A few short years ago the Tennessee Titans were a nameless, faceless franchise with no identity and no tangible plan for the future. They were the epitome of a small market team that seemed content with just being in the league.
High draft picks weren’t panning out and quality free agents never stuck around after visiting Nashville.
There was no real home field advantage to speak of as Nissan Stadium had deteriorated to the point of becoming a vacation destination for opposing fans to cheer their teams to victory.
By the end of the 2014 season, fan support had dwindled to a near all-time low.
But that all changed when Amy Adams Strunk took over as the controlling owner of the team in March 2015. A couple of months later the Titans selected quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick.
And at that moment the team started the process of shedding their small-market mentality.
With a bankable name and face of the franchise set in place with Mariota, the Titans reached deep into their pockets to build around their budding superstar…both on and off the field.
For starters, Adams Strunk gave the entire facility a state of the art facelift from top to bottom. One that would be aesthetically pleasing to the eyes of potential free agents. The renovation continued this season with the training room, giving the Titans one of the best facilities in all of football.
Upgrades were also made to Nissan Stadium to enhance the fan’s in-game experience, even down to a new vendor for concessions after receiving multiple complaints about the previous one.
And for this year’s training camp the Titans have installed bleachers for the fans so they won’t have to stand in the Nashville summer heat for hours on end just to get an autograph from their favorite player.
And speaking of autographs, the team has also announced that more players will made available this year after practices to sign memorabilia.
On the field the Titans are flying in the face of conventional small market wisdom by retaining their best players.
Tight end Delanie Walker and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey were the only Titans to earn Pro Bowl honors in each of the last two seasons. Walker was rewarded with a contract extension last season, and today Casey received a four-year extension that netted him 40 million dollars in guaranteed money.
What’s promising about those moves (if you’re a Titans fan) is that it takes two to tango and both were eager to remain with the franchise….which doesn’t happen often for teams that have had few wins and fewer opportunities to play in front of a national audience the last several years.
The Titans are also bucking the small market trend of not attracting quality free agents.
Since Adams Strunk took over the Titans have signed Brian Orakpo, Rishard Matthews, Ben Jones, Andre Johnson, Eric Decker, and two-time Super Bowl champion Logan Ryan.
All of these players enjoyed success prior to arriving in Nashville, and all of these players had offers from other teams.
And while running back DeMarco Murray was acquired via trade in 2016, there was interest on both sides to bring him on board. He landed in Nashville a happy camper, and immediately took on the role of locker room leader and field general.
No, the Titans will not have the biggest stadium in the NFL any time in the near future. And no, they will not have multiple appearances on Sunday Night Football this season.
But with that said, there’s no arguing the fact that the Tennessee Titans are no longer grouped with fellow small market teams that garner no attention.
At least for now, they are the darlings of the NFL, the trendy pick to breakthrough this season. And if you are a long-suffering fan of the franchise, that’s all you can ask for.