this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Tennessee stays course; its winning provides good lesson Wednesday March 31, 2004 By Jeff Dunan Staff writer PALM BEACH, FLA. -- Remember the 1999 Tennessee Titans? In many ways, they looked a lot like the 2004 Saints. The similarities are ...
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Tennessee stays course; its winning provides good lesson
Wednesday March 31, 2004
By Jeff Dunan
PALM BEACH, FLA. -- Remember the 1999 Tennessee Titans?
In many ways, they looked a lot like the 2004 Saints.
The similarities are striking:
Energetic "players' coaches" with defensive backgrounds;
Strong-armed, oft-criticized young quarterbacks just entering their primes;
Mounting pressure to win after three consecutive seasons of playoff-less football.
Those Titans went 8-8 in each of the 1996, 1997 and 1998 seasons before breaking out in 1999 with a 13-3 record and a berth in Super Bowl XXXV.
The Saints, who have struggled to consecutive finishes of 7-9, 9-7 and 8-8, are facing similar pressures and hoping for similar results. In fact, front-office executives often cite Tennessee's success as a model for their current game plan to stay the course and avoid wholesale changes in the wake of three consecutive disappointing seasons.
"The thing that helped us through all that troubled time, the only thing we had to hold on to, was what we believed in," Titans general manager Floyd Reese said. "If nothing else, to be able to go through and survive it furthered our belief that what we were doing was working."
The pressure to win, however, was tangible, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. The local media and an impatient fan base made it clear that he and others faced a make-or-break season.
"It was time," said Fisher, whose 10-year tenure ranks second among the NFL's 32 head coaches. "It was time to get to the playoffs. But our philosophy was not to get to the playoffs, but stay in the playoffs. Had we not gotten to the playoffs, yes, there probably would have been some changes, and that probably would have included myself."
Titans officials, though, were confident in their philosophy and that the team was improving each season, even if the record didn't show it. Before the string of 8-8 marks, the Titans had gone 7-9 in 1995 and 2-14 in 1994.
"That's when you have to avoid letting circumstances affect your attitude," Fisher said.
Even with the Super Bowl berth in 2000, Fisher said the pressure only dissipated temporarily. He remembers the mounting pressure after his seventh team started the 2002 season at 1-4 and owner Bud Adams criticized it for being "outcoached" after a humbling home loss to Washington.
"One of the challenges we had at 1-4 was, do we change something that we're doing, are we doing something wrong?" Fisher said. "Because if you are and you do change, what you're saying is the things you were doing in the past were not correct. You begin to doubt your philosophy."
The 2002 Titans reeled off five consecutive victories after the poor start and lost once in their final 11 games to finish 11-5 and atop the AFC South Division.
"We didn't change," Fisher said. "We just kept doing what we were doing. We got on a winning streak, and I was asked what did I do differently. But if I had done something differently, people would have been asking why we didn't do A, B and C in Week 1."
Patience, Reese said, is in short supply around the NFL these days. The pressure to win and earn a playoff spot is greater than ever. More teams are ditching rebuilding plans in favor of quick-fix overhauls.
With playoff appearances in four of the past five seasons, the Titans are one of the few teams that have been able to reach the top and stay there since the start of free agency in 1993.
"It's an impatient league," Reese said. "If you ask what's the winning formula, all 32 teams will give you the same answers: a good quarterback, a good head coach, stability in the (coaching) staff, stability in the front office.
"But when it comes to time to implement them, we screw them all up. Nobody ever gives the quarterback enough time to develop, and they run him out of town. Nobody gives the coach time to get his team together, and they run him out of town. The GM has two bad drafts, and he's run out of town. It's very difficult to maintain any stability."