this young man have to do to silence his critics?

He completed 65.2 percent of his passes during his final collegiate year. He led the Texas Longhorns to a national championship over the favored USC Trojans in the greatest performance ever by a quarterback in a college football game.

Let me repeat that. Vince Young had the greatest performance ever by a quarterback in a college football game.

To say the Houston Texans made a mistake by not taking Vince Young first in the 2006 draft is a gross understatement. Luckily, my favorite team, the Titans, had the common sense to pick him.

9

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Before the regular season starts, Vince had to deal with rumors of a poor score on the Wonderlic test and criticism from the likes of Merril Hoge.

After starting the 2006 season 0-3, Young had a tough debut as a starter against the Dallas Cowboys and played well in a close loss to the Colts in Indianapolis. Then, the wins started coming. The Titans finished 8-8 and would have made the playoffs if they had won the last game of the regular season against the New England Patriots.

At the end of the season, Young was recognized for his performance and leadership and won the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. And, as a bonus, he was selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

After all this, Vince still has his doubters, but granted, they are fewer in number than before the start of the 2006 regular season. However, I suspect Merril Hoge is still among them.

But I ask you, sports fans: after what Vince Young has accomplished as a Longhorn and as a Titan, do you really doubt that he will one day lead the Titans to a Super Bowl

victory?

I do not doubt it, and I look forward to celebrating the victory when it happens.

September 2, 2007

I was reading an AFC scouting report on the New York Times website and this sentence caught my eye:

Coach Jeff Fisher’s job could be on the line, and the schedule does the Titans no favors.

My first thought was “The New York Times is supposed to be ‘the paper of record.’ How is Jeff Fisher’s job on the line? The Titans signed him to a new contract. Didn’t they?”

10

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Jeff Fisher is a likeable young coach who would be hired in a heartbeat if the Titans let him go. I assumed he had been given a new deal during the offseason and I’d simply forgotten about it. “The Paper of Record” receives a lot of criticism and they were certainly going to hear from me about this.

Well. Jeff Fisher’s job may or may not be on the line. However, he has not been signed to a new deal.

No coach is perfect, but the Titans currently have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. Is he responsible for the salary cap dilemma and subsequent drop in quality veteran talent the team has dealt with over the past few years?

It can be argued that Vince Young had more to do with the Titans success last year than Jeff Fisher. Nevertheless, stability in sports is usually a good thing. The best thing for Titans owner Bud Adams to do is to maintain stability on this club. You have a franchise quarterback, a great offensive line and emerging young talent at all positions.

Don’t allow Jeff Fisher to get a new high-profile job in the NFL or NCAA. Keep him with the Titans. Give Jeff Fisher a new deal now.

September 5, 2007

Titans fans have seen the projections. We’ve read the NFL magazines and the special sports sections with reviews of the 2007 NFL season. We know most of the prognosticators share these two opinions:

1. The Titans will not improve on last year’s 8-8 record and will finish last in the AFC

South.

2. Vince Young will take two steps back in his progress as a quarterback this season.

What if the experts are right? Should we resign ourselves to a losing season and look forward to 2008?

11

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Not so fast. Here are some things you might not have predicted last season:

The New York Jets did surprisingly well under first-year coach Eric Mangini:

10-6

Super Bowl contender Miami Dolphins and Daunte Culpepper were a huge disappointment: 6-10

The Baltimore Ravens’ regular season record was much better than expected with the addition of Steve McNair: 13-3

The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl in 2005:

8-8

San Diego didn’t miss a beat with Philip Rivers at QB; in fact, the Chargers finished 14-2

The Philadelphia Eagles lost Donovan McNabb but still won the NFC East with a 10-6 record

The Chicago Bears survived Rex Grossman’s erratic play, finished 13-3 and was the runner-up in the Super Bowl

Super Bowl contender Carolina Panthers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs

and last but not least,

Rookie quarterback Vince Young led the Tennessee Titans to an 8-8 record and the Titans missed the playoffs by one victory.

If I’ve learned one thing over my lifetime as a NFL fan, it is this: the game of football is completely unpredictable. Betting on games and picking winners week-to-week is not how wise fans spend their time. It’s best to simply sit back and watch the games, and the season, unfold.

Go Titans!

12

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

September 7, 2007

A blog post at Two Tone Blue led me to an article by the Tennessean’s David Climer.

Climer says:

In the here and now, the Titans are still chinning themselves up since bottoming out with 5-11 and 4-12 seasons in 2004 and ‘05. They made considerable headway last season but will struggle to match the 8-8 record.

It doesn’t matter if the Titans are one year away from challenging for the AFC South

title.

All that matters is the here and now. What matters is whether the Titans can make the playoffs this year.

An NFL team’s number one goal is not to win the division title.

The Titans’ goal is to win the Super Bowl.

A Super Bowl victory can happen any season a team makes it to the NFL playoffs. Last

year, the New York Giants made the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Going 9-7 gives you a very good chance of making the playoffs, and going 10-6 makes it almost certain that

you’ll have a chance to play for the title.

As I said before, I have complete confidence that Vince Young will win at least one Lombardi trophy during his career. My expectations have no time limit and have nothing

to do with how the Titans look on paper.

The only thing we know about this season today is this: Indianapolis is Indianapolis, Drew Brees had a bad game and Jason David is easy pickings for quarterbacks and wide receivers. That’s it. That’s all we know.

13

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

So whether or not the Titans ever challenge for the AFC South division title is of no consequence. They may never win the division as long as Peyton Manning is healthy.

But not winning the division doesn’t mean the Titans can’t win the Super Bowl this year, or any year.

They just have to make it to the big dance.

September 9, 2007

In a game that most experts and fans expected the Titans to lose, Tennessee literally ran all over the Jaguars in a hard-fought victory in Jacksonville.

Story of the Game

Titans' second string running back Chris Brown had the biggest game of his career. He rushed for 175 yards on 19 carries against the vaunted Jaguars defense. Brown helped Tennessee win time of possession, sustain long drives and keep Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor off the field.

Brown made a serious bid to be the Titans starting running back next week. He looked quicker, faster and more decisive than LenDale White, who looked slow and tentative. However, even White managed to gain 66 yards on 18 carries.

The Other Story of the Game

The Titans defense shut down Jones-Drew and Taylor who combined for only 48 yards on 13 carries. The defense did allow David Garrard to complete a long touchdown in the first half but did not let the Jaguars offense mount a comeback in the fourth quarter.

14

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Vince Young

Young had a typical VY day: 11-of-18 for 78 yards with one interception; he ran for 22 yards, had a fumble and scored the Titans’ only touchdown. He looked shaky whenever a play took too long to develop downfield. Nevertheless, it’s a win in Young’s 14th game as a starter in the NFL. I give him credit for staying in the pocket and for frequently choosing to throw to his checkdown receiver.

Albert Haynesworth

Two personal fouls were called on defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. The first penalty resulted when Haynesworth threw Jones-Drew to the turf at the end of a play. It wasn’t exactly a body slam, but I understand the official’s call. The second penalty was a bad call by the official. Haynesworth’s hand grazed David Garrard’s face mask while the quarterback was scrambling in the pocket. I’m sure Haynesworth is being watched closely because of the incident with Dallas Cowboy Andre Gurode last season when Albert was suspended for stomping on Gurode’s neck.

Next Week

The Titans play the Indianapolis Colts at home. Does anyone want to predict a Colts blowout? It won’t happen here at TitansTracker.com.

If you like what you read here, subscribe to my RSS feed or bookmark this site for more optimistic Titans coverage.

Go Titans!

15

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

September 13, 2007

Earl Campbell is featured in the September 5th episode of CostasNOW. During Bob Costas’ interview of Campbell, the Oilers legend says he regrets the hit he put on Los Angeles Rams linebacker Isaiah Robertson:

I finally had a chance to see him. And I said, ‘Man, I’ve been looking for you for many years, to apologize to you.’ And he’s all, ‘Man, it’s okay. It was just, you know, it’s just football.’ But because of that one run I think it did something to him, you know?

If you’ve ever seen an Earl Campbell highlight reel, you’ve seen this hit. Watch it again during this Hall of Fame induction video tribute to the Tyler Rose.

No one, and I mean no one, runs like Earl Campbell. He was feared by defenders, and not in the same way Barry Sanders or Gale Sayers were feared. As a defensive player, you simply did not want to tackle this man. There are big running backs today who deliver punishment to defenders, but not with the same intensity as Earl Campbell. He was a joy to watch.

I hope he looks back on his career with fondness, because he is certainly paying the price for his intensity.

September 18, 2007

Story of the Game Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning threw for 312 yards and a touchdown and gave the Colts the edge it needed to win a hard-fought game in Tennessee.

The Other Story of the Game Vince Young improved on his week 1 performance by completing 63 percent of his

16

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

passes for 171 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. However, he was off-target in a few key situations and was not able to lead the Titans to a comeback victory.

