I know this hurts...it was meant to.
This weekend Jeff Fisher and the Tennessee Titans return to what was once deemed their "second home field". Fisher's comments were further insult to injury as they were uttered after the Titans won the AFCCG 33-14 back in 2000. I was at that game and I vividly remember the complete disgust I felt watching them hoist the trophy.
Rivalries are the cornerstone of sports: Browns\Steelers, Cowboys\Redskins, Chiefs\Raiders, Buckeyes\Wolverines, Florida\Tennessee, Florida St.\Miami(to name a few). They not only rally the fan base but they also play a big role in establishing a tradition the team can feed off.
Jim Tressel understood this when he took over as the Ohio St. coach. Lane Kiffin used beating Florida as a rallying cry. George Allen was quite vocal in his hatred for the Cowboys. Early on Coughlin used the Steelers as the Jaguars must win game to define his team as physical.
Is it a sense of professional courtesy that JDR and WW are not leveraging the history of this rivalry to promote the game for the sake of filling the stadium? Have Jaguar fans simply lost that fire? It should not matter who has what record nor whether either team is in a position to be a playoff contender.
Maybe everyone needs to be reminded of why this stadium should be filled with passionate anti-Tennessee sentiment.
1995: Jacksonville' inaugural season. The then Houston Oilers hand the Jaguars there first ever defeat 10-3 in front of a 72,363 fans at the Gator Bowl. Four weeks later the Jaguars get their first franchise victory with a 17-16 win at Houston. The foundation is set.
1996: Houston again beats Jacksonville at home, 34-27, behind a punishing 143 yard performance from Eddie George. In the middle of a season ending 5 game winning streak, Jacksonville forces 4 turnovers while holding George to 45 yard rushing in a 23-17 victory.
Eddie George and punishing...a combination we'd come to know and loathe.
1997: With the team now known as the Tennessee Oilers, Jacksonville sweeps the season with a 30-24 victory at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and a 17-9 victory at home. The Jaguars again make the playoffs. The Oilers, still a .500 team.
More significant is that Steve McNair became the Oiler's staring QB. You can almost hear the audience scream "He is behind the door! Don't open the door!"
1998: This year, the Oilers played their home games at Vanderbilt Stadium where 2 fourth quarter field goals give the Jaguars a 27-22 victory in a sloppy game by both teams. Later in the year, the Oilers re-established their tradition of winning in Jacksonville with a 16-13 victory thanks to a 41 yard FG by Al Del Greco with 4 seconds left. Still, Jacksonville finishes first and makes the playoffs. The Oilers are still a .500 team.
1999: And so it begins. They finish the season 14-2. They lose in the AFCCG. All 3 loses to the now Tennessee Titans. In week 3 Jacksonville out gains the Titans 369-231 but can't get the win. Samari Rolle's interception of a Mark Brunell pass, on 3rd and goal, late in the 4th quarter seals the victory.
Week 16 would be the turning point. Knocking out Brunell early, the Titans out muscled the Jaguars with a 41-14 win, out-gaining them 476-237.
The dominance continued as the Titans shut out the Jags in the second half of the AFCCG en route to a 33-14 victory and a trip to the Super Bowl. Tennessee became the first team in NFL history to be a team three times in one season, with two of those wins coming on the road.
McNair was unstoppable, making play after play when it was needed. George simply wore down the defense, while the Jags offense looked pedestrian in the face of the aggressive Titans. Jag fans would come to expect this type of play for years to come.
2000: The run is over. At the end of the 2000 season the Titans will be 13-3; the Jags 7-9 and falling fast. In Nashville, Eddie and Steve carve up the Jaguars 27-13 in a game that was more lopsided than the score would indicate. However, in a game as close as the final stats, Mike Hollis kicks a 37 yard FG with no time left as the Jaguars get a home win 16-13.
It isn't much but we get to see the Titans lose and the team ends the year on a 4-2 run (though losing their final two). Next year, right?
