I was 10 years old the first time the Baltimore Ravens caused me pain as sports fan. The season before was a magical one. It’s when I became a fan. A run all the way to the Super Bowl. “This is what being a fan of an NFL team feels like?” That thought entered my young mind countless times that season. It was magical. The Super didn’t end up how we wanted, but we’d be back, right?
The 2000 season was just as fun as the previous one, if not more so. It’s probably the year that really hooked me into life long fandom of the Titans. The 99 year was magical, but 2000 showed me that it wasn’t fools gold. It showed me that the experience I had in 99 wasn’t isolated. Football was fun.
Numerous former Titans, including then head coach Jeff Fisher have admitted that the 2000 Titans team was better than the one that went to the big game. They had more experience. They were battle-tested. They KNEW they were going back to the Super Bowl, and they were going to win it this time. They were the team of destiny.
The Titans finished 13-3 in 2000 and had one of the best defenses in the league. They won 13 of their last 15. Their only losses after the opener came to Jacksonville and… Baltimore. But still, they also beat the Ravens once that year and it’s widely accepted that they were a better team. They checked most of the boxes against the Ravens including the most important one, quarterback. No wild card weekend that year for the Titans. They earned a first-round bye and were rested and ready. They only needed two wins to get back to the Super Bowl and fulfill their destiny.
Moving to 2003. The Titans had their chance for revenge on wild card weekend. They were headed for a salary cap purge in the offseason and knew it was their last chance at a good postseason run before the roster had to be blown up. Steve McNair won the NFL MVP that season along with Peyton Manning. In one of the sweetest victories in Titans history, the Titans seemed to have exorcised the demon that was the Baltimore Ravens. Eddie George dislocated his shoulder and willed his way through the game, meeting Ray Lewis in a hole and getting up to let him know that the Titans were there and were going to take back everything the Ravens had stolen from them. It was a euphoric win, but didn’t mean much in the long run. The Titans were ousted by the Patriots the following week after the infamous Drew Bennett drop.
But the Ravens? That was ancient history. The Ravens mattered no more. They had been conquered.
No one really expected the season the Titans had in 2008. They made the playoffs in 2007 but were beat handily by the chargers and there were some questions at the quarterback position. Vince Young was the guy but lost some of the magic he had in his rookie season in 2006. VY got hurt and Kerry Collins came in to lead the Titans to their third 13-3 season since rebranding (take your medicine on that one Jeff Fisher haters). But that season wasn’t about the quarterback. It was about their new rookie phenom running back Chris Johnson and their incredibly nasty defense. Led by Albert Hayneworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch upfront, the Titans front 7 dominated. They were a nasty bunch, and that seemed like it would translate well in the tournament. They lost three of their last six but still secured the number one seed and their path to the Super Bowl went straight through Nashville.
The Ravens won again in a destiny-like fashion. The Titans fumbled twice while they were in striking distance and Chris Johnson–who was dominating early– was taken out of the game by some questionable hits from the Ravens defense. The Ravens were back, and this the Titans wouldn’t see the postseason again until 2017.
So while last week was euphoric– and beating the defending Super Bowl champions is cause for great celebration– to many of us, this week just means more. They’ve taken our joy in times of great optimism. They’ve crushed our thoughts and dreams of holding up the Lombardi trophy more than once. It’s all fun and games…