LenDale White White held on to the football and his job on Sunday while rushing for 64 yards and a touchdown.

There’s lots of game video here.

Next Week The Titans face a desperate New Orleans Saints team which has looked awful in two early season losses to Indianapolis and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tennessee has performed well enough for Titans fans to expect a win on Monday night. The Saints haven’t shown they are capable of beating anyone. However, this is New Orleans’ first home game of the season, but emotion will only carry you so far.

Go Titans!

September 20, 2007

Last week’s big story was the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick. This week it’s Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb’s comments about how tough it is being a black NFL quarterback:

“There’s not that many African-American quarterbacks, so we have to do a little bit extra,” McNabb tells HBO. “Because the percentage of us playing this position, which people didn’t want us to play … is low, so we do a little extra.”

and

“Let me start by saying I love those guys [Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer],” McNabb tells HBO. “But they don’t get criticized as much as we do. They don’t.”

17

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

I agree with McNabb that too much is being made of his comments, especially the “do a

little extra” part. I think it’s a throwaway line that doesn’t mean much of anything.

However, I don’t agree that black quarterbacks are criticized more than white quarterbacks. Ever heard of Rex Grossman? Chad Pennington? David Carr?

I do think that, generally speaking, black quarterbacks are criticized differently than

white quarterbacks. Often, when a black quarterback scrambles, he’s criticized for not staying in the pocket. And, ironically, black quarterbacks are often criticized for not taking the opportunity to run. Can you imagine someone criticizing Carson Palmer or

Peyton Manning for not running?

When asked about McNabb’s comments, Vince Young said:

“That is his opinion. I really feel like myself, black or white quarterbacks, we all go through something because that is the life of a quarterback You have to be able to handle all the pressure and you have to be able to handle the losses and you have to be able to handle the media saying this about you. If you can’t handle it, then you have to get off that position and go play something else.”

Yes, that is the life of a quarterback, and it’s a good thing that Young knows what he faces and is prepared to handle the pressure. But is Vince Young free from scrutiny based on his race? Far from it.

Here’s a quote from Stephanie Stradley about comments she received on her blog in

2006:

“Right after the draft, on my former blog, any time I mentioned Vince Young, there would always be a few really nasty racial blasts that I’d have to delete. I am guessing that the stuff a black quarterback hears during the course of his life would probably be worse than that.”

18

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

The bottom line is that, whether or not you agree with McNabb, he is insinuating something that many people do not want to acknowledge or confront. Racism exists in 2007, and Stradley’s statement is an ugly reminder of this.

September 24, 2007

Story of the Game Vince Young escaped the Madden jinx and had a great overall performance, passing for two touchdowns and running for 22 yards. He left the game late in second quarter with an apparent injury which, thank goodness, turned out to be cramps. The offensive line deserves praise for giving Young plenty of time to survey the field and make effective throws.

The Other Story of the Game “Mr. Monday Night,” Keith Bulluck, had three interceptions and the Titans defense turned the Superdome into the House of Pain. Reggie Bush scored two rushing touchdowns, but was held to 15 yards on seven carries.

What on earth has happened to Drew Brees?

Total Team Effort

The Houston Rockets’ center Hakeem Olajuwon was fond of using the phrase “total team effort” to describe his club’s performance during victories. This was an excellent game by the Titans. The passing game and special teams showed explosiveness. The defense continues to play championship football.

However, it wasn’t a perfect game. Vince Young threw an interception into heavy traffic and Rob Bironas missed a 27-yard field goal. Not much to complain about.

Who would have expected Tennessee to be 2-1 with two road victories?

19

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Next Week Expect to see Titans players celebrating, vacationing and visiting their alma maters. During week five, Tennessee will attempt to win its first home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Go Titans!

October 1, 2007

The only good thing about Sunday’s incredibly negative Vince Young feature on 60 Minutes is that Scott Pelley never compared Vince to Michael Vick. Otherwise, Pelley and the 60 Minutes editors did a great job of making Young look like an arrogant jerk.

I found it highly ironic that Pelley said that public ridicule is Vince’s driving force. At this point, Vince Young has received enough public ridicule to propel him and the Titans to several Super Bowl victories.

Look, I’m a Tennessee Titans fan and UT alum, so I’m biased, but this VY hatred has gotten out of hand. It’s completely absurd. Why isn’t America embracing Vince Young? What has he done to deserve so much irrational criticism?

Merril Hoge. Jason Whitlock. Michael Wilbon. 60 Minutes. Who’s next?

Merril Hoge led the Jay Cutler bandwagon last year. How far do you think the strong- armed but constantly-sulking Cutler will take the Denver Broncos?

And how about “Hollywood” Matt Leinart? Leinart is currently playing so poorly for the Arizona Cardinals that he’s been taken out of the past two games in favor of 36-year old Kurt Warner. Does anyone still think the Titans should have drafted Leinart?

Give Vince Young a well-deserved break from the irrational criticism and respect him for his leadership and improving play on the field.

20

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

October 3, 2007

It’s week five of the 2007 NFL season and the Tennessee Titans have a must-win game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. No playoff spot is at stake. Jeff Fisher’s job is secure. Fan support is strong. Nevertheless, the Titans have to win this game on Sunday, and here’s why.

The Titans have been a surprise team this season, posting an unexpected 2-1 record. Any reasonable person could have expected Tennessee to go 1-2 or 0-3 versus the Jaguars, Colts and Saints. Granted, no one expected New Orleans to completely lose its mojo from 2006. Even so, the Titans fell three points short of being undefeated after three games and many sports pundits rank Tennessee as one of the NFL’s top ten teams.

It would be easy for the Titans to relax against Atlanta. Vince Young is fresh off a two- touchdown performance on Monday Night Football and a non-flattering appearance on 60 Minutes (well, they say all publicity is good publicity). Keith Bulluck made a bid to become a household name and played up to the level of his cool nickname, Mr. Monday Night.

And the Falcons are coming to town. Atlanta is doing its best to recover from one of the worst offseasons in sports history. The former face of its franchise faces five years in the joint.

The Falcons new quarterback? A man who was the third overall pick in the 2002 draft who is now playing for his third NFL team.

Joey Harrington doesn’t have a cool nickname like Mr. Monday Night. He’s known as the Piano Man. He’s also known as Joey Blue Skies, because, as his critics say, no matter how badly things are crashing down around him, Joey Harrington will always have a smile on his face.

Which makes him the perfect quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

21

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Harrington is 2-0 after Byron Leftwich signed a two-year contract with the Falcons. A two-year deal says you may not ever become the face of our franchise, but we’re not too confident in the guy currently under center. It’s safe to say that Leftwich’s presence has a little to do with Harrington’s inspired play over the past two weeks.

Harrington and the Atlanta Falcons have nothing to lose. Every victory this team wins keeps them out of an emotional cellar. The Titans, however, are in danger of slipping to the level of the team which lost to Atlanta last week, the Houston Texans, a team so savvy it chose a defensive lineman in the 2006 NFL draft instead of a Houston-born heroic quarterback or a running back who might be the second coming of Gale Sayers.

Why must Tennessee win on Sunday? Because they’re better than the Falcons, and they’re better than the Houston Texans.

October 5, 2007

Here’s what I expect to be my final comment on Michael Wilbon, Vince Young and the Donovan McNabb controversy:

Apparently, Michael Wilbon didn’t like Vince Young’s response to Donovan McNabb’s statements about black quarterbacks being criticized more harshly than their white counterparts.

With all due respect to Wilbon, whose work I generally enjoy, he’s completely off the mark in calling VY a self-absorbed jerk.

When Vince said “this isn’t my battle to fight” he was not referring to his status as a black quarterback combating racism and unwarranted scrutiny or racism. He was simply saying “the battle,” in this particular case, belongs to Donovan McNabb and that it is not his job to defend McNabb or to become embroiled in this controversy. Vince simply wants to do his job.

22

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Memo

To: Everyone From: spOiler Subject: Commenting on racial issues

Some African-Americans do not want to act as a spokesperson every time a question arises about a controversial issue involving another African-American.

Often, when an African American has achieved a significant accomplishment, you will often hear someone say that he looks forward to the day when race is a non-issue. When will journalists like Wilbon allow this to happen?

October 7, 2007

What an ugly game.

Tennessee did not deserve to win today against Atlanta, but saying this discredits the effort by the Titans defense to shut down the Falcons offense and help the team overcome its coaching, offensive and special teams mistakes.

Fans that did not watch the game might look at the stat sheet and see Vince Young’s three interceptions and the Titans five turnovers and think those were the major factors in the game. Not today.

Story of the Game: Questionable Coaching Decisions The Titans coaches made error after error in this game. Jeff Fisher had a 6-6 record after bye-weeks and he and his coordinators almost lost this game today. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s play calling was too conservative in the first half and too aggressive in the fourth quarter. During the first half, Tennessee seemed content to run repeatedly on the Falcons statistically-weak rushing defense. Although Chris Brown

23

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

scored a touchdown in the first half, LenDale White fumbled and DeAngelo Hall recovered it and scored for Atlanta. Overall, the Titans ran for only 92 yards.