2001: The final year of the AFC Central saw tradition win out. Pittsburgh and Baltimore held the top two spots while Tennessee and Jacksonville wallowed at 7-9 and 6-10 respectively. For Jacksonville, salary cap problems would continue to gut the team.
Both games were closely contested with each team getting a victory on their home turf. The Jaguars took the first game 13-6, the latter won by the Titans 28-24. What distinguished one game from the other? McNair played in Nashville. He won the game on a 1 yard run with 44 seconds left.
Steve was a consistent source of pain for the Jaguars defense and his return would signal a three year stint of misery.
2002: Welcome to the AFC South. Titans would finish first, the Jaguars third, in what would be Coughlin's last year. Jacksonville visited Tennessee in week 6 with the Titans riding a four game losing streak. This game would serve as another statement game by the Titans. The Jaguars were coming off a big win over the Eagles and stood at 3-1, poised to regain their lost glory.
Rolle knocked Brunell out of the game in the first quarter. Led by David Garrard, the Jags pulled to within two points, gaining momentum, with a late third quarter TD. The Jags needed only to stop the Titans.
Tennessee responded with a 7 minute and 36 second death march to take the lead. Garrard led the Jags down to the Tennessee 31 before throwing an interception. In the final 3:37, George would gain 9 yards on third-and-eight while McNair would gain 4 yards on a third-and-three. This was the beginning of the end for Jacksonville's season.
Back home in Jacksonville it didn't get any better. With the season now completely lost (initiated by the loss in week 6), and the Titans well on their way to the playoffs, the Jaguars were no match for the relentless Titan rushing attack. It wasn't that George was piling up long runs (17 yards was his best) in the 28-10 win, it was how he got them. Bit by bit the Jag defense was chipped at. 5 yards here, 3 yards there, 6 yards, 4 yards...All you need to know is the time of possession in both games: 22:17 - 37:43 and 24:21 - 35:39. Advant age Titans.
2003: We welcomed Jack Del Rio as the Jaguars new coach. Apart from that, nothing much changed. The Titans swept the Jaguars...again. This time 30-17 in Jacksonville and 10-3 at Tennessee. The first game began where last season left off. Down 20-10 at the half, the Jaguars again lost the time of possession battle 20:46 - 39:14. Though the defense played well in the latter loss, the offense did nothing until a late fourth quarter field goal.
The rivalry had become a joke and there was no greater indication than the game one fourth quarter drive in which the Titans held the ball for 11 minutes and 14 seconds. After the game Jack noted, "We're going to identify the guys who aren't getting it done and find guys who can, because that's embarrassing."
2004: Finally! At 9-7 the Jaguars would barely miss the playoffs (though it will be remembered for the dismal attendance in a 21-0 late season loss to the Texans). At 5-11 the Titans were the worst team in the division. Sadly, the Jaguars still couldn't manage to relish this with any dominance over the Titans. A late TD by Fred Taylor gave the Jaguars a 15-12 victory in Tennessee. However, a week 11 visit by the 3-6 Titans would end with an 18-15 loss, starting a three game losing streak for the then 6-3 Jaguars.
Once again the Titans play a major role in a season lost. A classic post game quote by Fred Taylor:
"They weren't anywhere near the type of talented team that they usually are, which is what makes this all the more sickening. No way in hell are we supposed to lose that game to that team."
2005: This was the year we believed it all had changed. Coming off a 9-7 season, the Jaguars would finish 12-4 while the Titans would end at 4-12. McNair was old an injured. Eddie George was two years removed.
The Jags would get the sweep, starting with an exciting come from behind victory at Tennessee. Byron Leftwich led them back from a 21-14 deficit in route to a 31-28 victory. Unlike past years, the Jaguars finished strong with 24 second half points.
The team then gave us a Happy New Year with a 40-13 dismantling of the Titans. It was as if years of frustration and losing burst forth as they went up 40-0 before the fourth quarter even started.
