A look back on a memorable 2008 season

The Titans finished with a league-best 13-3 record and made the playoffs for the sixth time in 10 seasons.
NASHVILLE, TN, Feb. 12, 2009 — A memorable 2008 season came to an end for the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Their 13-10 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens forced a premature postseason exit after one of the most successful campaigns in club history. The Titans had the NFL's best record during the regular season at 13-3, which also matched the records of the 1999 and 2000 Titans for the best mark in franchise history.


The Titans became one of 11 NFL teams since 1970 to start the season 10-0, running their regular season winning streak to 13 games with a win at Jacksonville.
In setting a franchise record by winning their first 10 regular season games – they never before had won their first four games in a season – the Titans became one of 11 NFL teams since 1970 to accomplish the feat. Including wins in the final three games of 2007, they established another organization record by winning 13 regular season games in a row.

For the second time since the AFC South was formed in 2002, the Titans won the division. They were alone in first place every week of the season, becoming only the fourth wire-to-wire sole division leader (2007 Patriots, 2004 Falcons, 1985 Rams) in the NFL's 16-game schedule era that began in 1978. Their jump to 13 wins in 2008 marked the fourth consecutive season in which they increased their victory total. Following a 4-12 campaign in 2005, they fought to an 8-8 record in 2006 and then went 10-6 in 2007.

In his season-ending press conference, head coach Jeff Fisher stated, "We stressed improvement over the last few years and I think the record reflects that we have improved. Now we need to find some way to take that next step."


Rookie Pro Bowl RB Chris Johnson helped lead the Titans to the playoffs for the sixth time in 10 years.
While their playoff run was short-lived, the Titans' journey to the postseason was noteworthy. They locked up the AFC South in Week 14 of the regular season with a victory over the Cleveland Browns, taking the team's first division crown since 2002 and the ninth in club history. They gained the conference's first seed in the playoffs with their Week 16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a year in which the franchise celebrated its 10th season as the Titans, the playoff  berth was its sixth in the last decade (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2008), the third as a division winner (2000, 2002 and 2008) and the second as the AFC's No. 1 seed (2000 and 2008). Only two teams (Indianapolis and Philadelphia) had more postseason appearances than the Titans from 1999-2008 (tied with N.Y. Giants, New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Tampa Bay).


In his 14th full season in his current post, head coach Jeff Fisher increased his career record to 133-108.
Fisher, the NFL leader among head coaches in current tenure, completed his 14th full season in his current post. Only nine other head coaches in NFL history have coached one team in more games than Fisher, who took over for the final six games of the 1994 season. The organization's all-time leader in coaching victories pushed his career record to 133-108 (.552). With the recent retirements of Mike Holmgren from Seattle and Tony Dungy from Indianapolis and the departure of Mike Shanahan from Denver, Fisher ranks second among all active head coaches in career wins behind only Bill Belichick (153). On the NFL's all-time career win list, he moved up five spots in 2008 into 22nd place, passing Sid Gillman (123), George Seifert (124), Jim Mora (125), Dick Vermeil (126) and Mike Ditka (127).

Fisher's staff in 2008 had two changes on the offensive side of the ball. Mike Heimerdinger, who previously served as the team's offensive coordinator from 2000-2004, was brought back in the same capacity. The team also hired Earnest Byner as running backs coach. Under Heimerdinger's direction, the offense enjoyed a third-overall NFL ranking in red zone scoring (62.2 percent touchdown rate), the league's seventh-highest rushing average per game (137.4 yards) and a total of 24 rushing touchdowns, which tied for the second-best total in team history. Early in the 2009 offseason, the coaching staff already has seen significant change. Former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was hired as the head coach of the Detroit Lions. His replacement is expected to be hired in the near future.


