Why the 2014 Tennessee Titans are today’s version of the 1990 Patriots

1990 New England Patriots

The Titans are 2-13. They’re a total mess. They have no coaching, no offense, no defense, and their special teams are “meh”. After talking with a Titans fan over dinner during the summertime, she seemed eager about the 2014 season. A fan of Tennessee since they moved there in 1999, she was convinced that 2014 would be a turnaround season after several mediocre .500 or below seasons. She insisted that the Titans were going to go to the playoffs, acquiring free agents such as Michael Oher and Dexter McCluster. In a view of things to come, I turned to her daughter and asked, “Who’s Dexter McCluster?”

She replied with: “Exactly.”

Since then, the team hasn’t done anything right and really should be 1-14. Their other win came against Jacksonville, who thought it would be a good idea to try a 55-yard, 3rd down field goal with :09 left in the game as opposed to running a quick sideline out to stop the clock and give kicker Josh Scobee a little more wiggle room. Instead, the line-drive kick was blocked, and it’s the last time the Titans have won.

The 1990 Patriots finished 1-15, scoring 181 points and giving up 446. The Titans, after 15 games, have scored 244, much more than the ’90 Pats even after one less game, but they’ve given up 411 and have the 30th ranked defense in the league, one that actually is last in points allowed. In order for Tennessee to finish with a worse statistical defense than the Patriots, Tennessee needs to give up at least 36 points to Indianapolis. Considering this is a unit that allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to pass for 6 touchdowns, it doesn’t seem too far off.

The similarities between the two teams started creeping into my mind yesterday, so much so that I decided I should write about it. So here we go, this is why the Titans are like the 1990 Patriots. It sounds crazy, but bear with me.

In terms of quarterbacks, it’s the most strikingly similar area for the two teams. The Titans might have better statistical guys, but look at what they have. Tennessee has an injury-prone draft bust in Jake Locker – something the Patriots had in Marc Wilson, a guy drafted by the Raiders who had become a failed project. He was traded to the Patriots, but not before breaking his throwing hand and separating his left shoulder. He played with these injuries all year.

Charlie Whitehurst and Steve Grogan serve as the old guys who really aren’t very good anymore. Whitehurst has been a career backup (literally, his nickname is Clipboard Jesus), and although he’s thrown for 5 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, all of them have been garbage time touchdowns and the interceptions were critical, particularly against Cleveland earlier this year.

Finally, Zach “In-N-Out” Mettenberger and Tommy Hodson round out the group as the young, strong-armed prospects who are just bums.

In terms of a running game, comparing John Stephens to Bishop Sankey would be rude to Stephens, who was actually a very talented player. However, both Sankey and Stephens were/are forced to play behind bad offensive lines for teams that pass too much. Stephens carried the ball 212 times for 808 yards and 2 touchdowns in his season, while Sankey has had 148 carries for 551 yards and also 2 touchdowns. Stephens’ 3.8 yards-per-carry average is right on the dot with Sankey’s 3.7. The two teams have rushed for 1,305 yards (Titans) and 1,398 yards (Patriots). Both rushing offenses couldn’t produce touchdowns, as New England scored only 4 all year, while Tennessee has scored 6.

The receivers are pretty much the same: both teams had one talented guy (Tennessee’s Delanie Walker and New England’s Irving Fryar) and then a bunch of luminaries who don’t do much. Walker has 847 yards receiving while Fryar finished with 856.

The defenses on both teams were and are horrible. Although New England’s defense had an easier time with stopping the pass but couldn’t stop the run, Tennessee’s yards given up for both areas have equaled out. After 16 games, the Patriots had given up 3,021 passing yards and 2,676 rushing yards. Tennessee after 15 has given up 3,459 passing yards and 2,131 rushing yards. The Titans’ 5,590 total yards given up are nearly identical to New England’s 5,697. The two teams’ sack and interception numbers are almost the same as well: The Patriots sacked opposing quarterbacks 33 times and intercepted 14 passes, while the Titans have recorded 38 sacks and picked off 12 passes.

In terms of ownership and coaching, I’m not sure you can compare Viktor Kiam to anyone, but ownership did a poor job drafting and signing free agents. Remember the two guys my resident Titans fan was excited about? Michael Oher is now on injured reserve, while his quarterbacks have been sacked 46 times in 15 games. Dexter McCluster, meanwhile, has fewer rushing yards than Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene and Jake Locker, who has only started 5 games because of injury. McCluster’s 3.3 yards-per-carry average ranks as the third-lowest on the team, with the worst and second-worst combining for only 9 rushing attempts. Until last week, McCluster had more fumbles (2) than touchdowns (1).

The coaches aren’t in the same tree, but the Patriots’ Rod Rust and the Titans’ Ken Whisenhunt are both rookie head coaches who did an awful job in their first seasons with the team. Rust was fired after 1990, which I don’t think will happen to Whisenhunt, but their lack of leadership and total ineptitude of their team on both sides of the ball is eerily similar.

If the Titans lose next week, we all know what this means:

Roger Goodell 2

A first overall draft pick, just like the Patriots, but hopefully the Titans won’t trade theirs away to the Cowboys for a few unnecessary players.

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