The Tennessee Titans are set to embark on their most anticipated season in nearly a decade when training camp opens for rookies on July 22. Winning their first playoff game since 2003 will certainly do that.
But just as important, Titans fans are clamoring for more of the team’s new look….
And I’m not just talking about the sleek new uniforms.
Yes, the new jersey combinations commemorating the team’s 20th season in Nashville are nice, but their new look expands far beyond that.
For starters, the Titans are one of just a few teams in the history of the NFL that completely overhauled their coaching staff after a successful playoff run the prior year.
Mike Mularkey is out, and so is the exotic smash mouth identity that fizzled last season just as quickly as it rose to prominence in 2016.
Enter new head coach Mike Vrabel, who is looking to be just as successful in his first stint at the job as the man who hand-picked him, general manager Jon Robinson.
Vrabel brought on Matt LaFleur from the Rams to modernize an offense that lacked creativity and imagination under the previous regime. The Rams were in the same situation as the Titans the year prior to LaFleur taking over, and under his guidance they finished last season as one of the league’s most prolific offenses.
While no one has seen what LaFleur’s offense will look like in Tennessee this season, the fact that it should look totally different has fans eager for a glimpse.
As with the overall offense, fans are also eager to see a new-look Marcus Mariota.
One of the primary reasons for the coaching change was the previous regime’s inability (or unwillingness) to maximize the skill sets of their franchise quarterback.
The Rams had the same issue with their franchise qb, Jared Goff, under Jeff Fisher’s coaching staff. Many wondered if the number one overall pick was a bust his rookie season.
One year later with LaFleur and Goff was a Pro Bowl selection. How can fans not be licking their chops at the possibilities for Mariota this season?
Every year there is roster turnover for every team, but Tennessee’s addition of cornerback Malcolm Butler has fans salivating to see their new-look secondary that now includes two Super Bowl champions (Butler and Logan Ryan) and last year’s break out star at safety….All Pro Kevin Byard…who led the NFL with 10 forced turnovers last season.
In a league that now encourages the areal attack, a formidable secondary could be the missing piece to a true championship contender.
Last but certainly not least, the Titans are sporting a new-look swagger. Gone are the days of the anonymous player(s) that you wouldn’t recognize in public…even in full uniform.
This rendition of the Titans are full of big personalities with…dare I say…big mouths.
Pro Bowl tackle Taylor Lewan was a lone wolf when he arrived in Nashville in 2014, but his eccentric and outspoken attitude has quickly spread throughout the locker room.
Kevin Byard called out Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders earlier this year on Twitter, after Prime left him off his list of best safeties. The combative exchange made the national media rounds, and shortly after…so did Byard.
Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews were more vocal and controversial in 2017, as was the usually mild-mannered Jurrell Casey, who exchanged fisticuffs with a Jacksonville player following their playoff-clinching victory over the Jags in the regular season finale last season.
The war of words between Casey and the Jaguars continued into the postseason, and played out over the national airwaves.
And Mariota himself, the mildest of all mild-mannered players, even showed us a glimpse of his competitive spirit and swagger after his now-infamous stiff arm over Jacksonville’s Barry Church. Not only did the play help secure a victory late in that game, but his walk-up and stare down of Church afterwards sent his teammates…and Nissan Stadium into a frenzy.
Plain and simple, this is not your father’s “goody two shoes” and often boring Tennessee Titans. This is a new era with talented young players that are confident and they know it.
And if asked…they will let you know, too.
That in itself is worth the price of admission in 2018.