Vince Young looked at his best during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Even so, Norm Chow did not call enough plays during the drill with receivers running into the end zone. Tennessee settled for a field goal to tie the game 10-10.

In the second half, it was clear the Falcons offense would not have any success against the Titans defense. After the Titans took a 20-13 lead, Norm Chow started calling risky passing plays instead of trying to wear down the Falcons defense with the run. Vince Young made a poor decision on his third interception, but I question Chow’s play call. The defense was playing lights out. Why pass?

On special teams, the Titans gave up a 76-yard kickoff return to Jerious Norwood. So what did the Titans do on the next kickoff? Did they squib kick? No. They kicked off to Norwood who broke another long kickoff return.

The Titans coaching must have rubbed off on Atlanta late in the game. The Falcons substituted Byron Leftwich for Harrington late in the fourth quarter. Joey Harrington had been visibly shaken by the Titans defense and was having no significant success, but how do you bring in a guy who has virtually no chemistry with the Falcons receivers in a critical situation?

Leftwich completed two-of-eight passes for 28 yards. Most of his passes sailed over the heads of his receivers.

The Other Story of the Game: Titans Special Teams Other than Rob Bironas, the Titans special teams play was atrocious. Two long kickoff returns by Norwood and a complete breakdown on punt protection late in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a chance to tie the football game with field position 19 yards away from the end zone.

24

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Titans Defense Titans fans should be thankful the defense brought its “A” game today, because the offense earned a C-minus at best and the special teams earned an F. Atlanta managed to earn 99 yards rushing and 99 yards passing and did not score an offensive touchdown. Albert Haynesworth was disruptive. David Thornton made a key interception and missed another pass that Joey Harrington threw to him. Cortland Finnegan played inspired football against Roddy White.

Vince Young VY threw three interceptions. After the first one, a deep pass on which Bo Scaife couldn’t outjump Falcons linebacker Michael Boley on the sideline, you assumed VY had thrown his obligatory first half interception and would regroup for the rest of the game. Not today. The second pick was during a play in which he was being sacked and lobbed the football up for grabs. Unfortunately, Falcons defensive tackle Trey Lewis caught the lob. As I said earlier, the third interception was a poor decision but I place the responsibility on Norm Chow for making a questionable play call.

Other than the interceptions, VY completed 60.6 percent of his passes and made some good throws. Hopefully he’ll learn to take the sack instead of throwing up lobs when he has no other options.

Next Week The Titans face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. Tennessee may welcome the chance to get away from home after today’s shaky home performance. The Bucs are hurting after the loss of Cadillac Williams but are playing good defense. Jeff Fisher, Norm Chow and Vince Young have to regroup and help the Titans outstanding defense.

3-1 after an ugly win? I’ll take it. Go Titans!

25

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Buccaneers 13, Titans 10

I did not write a game summary for this game. I was fired on October 8, 2007. Titans Tracker was the last thing on my mind the day Tennessee played Tampa Bay on October

14.

October 16, 2007

Vince Young pulled a quadriceps muscle in Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

You couldn’t help but think “Madden Curse” when you saw Young hobbling off the

field.

His status is uncertain as the Titans face the Texans in Houston in week seven. Word is

that Vince is seeking help from a higher power so he can attempt to embarrass his

hometown team again this year.

I heard someone say, in response to the idea of a Madden Curse, that football players get

injured and that the injuries Madden cover players suffer are mere coincidence. This may

be the case, but I see a scenario in which the curse might strike Vince Young.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Mike Pagnini about Young’s injury:

“Any time you have a muscle strain anywhere in the body, the sooner you rush

back the greater the risk you could re-injure it or pull it worse, just like with a

hamstring,” said Pagnini, who also has served as team physician for the Pittsburgh

Pirates and Chicago White Sox. “The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood

that you won’t re-injure it or pull it again.”

Vince Young wants to play Sunday. Real bad. As long as VY is the Titans quarterback,

when the team travels to Houston, it will always be more than just another game.

Here’s the question: will Vince be humble and patient enough to rest until week eight

against the Oakland Raiders, or will he rush back on the field and do further damage to

26

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

his body? Is playing in one game worth risking injury and being out for the rest of the 2007 season?

The way the Titans defense is playing, Tennessee can beat the slumping Texans without Vince in the lineup. I hope VY thinks this through carefully.

October 21, 2007

Great game. The Titans defense did its best to give the game to Houston and Sage Rosenfels, but Rob Bironas and Kerry Collins saved the day.

Give credit to the Houston Texans for fighting hard at the end. The Texans scored 29 points in the fourth quarter and recovered an onside kick to close the gap on the Titans.

Story of the Game: Rob Bironas breaks NFL Record

Rob “My” Bironas set an NFL record by kicking eight field goals in a game, including the game winner, and lifted the Tennessee Titans to a 4-2 record. Bironas broke the Oilers/Titans franchise record in the third quarter after kicking his sixth field goal.

After the Texans went up 38-36 on a long pass from backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels to Andre Davis, Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, substituting for the injured Vince Young, drove the Titans to the Texans’ 11-yard line and set up Bironas’ game winning 29-yard kick with two seconds left.

The flip side of the coin is that Tennessee’s offense had multiple opportunities to score touchdowns and only produced two. Touchdowns, not field goals, would have put this game out of reach for the Titans.

The Other Story of the Game: Titans defense takes a fifteen minute nap

Today’s defensive letdown was a surprise. I would have expected the offense or special

27

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

teams to break down instead of the defense allowing a backup quarterback to nearly produce a Bayou City Miracle.

Tennessee’s defense confounded the Texans offense during the first three quarters. Albert Haynesworth forced Texans quarterback Matt Schaub out of the game with an injury and Sage Rosenfels produced two turnovers on his first two possessions. Nick Harper recovered a Schaub fumble and intercepted two Rosenfels passes.

After three quarters, Tennessee led 32-7, and the Titans defense decided to take a fifteen- minute nap and never woke up. Perhaps the front four was tired after pressuring the Texans quarterbacks. Tennessee could not contain Rosenfels as Houston scored 29 points in the fourth quarter and almost won the game. Thank goodness for…

Kerry Collins

Props to Kerry Collins for managing the game and for his great performance on the game’s last drive which included a nice 46-yard pass to Roydell Williams.

Collins threw for 280 yards and looked very good throwing down the field. He was average with his short passes and threw no touchdowns. Nevertheless, he performed when it counted and put the Titans in position to win the game. It’s good to know Tennessee has a more than capable backup quarterback.

Sage Rosenfels

I’ve always wondered why Rosenfels hasn’t been given a chance to start in the NFL. I thought he looked good in limited action with the Miami Dolphins and he looked great today, despite throwing three interceptions. I don’t know if Rosenfels is better than Schaub, but there are at least five NFL teams that could use Rosenfels, including the Dolphins.

28

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

LenDale White and Chris Henry

LenDale White had his first-ever 100-yard game and scored a rushing touchdown. I found it interesting that he broke a 28-yard run soon after watching teammate Chris Henry run hard and score his first NFL touchdown.

Speed and quickness are good qualities. I hope Henry gets more carries.

Next Week

The 2-4 Oakland Raiders travel to Nashville. Oakland is struggling to find an offensive identity and the team’s only victories were against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

It’s nice as a Titans fan for my team to anticipate winnable games. Let’s look forward to seeing VY back on the field and hope the defense plays all four quarters against the Raiders.

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Texans game by clicking here.

October 28, 2007

This was not an exciting game, but it was a victory the way Jeff Fisher like to win:

running the ball and stopping the run. I call that style of play championship football.

It didn’t hurt that the Titans played the Oakland Raiders which hurt its chances by committing fourteen penalties, which is typical of the Raiders franchise.

Story of the Game: Poor Red Zone Offense

Early in the fourth quarter, the Titans led 10-9 and Travis LaBoy forced Daunte Culpepper to fumble on the Raiders 9 yard line. The Titans next offensive drive produced

29

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

five yards on a LenDale White run and two dropped passes — one from Quinton Gaither and the other from Roydell Williams — which could have produced touchdowns.

Rob Bironas was the team’s leading scorer for the second week in a row. It’s great to have Bironas, but Tennessee does not want to become the next Baltimore Ravens — great on defense, erratic in the passing game and capable of winning only one Super Bowl championship.

Tennessee’s model should be the high-flying New England Patriots, which has a great defense, an otherworldly offense and three Super Bowl Championships.

The Other Story of the Game: LenDale White

White had his best rushing day as a pro and his second 100-yard game in a row. LenDale had big runs of 21 and 27 yards in the third quarter. He ran hard and offensive coordinator Norm Chow devised a good game plan and attacked the edges of the Raiders defense.

