By Jeff Goldberg
Cold, Hard Football Facts Porn 'Stache Expert
One yard. That's how close Jeff Fisher came to winning a Super Bowl in Tennessee back in 2000. He got there with a mobile quarterback, a star running back and a porn 'stache.
Fisher thought he had it all again in 2010. Certainly, Chris Johnson was a much better version of Eddie George, and the 'stache showed no signs of graying. But the quartback ... Fisher knew Steve McNair, worked with Steve McNair. Steve McNair was a friend of his. And Vince Young, you were no Steve McNair.
At one point, the Titans were 5-2 and seemed poised to make a run at another Super Bowl, another chance to go that extra yard. Then Young imploded in epic fashion, and the team followed suit. And that was it for Fisher, who spent Super Bowl Sunday as an unemployed man.
Vaya Con Dios, Jeff Fisher. May your trimmer always be sharp.
The 2010 Storyline: They had a big Johnson, but mostly fired blanks.
The Vital Signs
2010 record: 6-10 (22.2 PPG – 21.2 PPG)
Last five seasons overall: 45-35 (.563)
All Quality Stats
Defensive Passing YPA: 15th
Quarterback Rating: 18th
Defensive Quarterback Rating: 19th
Relativity Index: 13th
Statistical curiosity of 2010
Over their first eight games, the Titans were as opportunistic as any team in the NFL, forcing 19 turnovers, while committing just 13. Seven of those turnovers came in one game (Week 2 vs. Pittsburgh) and they committed none in four others. But in their eight games after the bye week, everything changed. The Titans committed 16 turnovers, with at least one in each of their final eight games, while forcing just six.
Best game of 2010
34-27 victory at Dallas (Week 5). A lot of things went right for the Titans in the first half of the season, and against the Cowboys, there were both lucky and good. Good, in that Young threw for a pair of touchdowns with no turnovers, Johnson rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 3:28 left, and the defense forced six sacks and three turnovers, despite allowing a season-high 511 yards. And the lucky: After tying the score late, the Cowboys were called for excessive celebration, pushing back the kickoff to the 15-yard line and setting up a long return that set up Johnson's winning score.
Worst games of 2010
19-16 OT loss vs. Redskins (Week 11). The wheels were already starting to come off in Nashville, as the Titans entered the game on a two-game losing streak after their 5-2 start. But what happened during –and after – this grisly defeat was the dagger to the season. Vince Young, who had been replaced at QB the game before against Miami, injured his thumb late in the third quarter, and when Fisher wouldn't put him back in, Young tossed his helmet and shoulder pads into the crowd, which booed him. The Titans eventually lost in OT and Young bolted the team after arguing with Fisher in the locker room. Young's season was over, and with five more losses in their final six games, so too were the Titans.
Efficiency. Despite the presence of Chris Johnson, who rushed for over 1,300 yards in a follow-up to his monster 2009 season, the Titans' offense was hardly a thing of beauty, especially with a crippled passing attack. But the made the most of what little they had, ranking third in the league in Scoreability, generating 356 points off 4,384 yards for an index of 13.58. Only the Patriots and Falcons did better. The Titans and Raiders were the only teams in the top 11 in Scoreability not to make the playoffs.
More impressively, and surprisingly, the Titans were one of just six teams that ranked in the Top 10 in both Scoreability and Bendability. The others were the 14-2 Patriots, the 13-3 Falcons, the NFC title-contender Bears, the AFC power Ravens and the AFC champion Steelers.
And only New England (No. 1 in Scoreability, No. 4 in Bendability) and Atlanta (No. 2 in Scoreability, No. 5 in Bendability) ranked higher overall in combined efficiency than the Titans (No. 3 in Scoreability, No. 7 in Bendability).
Efficiency usually = winning. But not with the Titans in 2010. It was a curious statistical situation for a curious team.
Passing game. Young made it work in the second half of 2009, but he never clicked in 2010, even as the Titans were winning games early. Young had just one passing game over 200 yards in his abbreviated season. Bringing in Randy Moss did nothing to help either. The lack of a downfield threat impacted Johnson in the second half of the season, as the Titans were held under 75 yards rushing six times over their final 10 games.
The pass defense was a problem, too: the Titans were No. 21 in Defensive Passer Rating – their worst Quality Stat; No. 29 in passing yards allowed (4,305) and No. 31 in pass completion percentage allowed (65.65%). You can't win in the NFL if you can't stop the pass. And, for all the criticism of the QB position, Tennessee was torched badly in the passing game.
General off-season strategy/overview
Bud Adams shook up his team like a snow globe, replacing Fisher with Mike Munchak and bringing in new offensive and defensive coordinators. With the eighth pick in the draft, the Titans seem to be leaning toward defensive wrecker Nick Fairley, but given the woes at quarterback, don't be shocked to see a Jake Locker selection here. The Titans are in desperate need of help in the secondary, too.
Totally premature 2011 diagnosis
Things ended so badly last season, it's hard to remember this was a team that won 31 games the previous three seasons. And if the offense can restore Johnson to his 2009 level, and the defensive can find its 2008 form (when it allowed just 14.6 PPG), the Titans could make some noise again in the AFC South, this time on the field. But that's asking a lot out of a first-year coach searching for an answer at QB.