Of course the season would open with the Steelers, and an away game for good measure. It doesn't hurt that they are supposed to be "down" this year , but then again when was the last time the Steelers were bad two years in a row? A win against the hard nose team would go miles for fans confidence.
The bulk of the Titans offseason talk was undoubtedly about Jake Locker. His defenders will be quick to point out the shoulder injury, questionable play calling/scheme, and a sieve for an offensive line. His detractors will hang their hat on his low completion percentage and accuracy issues that have haunted him since college. That and the mere fact that the Titans looked anemic while he was under center last year.
Are the Locker defenders being truly logical? I'm probably not if I had to be completely honest with myself. Titans fans have been down an interesting path over the past 15 years, and the truth of the matter is that we've only just begun. Most franchises and fans have been around for decades and can recount endless years of fortune as well as failure. Those that followed the team over from the Oiler days can attest to this.
The Titans short life as Tennessee's team began with a bang. Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Frank Wychek, combined with the likes of Jevon Kearse, Samari Rolle, and Blaine Bishop, took this team through winning seasons. The Titans made a Superbowl, many playoff runs, and were always a force to be reckoned with.
It wasn't just the winning that won the fans over, but it was who was doing it and the way they went about it. The Titans were about grit and determination and reliability. They were consistent if not flashy to the point where some even grew bored with their methodical winning ways.
In the post Floyd Reese salary cap purge era, Titans fans have been strung along a roller coaster of seasons, winning and losing, highs and lows. From the magical Vince Young led second half comeback over the Giants to the whiteout blizzardy 59-0 beating by the Patriots. From suicide watches to a 13-3 regular season, only to be sent home by the Ravens with two untimely redzone fumbles at home in the divisional round of the playoffs. Highs and lows. Anything but stable.
Jamal Black, from Titans Report, had a good article on the nostalgia associated with his Eddie George bobble-head. His words on paper (or computer screen) awakened a recognition inside of me along parallel lines. I suddenly knew why I wanted Jake Locker to be good so desperately.
I need a hero. (Cue Bonnie Tyler)
I was a champion for Vince Young for years longer than I should have been. I must admit that his relationship with Steve McNair played a small role in this. I held onto his abilities and overlooked the negatives. I constantly defended Young and would point out how amazingly accurate he was with the deep ball. I blamed Norm Chow and others for not letting him play his game. I eventually conceded to reality around the time he threw his pads in the stands and sulked off the field.
Are Locker defenders doing the same. Is the desire to have him be good shading our judgement? Or is 12 starts on a dysfunctional team truly not enough of a sample size?
Kerry Collins took the team to 13-3, but I must admit there was no true love for the quarterback. He was a seasoned professional, a hired hit-man, doing what he was supposed to do.
Chris Johnson is one of the most prolific backs to ever play the game. He may even be the best football player to wear a Titans uniform. But he's not the best "Titan" of all time.
It's been a long time since Titans fans had a hero. Jake Locker has the mindset, the will power and the want to. He has the drive and the grit and the heart. He has all the physical tools and then some to be a prominent player in the NFL. He just has to put it all together this coming year and make it work. Lord knows I don't care how, just make it work.
As I play psychiatrist with myself, I figure this is why I am so defensive about Locker. Sure he's shown flashes of great ability. He definitely has all the admirable traits of a leader. And yes he's reminiscent of Steve McNair, my all time favorite football player, but it goes beyond all this.
Deep down inside, I need a hero.
"Everyone -- everyone -- wants to see him succeed,...Jake legitimately cares about whatever person he's talking to, and we all see it. He genuinely cares about their well-being. Not just players. Anybody. If he's talking to you, he cares about you. And as a result, everyone cares about him." - Rusty Smith