Vince Young

VY passed for only 42 yards, completing 6 of 14 passes. The pressure is on Vince to produce more in the passing game. Tennessee is now a playoff-caliber team and fan expectations are high.

It’s probably not fair to be too critical of Vince. This was only his nineteenth start in the league, and the Titans are winning, so there’s no need to panic. On the other hand, at this moment VY appears to be the team’s weakest link, and many fans could care less about Young’s learning curve, or offensive line breakdowns, or dropped passes.

Now is not the time to panic. A young player’s true potential — or lack thereof — is fully revealed in his third season. If Vince is regularly producing sub-100 yard passing games in 2008, then I’ll panic.

30

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Next Week

Tennessee can look forward to another winnable game as they face the 4-3 Carolina Panthers. The Titans defense will face either 43-year old quarterback Vinny Testaverde or the easily-sackable David Carr. Regardless of who starts for Carolina, Steve Smith is capable of outrunning the Titans secondary.

I don’t think the Panthers are as good as their 4-3 record, especially on offense. Even so, the Titans must score more touchdowns before their luck runs out and they lose a game to

a team it should easily defeat.

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Raiders game by clicking here.

October 31, 2007

An article from TitansOnline announces that Titans owner K.S. “Bud” Adams is one of eight individuals associated with the Oilers/Titans franchise who is on the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame Preliminary Nominee List. The other Oilers/Titans preliminary nominees are:

Robert Brazile

C.O. Brocato (scout)

Ray Childress

Kent Hill

Wilber Marshall

Reggie Roby

Ken Stabler

Steve Tasker

31

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Given Adams’ long history with the NFL and AFL, I think he will be voted into the Hall of Fame someday.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, and others, thinks Bruce Matthews will be the last Oiler to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I disagree.

Ray Childress was fierce. He was a five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman and was part of the House of Pain defense that was known for shutting down the run. He deserves to be inducted.

Eddie George has a good (but not great) chance of being inducted. He was the heart and soul of the Oilers/Titans offense and made the Pro Bowl four times. Also, the Hall likes running backs. If Thurman Thomas was seen as a key contributor for the Buffalo Bills — and eight of his thirteen seasons were average at best — George deserves a look.

I saw Robert Brazile play when I was a kid, and while I didn’t fully appreciate his impact on the game, I have a hunch he deserves to be inducted.

Finally, I’d love to see Steve Tasker be inducted as a special teams player, even though he gained notoriety as a Buffalo Bill.

November 4, 2007

If you’re a college football player who wants to play in the NFL, you might want to change your major to pharmacy. Immediately.

Chris Henry, the Titans rookie running back who majored in philosophy at the University of Arizona, is facing a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Interestingly enough, the banned substance was in a prescribed medication, is not considered to be performance-enhancing, and was not banned by the NFL last year.

32

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Is Chris Henry responsible for knowing the chemical breakdown of his prescription drugs? Does the NFL take into consideration when Henry received the prescription and what ailment was being treated? What if Henry really need to take this particular drug and has no viable alternative?

As an outsider, I can only speculate, but on the face of it, suspending Chris Henry seems unreasonable. Perhaps there is something the league knows that, if made public, would make the suspension seem more fair. Without more information, it appears the NFL is playing “Gotcha!” with one of its own players.

Henry is appealing the suspension and should play today against the Carolina Panthers.

If Chris Henry, who rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns over the past two weeks, is suspended, it will be a minor blow to the Titans offense. Backup Chris Brown is still recovering from an ankle injury, but LenDale White looks more like the running back who dominated while at USC. Vince Young is due for a big game running and throwing the ball. Tennessee’s offense can survive the loss of Henry but his speed and quickness will be missed.

On another note, it’s not a good time to be named Chris Henry, or to have the surname “Henry.” Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals is soon returning to his team after an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Also, former Titan and current Denver Bronco running back Travis Henry is facing a one-year suspension for a substance abuse policy violation.

November 5, 2007

Barring a complete collapse, the Titans will make the playoffs this year. 76 percent of teams with a 6-2 record make the playoffs. Running the ball and stopping the run has produced a successful first half of the 2007 season. The pressure is on Vince Young and his receiving corps to step up.

33

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

On Sunday, the Titans defense was excellent as usual, Vince Young was so-so and LenDale White ran hard. But Carolina had no chance to win this game, and here’s why.

Story of the Game: David Carr

It is now clear that the problem with David Carr is not his offensive line or his supporting cast. After five and a half seasons in the NFL, David Carr has been sacked so many times that he is likely more concerned with avoiding the pass rush than with completing passes. Why? More often than not, Carr holds the football too long in the pocket.

Look at Carolina QB Vinny Testaverde’s success with the Panthers offense in the team’s week six victory against the Arizona Cardinals. Carolina literally pulled Testaverde from his recliner, stuck him in the lineup and watched him immediately develop chemistry with receiver Steve Smith, who caught ten passes for 136 yards against Arizona.

What type of chemistry did Steve Smith have with David Carr? Smith caught three catches for 15 yards. Until the fourth quarter, Smith had two catches for zero yards.

Sometimes you get a little help from your opponent on your way to victory. David Carr, who was sacked seven times, gave the Titans a lot of help.

The Other Story of the Game: LenDale White

LenDale White has been the offensive MVP over the last two weeks. He ran for exactly 100 yards and one touchdown against the Panthers.

When asked if anything has recently changed with the Titans offense, White said:

“Nothing, nothing at all,” insists the second-round pick from 2006. “It’s the same stuff we’re running. Maybe I’m just more comfortable in the offense. That’s about it. Nothing major has changed. It’s the same plays we called three or four weeks ago that we’re calling now.” (courtesy Nashville City Paper)

34

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

I think he’s been pushed by Chris Henry and, to a lesser degree, Chris Brown, and as a result, he’s running harder.

Vince Young

Young looked OK on Sunday. He was accurate throwing out of the pocket and looked sharp during the first drive of the game and during the two-minute drill to end the first half. His stats, however, were unimpressive and he threw two interceptions. After the second interception he sat on the bench, buried his head in his hands and had to be consoled by center Kevin Mawae.

Vince appears to be a rhythm quarterback. Perhaps the Titans should play a hurry-up offense more frequently. The Titans are a running team, but conventional wisdom says that points are produced in the passing game, so there’s much room for improvement.

Next Week

The Titans must bring its “A” game when it faces the Jacksonville Jaguars. Third-team quarterback Quinn Gray threw for 354 yards in the Jaguars 41-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Jacksonville’s defense is not what it used to be, but division games are always tough, and the Jaguars have playmaker Maurice Jones-Drew on offense and special teams.

Tennessee has defeated relatively weak opponents over the past three weeks. Vince Young will need to play his best game thus far in order for Tennessee to beat the Jaguars. With all due respect to the Titans defense, I will be shocked if they completely dominate Jacksonville’s offense.

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Panthers game by clicking here.

35

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

November 6, 2007

ESPN reports that Adam “Pacman” Jones will not be have his suspension shortened by the NFL and will sit out the entire 2007 season.

The Titans, who have replaced their best defensive player, had been expecting the suspension to stand.

“As we have said all through this process, we understood the suspension was for a year and made preparations to move our team forward without Adam Jones,” the team said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor his situation and will address his future when he is reinstated by the commissioner.”

The Titans are doing fine at cornerback without Pacman. 2007 first-round pick Michael Griffin, a college safety, was chosen by the Titans to play cornerback, but second-year cornerback Cortland Finnegan has played so well that the Titans are starting Griffin at free safety. Free agent Nick Harper is holding down the left cornerback slot.

November 11, 2007

The wrong team played “Titans football” today.

Jacksonville took the Titans out of its game with aggressive run defense and effective running by Maurice Jones-Drew.

By beating Tennessee with backup quarterback Quinn Gray and without defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, Jacksonville showed that it is the second-best team in the AFC South behind the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s almost unfair to point the finger at the defense as the primary reason Tennessee lost. Jacksonville simply outplayed Tennessee. Also, the Titans made tons of little mistakes (bad snaps, dropped passes, interceptions, penalties) which contributed to the loss.

36

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Story of the Game: Titans can’t stop the run

Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee’s most valuable defensive player thus far, sat out today’s game with a hamstring injury. The Titans missed Haynesworth’s run stuffing and pass rush. Tennessee gave up three rushing touchdowns, allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 101 yards, and produced only one sack. The Titans defensive line committed a number of penalties trying to anticipate Quinn Gray’s snap count.

Jacksonville held the ball for over 34 minutes. While the Titans defense did a good job of containing quarterback Quinn Gray, overall it spent too much time on the field and allowed Jacksonville’s offense to convert a number of key third down plays, including a scramble by Gray on 3rd and 12 with 4:57 left in the game. Fullback Greg Jones scored a three-yard touchdown on the next play to give the Jaguars a 28-13 lead.

