There has not been a more disrespected No. 1 seed heading into the NFL Playoffs in recent memory than the 2021-2022 Tennessee Titans. The Titans are coming off of the most physically demanding regular season in NFL history with 17 games. If that is not enough, Tennessee finished the 17-game grind having used 91 different players on its active roster. Injuries to star players such as Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and Taylor Lewan amongst many others, caused more than a few national media talking heads to write the Titans off early in the season. Even after winning 12 games and securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC, there are still doubters claiming that the Titans are the worst No. 1 seed of all time.
Titans going to be worst #1 seed since ___?
In a related note, Vrabel is Coach of the Year.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) January 2, 2022
Look, the Titans have not had the most impressive season from a statistical standpoint. Finishing 15th in PPG (24.6) and 6th in scoring defense (20.8 PPG) is not too shabby considering the injury hoops the team had to jump through all season. There really weren’t any eye popping games or unexpected stars that rose from the ashes of the Titans depleted roster after Henry went down in Week 8’s win over the Indianapolis Colts. But worst No. 1 seed ever? Give me a damn break.
This is a stat-driven era of football. With new analytics and statistical categories seemingly popping up each year, it has become easier for sidewalk fans and lazy pundits to sit back and gaze upon the box scores and game logs each week and form an opinion on players and teams alike. But to box the Titans in with some of the worst No. 1 seeds since the turn of the century doesn’t sit well with Tennessee’s fanbase.
And rightfully so.
The Titans are the seventh team to lock down the top seed in their conference with just 12 wins since 2000. The only instance in which a top seed won fewer than a dozen games came all the way back in 2002 with the Oakland Raiders (11-5). That team was led by MVP QB Rich Gannon who spent the season throwing to Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter. However, they fell short in the Super Bowl to Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not only was that Raiders team loaded on offense, but the defense included Charles Woodson, Ron Woodson, and Bill Romanowski.
12 wins on the season‼️
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 10, 2022
The two worst 12-win teams to win their respective conferences are the 2000 New York Giants and the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles.
New York Giants (2000)
Quarterbacked by Kerry Collins, the Giants put just two players in the Pro Bowl (RG Ron Stone and LB Jessie Armstead). New York lacked weapons on the offensive side of the ball as Amani Toomer led the team in receiving with 1,094 yards and Tiki Barber finished atop the squad in rushing yards with 1,006. Like the Titans, the Giants also finished 15th in scoring offense, but the Michael Strahan-led defense was amongst the tops in the NFL. Despite the lack of playmakers, the Giants made it all the way to the Super Bowl before coming up short to the Baltimore Ravens.
Philadelphia Eagles (2003)
The 2003 Eagles team finished 11th in scoring offense (23.4 PPG) and seventh in scoring defense (17.9). QB Donovan McNabb was the only offensive player to make the Pro Bowl while defensive starters Corey Simon and Troy Vincent were also invited out to Hawaii. After winning the Divisional Round game against Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers, the Eagles were eliminated in the NFC Championship Game by the eventual Super Bowl runner up, the Carolina Panthers.
While the Titans are sending just one player to the Pro Bowl in Kevin Byard, injuries to Henry, Brown, and Lewan likely kept them from the annual exhibition in Hawaii. It can be argued that the Titans had one of the worst rosters throughout the regular season in recent history, but to say that this Titans team, which has now returned a solid majority of its key players and is expected to have the best running back in the league back for the AFC Divisional Round, is asinine. In some ways too much importance is placed on analytics, but it must be remembered that even numbers need context sometimes.
#Titans worked their ass off for that #1 seed. A lot of teams would have folded after their best player went down. Mike Vrabel had his team stay the course through adversity and now the road to the Super Bowl goes through Nashville, TN in the AFC.
— Zach Bingham (@Bada_Bingham) January 9, 2022
Featured image courtesy of George Walker IV – The Tennessean