2006: It wasn't that finishing tied with the Titans at 8-8 was bad, it was everything else that surrounded it.
In their first encounter the 4-3 Jaguars again dominated the 2-5 Titans, scoring 37 points in three quarter on their way to a 37-7 win. Both teams looked to be heading in opposite directions. Then it happened...again.
Week 15 and the 8-5 Jaguars were looking to finish strong. All that was left were the Patriots, Chiefs and Titans. 10-6 looked like a sure thing. They had just humiliated the Colts 44-17 on the legs of Taylor and Drew and next was a Titans team that was on a four game win streak. Young was again turning heads.
83. 92. 61. Those were the defensive scores by the Titans. Jacksonville's fifth rated defense neutered Young and his offense but Garrard's turnovers (along with some memorable failures by Matt Jones) simply gave the game away.
No playoffs for the Jags. To make matters worse...Young got OROY.
2007: Both teams would be redefined as defensive powers. Both teams would make it to the playoffs. The rivalry became fun again. And much like the days of the past, Jacksonville simply couldn't win at home.
Surely there was no better way to start the season. The much maligned offense was given new breath as Garrard became the starting QB. The Titans were coming to town to start the season. The ghosts of Eddie George were awoken as Chris Brown shredded the Jacksonville defense for 175 yards. Tennessee held the ball almost 14 minutes longer than Jacksonville. And much like McNair once did, Young's scramble with one minute left in the third quarter proved the game winner.
The tide turned in Tennessee with Jacksonville winning 28-13. Ironically this loss ended the Titans three game win streak and start a three game losing streak. For Jacksonville it was the first win in a series that saw them go 6-2 to end the season. For the fan it was another example that Drew should've won OROY.
2008: Watching the Jaguars play in the Super Bowl was inevitable. That run would start in Nashville.
With a chance to redeem themselves from last year's opening season defeat, Jacksonville managed to actually play worse, losing 17-10. Garrard was harassed all day long, getting sacked 7 times. The offensive line ensured complete failure by giving Taylor and Drew no where to run (thought in fairness to them the injuries in just the first half were catastrophic). Maybe the biggest mistake they made was knocking Young out of the game. Kerry Collins came in and led the Titans to their final score. He went on to lead them to 10 straight wins and a league best 13-3 record.
But the pain didn't stop there. Coming off a much needed win against the Lions, the 4-5 Jaguars took a 14-3 lead into the half. McNair could've given the half time speech as Collins came out and took charge, throwing 3 TD passes. The Titans won 24-14, their 10th straight win. For Jacksonville, the loss was the first in a series of defeats that would find them 1-6 over their final seven games.
So here we are in 2009. Are we due for another bad memory? Will we be forced to look back at this game as the one in which the Titans turned their season around on the way to a Super Bowl?
The Titans have given the Jaguars and their fans enough nightmares to keep Stephen King busy for the rest of his life. I know you can still hear Fisher's words ringing in your ears and I know it makes you sick. If the details above aren't enough, here are some consolidated stats.
Series record: 12-17 Titans
At Jacksonville: 10-5 Titans
At Tennessee: 7-5 Jaguars
Season Sweeps: Jaguars 2, Titans 4
You can pretend it isn't there, but it is. You can act as if it isn't important, but you'd be deceiving yourself. These rookies need to understand that the Jaguars began against the Oilers. Their Super Bowl run was halted by the Titans. Their first ROY was stolen by the Titans. They were the more physical team when you thought that was your identity. They kept you out of the playoffs when it was inches from your mouth.
Read it again if you must. These are events you pass down to your children. When they ask you why you hate the "Stinking flaming thumb tacks", the response should be quick. If it hurts you to speak it then print this out and make them read it. As Trent Reznor wrote, "I was up above it. Now I'm down in it."
I used to be so big and strong.
I used to know my right from wrong.
I used to never be afraid.
I used to be somebody.
If they're going to call this a rebuilding year they should make a statement and start owning this rivalry.
(Thanks to Bullseye for the inspiration)