The Other Story of the Game: Titans can’t run the football

Jacksonville made a commitment to shut down the Titans running attack after allowing Tennessee to run for 282 yards in game one. Before LenDale White left the game with a knee injury, he had run for only 12 yards on eight carries. Backup Chris Henry was held to minus-two yards on three carries. Vince Young led the team with 52 yards on eight carries.

Vince Young

VY had his highest passing yardage total as a Titan, completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 257 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

While I would like to take credit for offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s decision to run a hurry-up offense in the second half (see my previous blogs which discuss VY’s success in the hurry-up/two-minute offense), the Titans were forced to throw after being down 21-3 at halftime.

37

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

With White injured, backup running back Chris Brown recovering from injury and Chris Henry facing a possible suspension, Young may be forced to throw more over the next few weeks. This might help accelerate his growth as a passer.

Next Week: The Merril Hoge Bowl

Tennessee travels to Denver to face the Broncos and quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday Night Football. Titans fans remember that, in 2006, ESPN commentator (and relentless Vince Young critic) Merril Hoge said if he were a general manager, he would draft Cutler in favor of Vince Young or Matt Leinart.

The Broncos do not have a great run defense, but Young may have to match Cutler throw for throw if LenDale White is out. Passing success will be tough since Denver has a great secondary with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly at cornerback.

The Titans are better than the Broncos on paper but Mile High Stadium is a tough place to play. Can Keith “Mr. Monday Night” Bulluck inspire his team to a tough road victory?

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Jaguars game by clicking here.

November 15, 2007

Every NFL fan has an opinion about Ricky Williams, including me.

Ricky Williams, the eccentric running back currently with the Miami Dolphins, was reinstated by the NFL after an 18-month absence due to a drug suspension.

The 0-9 Miami Dolphins need Ricky Williams. The NFL needs Ricky Williams.

We need Ricky Williams. Why? Because he shows us there is more than one way to live one’s life and that it’s OK to fail as long as you continue making the effort to overcome

38

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

your shortcomings. Also, he challenges the idea that there should be a “forgiveness quota.”

I have a tendency to like athletes who are mavericks and nonconformists. Think

Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Dennis Rodman. Ricky Williams falls in the same category. He marches to the beat of his own drum and often makes people uneasy with his behavior and his opinions. I don’t think drug use is cool, but I like Williams because

he’s not afraid to be different.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all alike?

He’s well-read and well-traveled. He’s a soft-spoken thinker in an aggressive sport. He’s also a very good running back.

In 2004, Ricky was interviewed by 60 Minutes‘ Mike Wallace. As we saw during this year’s Vince Young interview, 60 Minutes tries very hard to make the majority of its guests look bad. VY probably assumed the best of 60 Minutes and spoke without guile (not necessarily a bad thing), but after CBS edited the piece, Vince looked like a selfish jerk, not like an assertive leader. However, Ricky, being the iconoclast he is, did a good job of not allowing himself to be portrayed as simply a self-centered pothead.

I love his response when asked about his sudden decision to leave the Miami Dolphins during the 2004 training camp.

“When would it have been OK for me to stop playing football?” Williams says. “When my knees went out? When my shoulders went out? When I had too many concussions? When is it OK? … I’m just curious. I’m just curious, because I don’t understand. When is it OK to not play football anymore?”

Due to his multiple drug suspensions, Ricky Williams has managed to extend his NFL career. He has only played six NFL seasons and seven professional seasons overall — he spent 2006 with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.

39

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Williams has rushed for 7,097 yards, almost four thousand yards less than Edgerrin James, the running back chosen one pick prior to him in the 1999 NFL Draft. Ricky has elite talent and very low mileage for a thirty-year old player. And he will continue to draw interest from NFL teams because he’s really big and really fast.

Does he deserve repeated chances to play football? He spent five and a half months in a Boston treatment center dealing with social anxiety disorder, and, presumably, his marijuana use. He has done what was asked of him by the NFL. And Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is no pushover, gave Williams the OK.

Should the Miami Dolphins allow Williams to play for them? Why not? The Dolphins are winless. Some observers might say that accepting Williams is further evidence of the team’s dysfunction.

Dolphins management has been criticized for making questionable personnel decisions over recent years, none of which involve Ricky Williams. Adding Ricky to the roster would be a sign of sanity for a once proud franchise that has lost its way.

I hope, as a Ricky Williams fan, that he’s done sabotaging his NFL career so I can watch him do what he does best: run the football with a rare combination of exceptional speed and brute force.

November 16, 2007

Vince Young is having a tough sophomore season.

He’s completing over 60 percent of his passes and his team has a 6-3 record, but he’s thrown ten interceptions and has accounted for only six touchdowns — four passing and two rushing.

There is no doubt that the Titans lack playmakers at the receiving position. Playmaking receivers make tough catches and fight through tight coverage. They don’t drop easy

40

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

passes. A young quarterback needs playmakers to ease the learning curve. Rookie Ben Roethlisberger had Hines Ward on his side in 2004. Tony Romo has Terrell Owens. Eli Manning has Plaxico Burress. Other quarterbacks, such as the 49ers' Alex Smith, struggle in part because they lack a dynamic and experienced receiving corps.

Apart from the Titans receivers, I think Young is struggling because he’s trying too hard to be a pocket passer.

An article by ESPN’s L.Z. Granderson says that Young sometimes wears a t-shirt that says “I am a quarterback.” His expressed goals are to take the Titans to the Super Bowl and to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Vince’s ambitions will serve him well in the long run (no pun intended). The Titans will have games similar to last week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars where the defense shuts down Tennessee’s running game and Young will have to pass frequently in order to give his team a chance to win. Cowboys great Troy Aikman recently said the most important quality in a quarterback is accuracy. If Vince wants to be a Hall-of-Famer, he must become a more accurate passer. And heaven forbid he suffer a knee injury and lose his effectiveness as a runner (see Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb). If he becomes a solid passer, he increases his odds of having a long and productive NFL career.

But how do Vince’s goals affect him in the short run?

There have been a number of occasions this season that I’ve seen Vince Young roll out of the pocket with open field in front of him. Instead of taking the opportunity to run, as he often did in 2006, he passed (pun intended). More passing and less running mixed with inexperienced receivers equals more interceptions and fewer touchdown passes.

It’s awkward trying to play football (this is a game, remember?) and overcome stereotypes at the same time. It’s even tougher when you’re a high-level competitor like Vince Young.

41

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

But I understand why he trying to become a better pocket passer. Hall-of-Fame ambitions aside, no quarterback ever wants to be compared with Michael Vick.

Anthony Cotton of the Denver Post wrote a great article about Vince Young and suggests that he is taking too much responsibility for his team’s offensive struggles.

Not long after his Tennessee Titans lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, Vince Young, still clad in most of his game uniform, took a seat in front of his locker and stared. Soon enough, the 15 minutes became 20, and 20 turned into 30.

Teammate LenDale White ambled over, offering a few words, as did backup quarterback Kerry Collins a short time later. Before the lonely contemplation was complete, offensive lineman Michael Roos also would approach, offering his own solace.

“It’s not his fault,” Roos said. “He gets the blame for a missed pass, but it’s the offensive line maybe not giving him enough time. It could be the receiver. It could be the tight end.

“It’s everybody. He just shouldn’t be so hard on himself.”

We’ve seen what happens to athletes when the game becomes work. When it’s no longer fun. When he can’t deal with unreasonable fan expectations. Some athletes turn to drugs or get in trouble with the law.

Other athletes retire early.

I don’t want Vince to retire because he’s not having fun, or because he never became as accurate as Troy Aikman, or because he never passed for 4,000 yards in a season.

I want to see the Tennessee Titans win the Super Bowl and Vince Young sharing the victory with his teammates, regardless of his passing stats.

42

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Barring injury, Vince Young has the competitive drive and the physical talent to become one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, but it won’t happen if he’s playing quarterback simply to overcome stereotypes. In order for Young to reach his full potential, his decision-making ability needs to equate that of the great Joe Montana, with a twist.

If running the football is the best option during a pass play, run.

It’s OK to be a quarterback who runs the football. Redefine the position and win.

November 20, 2007

The Denver Broncos won the “Merril Hoge Bowl” but Vince Young silenced his critics with a big night. Unfortunately, the Titans have lost two games in a row and slipped to the middle of the NFL pack with a 6-4 record. The Titans miscues — dropped passes and missed tackles — cost them the game.

Story of the Game: Titans D gives up big plays

The Titans defense is not the same without Albert Haynesworth. They gave up a 48-yard TD pass to Brandon Stokley, a 41-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall and a 62-yard TD run by Andre Hall. In addition to Haynesworth’s absence, the Titans tackled poorly all evening. After the Stokley touchdown in the first quarter, I knew the Titans were in for a long night.

