Close to the most amazing music city miracle ever, but no cigars

I’m sure the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier didn’t have NFL football in mind when he wrote them, but tonight these words of his ring true:

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Even though I have blogged how staggering the odds were against the Titans making it into the playoffs, I must admit that I never thought that it would turn out this way: That every team that was supposed to win, would EXCEPT the Titans. Reminder: Here’s what had to happen, with a strike-though of those that actually did happen:

1. Titans must beat Patriots
2. Steelers must beat Bengals
3. 49ers must beat Broncos
4. Chiefs must beat Jaguars

Today’s game against the Patriots was much closer than the ending score, 40-23, indicates (it was 26-23 in the fourth quarter), however, it was one of the most disappointing losses ever. The Titans had the chance of reversing an NFL record statistic: that no team in history has ever started 0-5 and made it into the playoffs — that record still stands. The odds were 60-1 against all the right things happening today. Except for the Titans losing, everything else fell into place. Unfortunately, that’s the way the probability gods work.

There are many things for Titans fans to cheer, however. Their final record was 8-8 — the best-case scenario even the most optimistic pundits predicted, is amazing, after being 0-5. They are an extremely young NFL team with superstars that are just beginning their careers (Vince Young and Pacman Jones). They have lots of salary cap room. They have all of the major players under contract for next season. Their coach is also signed for the coming season. Another bit of historical data: The Titans/Oilers went 8-8 for three seasons straight before the 1999 season when they finished 12-4 in the regular season and made it to the Superbowl.

One more positive thing for Titans fans. We still have someone to cheer for in the playoffs: Steve McNair who, today, added his name in the NFL annals by becoming the third quarterback in league history to top 30,000 yards passing (30,191) and 3,000 yards rushing (3,558), joining Hall of Famers Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton.

Later: One of the best things about having a blog is that sometimes, when I am searching for some past information, I run across a post like this one I wrote on November 12. That was the Sunday the Titans lost to the Ravens, 27-26. After that loss, their record was 2-7. I wrote this:

“On a positive note, the team now wearing Titans uniforms remind me of the three straight 8-8 years the team was last called the Oilers. The quarterback who is now leading the Titans reminds me of the quarterback of that team. I’m optimistic about the future of this team and its quarterback (it’s the “fan” in me). One day soon, the breaks and calls will start falling the right way.”

After that day’s loss, the Titans won six straight and finished the season 8-8.

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