The Titans did win the AFC South on Sunday with a 34–31 overtime victory over the Colts. They have now opened a three-game barrier between themselves and second place, along with a head-to-head tiebreaker over Indianapolis, heading into one of the most generous end-of-season schedules in the NFL. Barring some sort of massive knockdown, they will win the division for the second year in a row and make the playoffs for the third season in a row.
And while that may not seem like an incredible feat in 2021, given that they rest atop the NFL’s smoothest division with a couple of self-destructive franchises circling the drain below them, it’s unbelievable when you consider the route they traversed. to reach. there.
Derrick Henry had just 68 yards on Sunday, which is a relatively minor number for the leader, which helps amplify the point: There may not be many teams in the NFL built as well as the Titans, or in a more unique way. On Sunday alone, they won on the strength of two interceptions, one that was for a touchdown and one that occurred deep in the opponent’s territory toward the end of overtime.
His rise from the definition of a mid-club to an AFC dominant stalwart gives hope to any drifting franchise that starts anew without any of the traditional tentacles of a championship contender. His quarterback was a burning first-round pick, initially brought in to back his own burning first-round pick. His offense is largely generated, but not exclusively limited to, a downhill running game starring a running back who has missed just two games since 2016 despite taking the hardest hit from each defender in an effort to knock him down. . His best receiver was believed to be a concession award at the end of a receiver-rich first round. Only one of his starting offensive linemen was selected in the draft by the current general manager. His best defensive player is a third-round player from Middle Tennessee State. (Answer key: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, Henry, AJ Brown, Nate Davis, Kevin Byard.)
We can craft any narrative we want about the mystical energy conjured up by their head coach and his demeanor on the bench, or again, fall back on the fact that they have two games every year against the Jaguars and the Texans, which is a bit like Alabama. schedule an extra opponent with TO nailed to the end of his name. But the truth is, the Titans are kind of a beautiful, perpetual work in progress. His build up to this point has been scattered from the traditional NFL standard, which calls for you to select a rookie quarterback, set him up quickly, populate the roster while you still have a rookie contract, and pay the best price for the elite talent you get. can make up the difference. around him.
In Tennessee, no player assumes more than 7% of the salary cap. No player’s base salary exceeds $ 11 million. Highly selected players are routinely discarded and not subject to the kind of political pampering other GMs adhere to to reinforce their legacy as talent scouts.
In many ways, they have tried some of the best ideas in recent history without forcing themselves down a singular path. They’re a bit like the top Seahawks teams, but without the homegrown, developed quarterback. They have a classic Patriots flavor, but without the fundamental draw for the best head coach in NFL history.
And right now, they are winners of four in a row. Had it not been for one of the most puzzling setbacks of the season, an overtime loss to the Jets, they would not have lost a game since Week 1 to the Cardinals, arguably the best team in football this week.
The best part about this, of course, is that it challenges other midsize franchises to improve their game. The Titans did not regard their (relative) strengths at the beginning of this rebuild as a box of duct tape, paper clips, and other strewn debris. They clearly saw something that we all didn’t see and relied on a talented group of coaches to put it in motion.
They are more than Henry. They are more than Brown and more than Tannehill. They are, at the moment, an enigma for the rest of the NFL to try to stop and an example of how to put together a lot of seemingly disjointed parts.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.