The Other Story of the Game: Vince Young’s big night

VY completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 305 yards passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Young was forced to pass early and often and he delivered in a big way. In the first quarter, it appeared as if the Titans were trying to establish the passing game (are the Titans coaches listening to the critics who say they need to open up the offense and allow Vince a chance to improve as a passer by throwing more often?).

43

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Overall, the Titans passed 41 times and ran the ball 29 times, including Vince’s 11 carries. The offense missed opportunities (dropped passes by Roydell Williams, Brandon Jones and Bo Scaife) and Young’s interceptions hurt the Titans effort. Even, so, VY had

a great night while getting little to no help from the defense.

Next Week: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have taken a giant step backward. Cincinnati is 3-7 but still can air it out with Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T. J. Houshmanzadeh and (the other) Chris Henry. The Titans need this victory to avoid a three-game slide into mediocrity. The Titans need Haynesworth back on the field and another big game from Vince Young to avoid being embarrassed by the Bengals.

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Broncos game by clicking here.

November 23, 2007

Remember this statement from my November 16 blog about Vince Young?

We’ve seen what happens to athletes when the game becomes work. When it’s no longer fun. When he can’t deal with unreasonable fan expectations. Some athletes turn to drugs or get in trouble with the law.

Other athletes retire early.

I don’t want Vince to retire because he’s not having fun …

I wondered if I was being melodramatic by suggesting that Vince Young might be worn out from criticism and thinking about retirement.

Turns out I was right.

44

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Watch the Vince Young interview in this episode of Titans All Access.

I’m not trying to start a false rumor, but it’s clear that Vince is bothered by criticism. He mentioned Merril Hoge by name in the postgame press conference after the Broncos game.

He also knows it’s not reasonable to expect a second-year quarterback to play like Tom Brady. But do Titans fans know this? Does Merril Hoge know this?

November 25, 2007

No Albert Haynesworth, no victory.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The Titans are 0-3 for the second half of the 2007 NFL season and 0-3 without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in the lineup. Cincinnati dominated the Titans on offense, defense, special teams and coaching on its way to a 35-6 victory.

Story of the Game: Where’s the D?

Without Haynesworth, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, the Titans defense helped receiver Chad Johnson “get his sexy back” with three touchdown receptions. Tennessee only managed one sack against quarterback Carson Palmer, who completed 32 of 38 passes for 283 yards and three touchdown passes to Johnson.

Cincinnati’s Rudi Johnson ran for 88 yards and scored his first rushing touchdown of the season against a defense which showed little intensity all day.

Now I understand why the Titans signed defensive tackle Corey Simon earlier this year. The Titans desperately need depth on its defensive line. Unfortunately, Simon retired on October 25, Haynesworth is still injured and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch left today’s game in the fourth quarter with an injury.

45

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Haynesworth has to get better, right?

The Other Story of the Game: Questionable Play Calling

Prior to today, Cincinnati’s defense was ranked 29th overall. Theoretically, Tennessee could have success with whatever offensive strategy it designed. However, with a defense playing poorly without Haynesworth, you’d think that Tennessee would play Titans Football by running the ball and keeping the ball out of Carson Palmer’s hands.

This did not appear to be the Titans’ strategy.

Early in the second quarter, Tennessee had the ball on Cincinnati’s 3-yard line. On second down, the Titans called a pass play. Vince Young took what appeared to be a one- step drop and couldn’t find an open receiver. He was hit in the backfield by linebacker Dhani Jones and fumbled the ball. The Bengals recovered.

Why not run the ball? In the first half, LenDale White had only seven carries and Tennessee’s time of possession was 10:58.

The worst call of the day came in the third quarter with the Titans losing 28-6. Young was in rhythm, had completed three straight passes and had a scramble for five yards. Tennessee had the ball on the Bengals 18-yard line on third and five.

What play did the Titans call?

A draw play to Chris Brown.

No gain.

The fourth down pass play was incomplete.

Game over.

46

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Red Zone Struggles

The Titans had five red zone opportunities today and produced two field goals. Tennessee’s red zone futility was exemplified early in the fourth quarter. Tennessee had the ball on the Bengals 5-yard line.

First down: Chris Brown runs for two yards.

Second down: Chris Browns runs for a touchdown. The Bengals challenge the play. The touchdown is taken off the scoreboard. Brown is credited with two yards rushing.

Third down inside the 1-yard line: LenDale White is stuffed by the Bengals defense for no gain.

Fourth down: Young’s pass is tipped and falls incomplete.

Vince Young

VY passed for 246 yards. His interception and fumble occurred while the score was 7-0 and were not big factors in the loss. Tennessee’s offensive play calling was more questionable than Young’s performance.

One TV commentator said today that Carson Palmer complimented Vince Young on his accuracy. Perhaps Vince Young is more accurate than his critics would like to believe.

Next Week: Houston Texans

Vince Young gets his first chance to face the Texans this season. Tennessee will be playing to keep its playoff hopes alive and to avoid a four-game losing streak.

The Titans have not been able to win a game without Albert Haynesworth, so his return is critical to Tennessee’s success. After three straight losses, I won’t be too optimistic until I see number 92 back on the field.

47

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Bengals game by clicking here.

November 30, 2007

The Titans will attempt to reverse its fortunes against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Tennessee must win this game to stay in the playoff hunt.

In reality, all the remaining games on the Titans schedule are must-win games. The two toughest games remaining on the schedule are San Diego on December 9th in Nashville and the season finale vs. the Colts in Indianapolis.

The Titans will not go to the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Jacksonville is essentially a lock to take one of the two AFC wildcard slots. The Cleveland Browns, currently 7-4, have a relatively weak schedule ahead of them.

The Titans need to win four of its last five games and get some help to make the playoffs. Can they do it? Yes. But will they?

Sunday’s forecast calls for rain, so you wonder if Tennessee will risk playing Albert Haynesworth on a sloppy field.

I will not disrespect the Houston Texans … for the remainder of this season. Houston can win this game, especially if Haynesworth doesn’t play. Stud receiver Andre Johnson is healthy and after a bad game last week against the Browns (I know — I started Johnson last week on my fantasy football team), the Texans will look for ways to get him the ball. And as we know, Tennessee’s defense hasn’t been playing well lately.

Besides Haynesworth, LenDale White and Chris Brown will be key players in Sunday’s game. If Tennessee can run through Houston’s weak rushing defense (119.4 ypg), they have a good chance to win.

48

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Click here for a look at Albert Haynesworth’s impact on Tennessee’s defense.

December 3, 2007

Haynesworth in, Titans win.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple, but Albert Haynesworth made a difference for the Titans defense on a rainy Sunday in Nashville against the Houston Texans. However, the star of the game was Vince Young.

Story of the Game: Vince Young’s Best Game as a Passer

Young deserves a lot of praise for his performance. He was accurate, decisive and made big plays in the passing game. VY threw two nice touchdown passes — one in the red zone — and completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 248 yards.

Aside from Young’s touchdown passes, no play was bigger than his third down pass to Eric Moulds between three Houston defenders with 4:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. The play allowed Tennessee to extend the drive and forced the Texans to take its last two timeouts.

Watching Vince Young over the past four weeks has erased all doubts in my mind about his potential as an NFL quarterback. If he stays healthy, he’s going to have a very good career.

The Other Story of the Game: Number 92 Returns

I saw something I hadn’t seen since Haynesworth’s injury: pressure on the other team’s passer. Tennessee’s defense had two sacks and an interception and knocked Matt Schaub out of the game for the second time this season. The defense did a much better job containing Sage Rosenfels than it did in week seven.

49

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Unfortunately, Big Al’s return didn’t help the Titans run defense. Houston’s underrated offensive line created running lanes for Ron Dayne, who had 86 yards rushing on 18 carries and a touchdown.

I’d like to think that Haynesworth was playing tentatively and wasn’t as disruptive as he could have been; however, other players missed tackles and the defense allowed Dayne, who is not known for his speed, to break a 25-yard run.

Titans Running Game

The Titans had a very good day running the football. LenDale White and Chris Brown ran for touchdowns and a high per-carry average. Vince Young ran for 44 yards on 5 carries.

Next Week: San Diego Super Chargers

I shudder to think of what LaDainian Tomlinson will do if Tennessee’s run defense doesn’t improve. Hopefully Albert Haynesworth’s hamstring injury will be completely healed.

This is one of the two toughest matchups remaining on Tennessee’s schedule. Both the Chargers and Titans have a 7-5 record. If Tennessee’s defense can contain LT and force turnovers, the Titans have a chance to win.

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Texans game by clicking here.

December 10, 2007

With 7:29 on the clock in the fourth quarter, Tennessee led 17-10 and had the ball on the Titans 26 yard line.

50

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

The Titans gave the ball to LenDale White seven times in a row.

Let me repeat that.

The Titans gave the ball to LenDale White seven times in a row.

White’s seventh carry was followed by a Chris Brown run on second down. Brown gained one yard, and Tennessee faced a third and four on San Diego’s 46-yard line.