Safety Chris Hope (24) was one of eight Titans named to the Pro Bowl following a 13-3 season.
The 2008 Titans rose to an elite level despite being ranked in the NFL's bottom 10 teams in career playing experience. With 4.4 years of NFL experience per player on opening day, only eight teams averaged less than the Titans. Still, the team's roster, assembled under the direction of second-year general manager Mike Reinfeldt, included a number of players who enjoyed career years, set new benchmarks or arrived in the NFL's consciousness. Fisher observed, "This was a unique group … The personality of this team and their chemistry is special, and it's important that we maintain that because that itself gives you a chance to improve."

Eight Titans were named to the Pro Bowl, the club's highest number since 2000. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, safety Chris Hope, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, center Kevin Mawae, left tackle Michael Roos and running back Chris Johnson were announced in December as members of the AFC's all-star squad. Quarterback Kerry Collins and safety Michael Griffin were late additions to the team. Hope, Finnegan, Roos, Griffin and Johnson made the team for the first time, while Haynesworth was chosen for the second consecutive year. Mawae's seventh career Pro Bowl selection was his first as a Titan, while Collins, a late addition to the squad, was named for the second time and his first since 1996 as a Carolina Panther.

Haynesworth, Hope, Griffin and Finnegan were among the leaders of a defense that ranked seventh in the NFL and third in the AFC (293.6 yards per game). The Titans allowed their opponents to score 14.6 points per game, which ranked second in the NFL behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers. Twenty-five touchdowns were scored against the Titans, the second-lowest total behind the Steelers and the second-lowest sum in team history. Johnson, the 24th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, led the Titans with 1,228 rushing yards and was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. His yardage total ranked third in the AFC and eighth in the NFL, while his 4.9-yard average ranked first in the AFC, fourth in the NFL and sixth in franchise history. Mawae and Roos performed on an offensive line that allowed just 12 sacks. The Titans tied the Denver Broncos for the lowest total in the NFL, and the 12 sacks allowed by the Titans set a new team record for a 16-game season.


Kerry Collins passed for 2,676 yards and 12 TDs. His 80.2 passer rating was the third-highest of his career.
Among the remarkable story lines from the Titans' 2008 season, the performance of Collins materialized as one of the most significant. He began his 14th NFL season as he had the previous two years, as a back-up to Vince Young. However, upon a knee injury to Young in the season opener, Collins stepped into the lineup and started every remaining game. His 12 victories as a starter tied Steve McNair's franchise record (2000) and also matched Collins' personal high (2000 with the New York Giants). The NFL's 14th all-time leader in passing yards, Collins' 2008 statistics included 2,676 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 415 attempts. His 80.2 passer rating was the third-highest of his career.

"I was excited for the opportunity to play," Collins said. "Things change in this league, and I got the opportunity to play when I didn't think I would. I tried to make the most of it, and I thought overall, while it's hard to stomach the (playoff) loss, we can look back and know that there were some good things that happened this year."


The Titans have many decisions to make in the near future, including the status of DT Albert Haynesworth.
Putting the 2008 season behind them, Reinfeldt, Fisher and the front office staff face significant challenges in the offseason. In addition to the defense transitioning to a new coordinator, there are several personnel decisions to be made. Most immediately, there are 14 players from the 2008 roster that become unrestricted free agents on Feb. 27. Among others, the list includes Collins, Haynesworth, kicker Rob Bironas, returner/defensive back Chris Carr, nickel defensive back Vincent Fuller, punter Craig Hentrich, wide receivers Brandon Jones and Justin McCareins, tight end Bo Scaife and quarterback Chris Simms. The Titans do not have any players subject to restricted free agency, and they have just one exclusive rights free agent, linebacker Colin Allred.

On April 25-26, the Titans will add several players during the NFL Draft. As the club with the league's best record that did not appear in the Super Bowl, the Titans possess the 30th pick in the first round. Overall, they currently hold six total picks in the draft's seven rounds. Their fifth-round choice is now owned by the Dallas Cowboys as a result of a trade. Additional picks could be awarded as compensatory selections based on net unrestricted free agency losses in 2008.

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