Vince Young’s 20-yard pass to Bo Scaife was broken up by Chargers linebacker Matt Wilhelm. The Titans were forced to punt.

Previous to the Young-to-Scaife attempt, VY had only attempted one pass in the fourth quarter.

Question: how reasonable is it to expect that Vince Young complete a twenty-yard pass on third down after not being in passing rhythm for over half a quarter?

Vince Young bashing is at a fever pitch in Nashville. I refuse to add fuel to the fire.

Story of the Game: Chargers have playmakers; Titans don’t

The Titans defense contained LaDainian Tomlinson in the first half and held the Chargers to 37 passing yards through three quarters. Early in the fourth quarter, Tennessee led 17-

3.

The Titans coaching staff must have assumed that 17 points was enough to beat the Chargers, as evidence by its decision to run the ball eight straight times midway through the fourth quarter.

Someone must have forgotten that the Chargers have a Hall of Fame running back, a potential Hall of Fame tight end, and a Pro Bowl wide receiver on its offense.

51

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Tennessee’s defense, which fought hard on Sunday, could not contain LT and the Chargers forever. San Diego scored 20 straight points in the 4th quarter and overtime to shock Tennessee and knock the Titans to the back of the wildcard pack.

The Other Story of the Game: LenDale White

LenDale White almost pulled it off. He rushed for 113 yards on 30 carries, caught two passes for 24 yards and scored the Titans final touchdown.

Did I mention that Tennessee called his number seven straight times in the fourth quarter? White gained 27 yards in the sequence. But it wasn’t enough.

Vince Young

Tennessee called 21 passing plays for VY. He completed 13 of them for 121 yards and threw two bad interceptions.

I did not expect VY to perform well against San Diego’s 3-4 defense. Expecting

perfection from a rhythm quarterback on crucial third down plays when he was not the

focus of the game plan is unreasonable.

Next Week: Kansas City … Kansas City here they come

Now begins Tennessee’s must-win series. The Titans are currently out of the wildcard

hunt and have fallen behind the scrappy Buffalo Bills as a longshot contender. Ironically,

a Bills win against the Cleveland Browns this weekend could help Tennessee’s playoff chances.

Tennessee must go to Kansas City and dominate a weak Chiefs team.

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Chargers game by clicking here.

52

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

December 17, 2007

Story of the Game: No Turnovers

For only the second time in 2007, Vince Young did not throw an interception and achieved a season-high 109.6 quarterback rating by passing for 191 yards and throwing two touchdown passes, both to Roydell Williams. Tennessee’s offensive backs (including VY) carried the ball 36 times for 148 yards and no fumbles.

On the other hand, Kansas City’s Brodie Croyle was forced to throw the ball 43 times and threw two interceptions. One of the picks was by Michael Griffin, who has now caught an interception in the last three games.

The Other Story of the Game: Nashville, we have a running back

It’s time to give LenDale White his due. He has 960 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns with two games remaining on the schedule. He ran for 93 yards against the Chiefs and had 113 yards last week against the Chargers.

White has out rushed former USC teammate and 2006 number two overall draft pick Reggie Bush in his NFL career. He is showing the promise he demonstrated while at USC. If White continues to perform at this level, he will be a steal as the 45th pick in the 2006 NFL draft.

Next Week: J-E-T-S … Jets! Jets! Jets!

This matchup concerns me more than week 17 versus the Colts. The New York Jets have nothing to lose. Also, quarterback Chad Pennington might start. I have a lot of respect for Pennington. He doesn’t have a strong arm but he is very intelligent and can dink and dunk a defense to death.

Remember game one of the 2006 season? Pennington completed 24 of 33 passes for 319 yards and two touchdown passes against the Titans in Nashville.

53

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

The Jets also have shifty Leon Washington, who is a more than capable kickoff returner and running back. The Titans defense is banged up and hasn’t been tackling well lately. Tennessee can beat the Jets but the Titans had better not take them for granted.

The Titans have won game one of its must-win series. Unfortunately, Tennessee remains team number seven in a six-team race for the playoffs. Titans fans need to hope for either the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers to collapse, because the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t going away.

(Side note: Jacksonville is solid. This is hard to admit, but the Titans are not in the same league as the Jaguars. Jacksonville is playing like I wish the Titans would play. The Jags are consistent at the quarterback position, have two explosive running backs and play with intensity on defense. Tennessee has a lot of work to do in the offseason to raise its talent level to that of the Colts and Jags.)

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Chiefs game by clicking here.

December 18, 2007

Congratulations to Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch. The two Tennessee Titans defensive linemen were named to the 2008 NFL Pro Bowl roster today.

Haynesworth’s selection was expected. Big Al may be the league’s defensive MVP and is a player the Titans must have on the field to win. Haynesworth currently has six sacks and 36 tackles (31 solo).

It’s great to have a complementary pass rusher like Vanden Bosch on the field with Haynesworth. Kyle currently has nine sacks and 48 tackles (39 solo).

54

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

UPDATE: In the “not to be overlooked” department, Titans kicker Rob “My” Bironas was also named to the Pro Bowl.

December 21, 2007

Over the past few weeks, I discovered a couple of websites that give the odds of your favorite NFL team making the playoffs.

Ken Roberts has developed SportsClubStats.com. Ken’s method of calculating odds is based on running millions of simulated games. He gives the Titans a 17.8 percent chance of making the playoffs overall and a 71.7 percent chance if they finish 2-0 this season.

PlayoffStatus.com appears to calculate its odds from league-based formulas. The picture is not as rosy for the Titans at PlayoffStatus.com, as the site gives Tennessee a five percent chance of grabbing the second AFC wildcard berth.

Intuitively, I agree with PlayoffStatus.com. It’s never a good situation for a team to hope for other teams to lose in order to make the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the St. Louis Rams last night, so the Titans have to win its last two games and hope for the Cleveland Browns to collapse.

Cleveland faces the Bengals in Cincinnati. Cleveland can certainly lose this game; however, its final game is against the San Francisco 49ers at home. PlayoffStatus.com gives Cleveland an 81 percent chance of grabbing the final AFC wildcard spot to make the playoffs.

But as we know, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Go Titans, and Go Bengals!

55

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

December 26, 2007

This belated post will be brief. There isn’t really much to say about last Sunday’s game other than it was boring and neither team generated much offensive punch, as evidenced by the score. Nevertheless, the Titans played well enough (on defense) to win, and LenDale White had another 100-yard rushing game. Fortunately, the Jets have as much trouble finishing drives as the Titans and did not score a touchdown.

As every Titans fan knows, if Tennessee wins in Indianapolis on Sunday night, they are in the playoffs and will likely have a rematch against the San Diego Chargers. I’d love to see the Titans get a second chance at San Diego after losing to them in week 15.

The Colts will likely rest its offensive starters for much of the game. This gives the Titans a better chance of winning, but Tennessee could lose if Peyton Manning gets hot early and gives the Colts a three touchdown league. I do not have tremendous confidence in the Titans ability to win a shootout. Tennessee must keep this game close regardless of who is under center for Indianapolis.

Go Titans! Make the playoffs!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Jets game by clicking here.

December 30, 2007

The Titans make the playoffs! The Titans make the playoffs!

Tennessee overcame fumbles by Chris Brown and LenDale White, and Kerry Collins filled in successfully for an injured Vince Young to lead the Titans over Indianapolis.

56

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Granted, the Colts took its key players out of the game by the third quarter, and backup quarterback Jim Sorgi was ineffective. But the Titans earned this victory and will go to the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Story of the Game: Great Quarterback Play

Young and Collins combined to go 24-of-31 for 263 yards and no interceptions. VY also had 19 yards rushing on four carries.

Young had a chance to light up the Colts second team defense before leaving the game with a quadriceps injury. After the game, Coach Jeff Fisher said he expects VY to play next week in “The Rematch” against the San Diego Chargers.

Collins hit some nice downfield passes to Roydell Williams and kept drives alive late in the game. The Titans have a great relief quarterback in case VY goes down to injury at any time.

The Other Story of the Game: Assist by the Colts

Peyton Manning only played the first two series of the game. Thank goodness, because he was red hot. Manning was 14-of-16 for 95 yards. Most of the completions went to Reggie Wayne, who caught 12 passes for 87 yards in less than two quarters.

However, we know Colts coach Tony Dungy’s history. His eyes are on the Super Bowl and he protects his key players from injury late in the season. Thankfully for Tennessee, the Titans defense faced the Colts second-team offense which scored one touchdown, thanks to a fumble by LenDale White in the third quarter.

10-6

Here’s how the Tennessean’s sports writers predicted the Titans would finish in 2007:

David Climer: 7-9 Joe Biddle: 5-11

57

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Jim Wyatt: 7-9 Paul Kuharsky: 6-10

Wow.

Professional journalists shouldn’t wear rose colored glasses, but you wonder why none of the Tennessean sports writers expected the Titans to have a winning record.

If you’d like to read an optimistic writer and a fan of the Titans write about his favorite team, keep coming back to TitansTracker.com.

Go Titans. Beat the Bolts!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Colts game by clicking here.

January 1, 2008

Yes, I’m a wild-eyed optimist.

Step 1: Kerry Collins starts at quarterback against the San Diego Chargers. Tennessee’s offense generates 28 points and the defense shuts down LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers to defeat the Chargers.

Step 2: A healthy Vince Young puts on his Superman outfit, LenDale White gains over 100 yards rushing and the offense keeps Tom Brady off the field. The Titans defensive line gets to Brady and forces a couple of interceptions. Titans win the game with a last- second field goal by Rob Bironas.

Step 3: The Titans face the Jacksonville Jaguars who upset both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts. Inspired by VY’s performance against the Patriots, Norm Chow develops an aggressive offensive game plan. Young delivers with a 300 yard passing game. The Titans defense shut down Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.

58

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

David Garrard plays well but can’t generate enough points to defeat the Titans, who win by two touchdowns.

That was fun to read, wasn’t it?

January 6, 2008

I am an optimist, but I’m also a realist. If the Chargers played the Titans ten times this season at home in a playoff game, I’d expect the Titans to lose seven out of ten.

That being said, the Titans had a chance to win today’s game and threw it away in the third quarter.

Story of the Game: Titans lose game in third quarter

The Titans entered the third quarter with a 6-0 lead and had eliminated LaDainian Tomlinson as a threat. The Titans defense allowed the Chargers to drive 86 yards to open the third quarter, including a 34-yard pass to Vincent Jackson on third down. Amazingly, Tennessee held the Chargers to a field goal. 6-3, Titans.

Tennessee came out throwing on the next drive. Vince Young completed two of three passes and helped the offense earn a first down.

Here’s where Tennessee handed the game to the Chargers.

First down: Titans run — LenDale White gains four yards.

Second down: Titans run again. Chris Henry gains nothing.

Game over.

The Titans defense had just endured an 86-yard drive. It was no longer pressuring Philip Rivers. Defensive lineman get tired in the second half.

59

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

The Chargers have playmakers on offense. You’re not going to shut down a team full of playmakers for an entire game. It didn’t happen for the Titans in its week 14 matchup against the Titans and it was unrealistic to expect to shut down the entire Chargers offense for four quarters.

Tennessee needed to score points to win this game. Lots of points.

But Tennessee was content to run the ball twice in a row after a long Chargers scoring drive. Tennessee expected that it would play the exact same game it played in the first half and win 12-0. Therefore, it gave the ball to Chris Henry on a second and six play, and he gained nothing.

Vince Young critics will point to the third down pass he didn’t convert after Chris Henry’s run.

I point to the decision to not throw the ball more, put pressure on the Chargers and put

points on the board. Points are produced in the passing game, remember? At that point in

the game, Tennessee’s offensive line was managing San Diego’s pass rush. The Chargers weren’t teeing off on Vince Young. That would happen in the fourth quarter, when the Titans were forced to throw after giving up seventeen straight points.

The Titans punted on fourth down.

On the next drive, Tennessee shut down LT, but Albert Haynesworth helped the Chargers with 15 penalty yards after a personal foul. Two plays later, Philip Rivers hit Vincent Jackson for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Chargers led 10-6.

I thought the Chargers' score might be the best thing to happen for the Titans offense,

since they could no longer be content to call running plays up the middle. Tennessee’s first offensive play saw Vince Young throw a nice pass to tight end Ben Troupe. Fullback

Ahmard Hall had a nice 11-yard run for a first down to end the third quarter.

60

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Too little, too late. Why?

The Chargers began teeing off on Vince Young. And Rob Bironas missed a 38-yard field goal which could have cut the Chargers lead to one point.

Second down. Titans run again. Chris Henry gains nothing.

Game over.

The Other Story of the Game: Chris Brown fumbles in red zone — again

Last week versus the Colts, Chris Brown fumbled at the Indianapolis 6-yard line. Luckily, Tennessee won the game, in part to an assist by Colts coach Tony Dungy. No harm, no foul.

Not today, though. It’s the playoffs. You’re on the road. Your team is on the Chargers’ 12-yard line. You score a touchdown and you’re up 10-0.

But this was not to be. On what might be Chris Brown’s last carry as a Titan, he gained a yard, went airborne and was hit by linebacker Shawne Merriman.

Fumble. Chargers ball. Opportunity lost.

Playmakers 17, Tennessee 6

San Diego had two receivers gain over 100 yards receiving: Vincent “Not Bo” Jackson and Chris Chambers. LaDainian Tomlinson was held to 42 yards on 21 carries but had some big runs in the fourth quarter and scored the game’s final touchdown. Ultimately, Jackson, Chambers and Tomlinson proved to be the difference today. Tight end Antonio Gates was hurt in the first half. Had he remained healthy, the Chargers could have scored more points.

61

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Titans Priority Number One: Get Offensive Playmakers

The Titans must make it a priority to get more playmakers on offense. I’ll have a lot to say about this over the next seven months, but I’ll start with this statement.

Rookie wide receivers don’t count for much, and I hope the Titans don’t draft one in the first round. Why?

1. The only offensive position in which you can count on a rookie to make an immediate

impact is running back. The Titans don’t need a first round running back. However, the offense does need a change-of-pace back — a Maurice Jones-Drew type — but a reasonable team wouldn’t draft a speedy third-down back in the first round of the draft.

2. The Titans already have a bunch of young, inexperienced wide receivers (Roydell

Williams, Brandon Jones, Chris Davis, Biren Ealy and Paul Williams). Drafting one or more receivers in the 2008 draft will only add to that number. Also, Tennessee has a few

older ones who aren’t explosive (Eric Moulds, Justin Gage, Mike Williams and David Givens).

I predict two of the young receivers and two of the old receivers will not be on Tennessee’s game one roster in September.

Tennessee needs an explosive, veteran free agent receiver. Randy Moss is a remote possibility, but Bernard Berrian, Andre Davis, Bryant Johnson and Donte Stallworth are more realistic options. The Titans might have to consider trading for a player like Javon Walker, who is supposedly unhappy in Denver.

Next Week: Gone Fishin’

The Titans are done. I’ll be watching my second favorite team (until the 2008 season starts), the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they try and beat my least favorite team, the New England Patriots.

62

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

Maybe it’s a good thing Tennessee lost today. New England might have scored 70 points against them on Saturday.

Next Year

The Titans should be proud. They are a year ahead in their rebuilding schedule thanks to Vince Young’s inspiring 2006 season and the Titans superb defensive performance in 2007. Once they sign some playmakers on offense and get Pacman Jones back on defense (I’ve said all along he’ll be back with Tennessee in 2008), the Titans will win 11 regular season games help VY get his first playoff victory.

Go Titans!

Watch video highlights of the Titans-Chargers game by clicking here.

January 17, 2008

After the Tennessee Titans fired offensive coordinator Norm Chow on Tuesday, I thought it would be great if the team could develop a Denver Broncos-style offense, characterized by a strong running game and a passing game in which the quarterback frequently rolls out of the pocket to make plays with his arm or his feet.

I got my wish.

Today, the Titans hired Mike Heimerdinger, who was Denver’s assistant head coach, to lead the offense. Heimerdinger was formerly Tennessee’s offensive coordinator from 2000 to 2004.

I am an armchair quarterback and would not dare assume to know what it takes to be a

good offensive coordinator. I do know there were occasions during last season in which I

63

Titans Tracker: 2007 Tennessee Titans

questioned Norm Chow’s playcalling. Hopefully Heimerdinger can tutor Vince Young and help the Titans offense score more points.

Also, most media and fans tend to focus only on the quarterback’s performance and, therefore, are under the false impression that Vince Young regressed in 2007. Fact: Vince Young threw more interceptions than touchdowns, but, given his experience and the lack of playmakers on his side of the ball, he made significant steps forward as a passer and convinced me once and for all he has what it takes to be a successful NFL quarterback.

It takes a lot of components to build a winning team and a potent offense. A good quarterback is only one piece of the puzzle. The Titans management recognizes this and hired a coach who can taylor an offense around a phenomenal athlete and call plays in a way that would please head coach Jeff Fisher: lots of running and play action passing.

Good luck, coach Heimerdinger.

February 11, 2008

Despite three field goals from Titans kicker Rob Bironas, the AFC could not contain Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens. The AFC lost 30-42 to the NFC.

Kyle Vanden Bosch had two tackles for the AFC; Albert Haynesworth had one tackle.

Click here for photos of the Titans at the Pro Bowl. Most of the pictures feature Bironas.

The 2007 season has now ended. The new season starts next week as the National Invitation Camp, otherwise known as the NFL Combine, takes place in Indianapolis.