His Tennessee Titans poster full of autographs, Tim Davis said what most fans gathered for the NFL team's annual caravan stop in Chattanooga were thinking Tuesday evening.

"I'm hoping they'll continue the momentum they had at the end of last year," he said outside Logan's Roadhouse near Hamilton Place. "I think they can get back to the playoffs this season."

The Titans missed the playoffs last season, of course. Having posted the best-regular season mark in the AFC in 2008, they lost their first six games in 2009 before their off-week arrived.

The last of those, a 59-0 no-show in snowy New England on Oct. 18, had more than a few folks wondering if Titans coach Jeff Fisher would last the season.

"We had a meeting the next day," said second-year defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, then a rookie from Auburn. "I thought Coach was probably going to take a couple of days away from our off week. Instead, he told us to get away from football for the week. Go home, see our families, forget about the first six games."

Added then-rookie wide receiver Kenny Britt: "He told us, 'Don't turn on ESPN; don't watch football, period. Get as far away from it as possible.'"

When the Titans returned a week later to prepare for their Nov. 1 home game against Jacksonville, Fisher had a different message.

"He said, 'We're not letting the season go,'" recalled Britt, who started six games last year and played in all 16. "He said, 'We can be the first team in NFL history to start 0-6 and go to the Super Bowl.'"

It didn't work out that way. But the Titans did win eight of their last 10 to finish 8-8 and build the kind of momentum that had the fans lined up outside Logan's for more than two hours to catch a glimpse of Marks, Britt and Mike Keith, the Voice of the Titans who spent part of his childhood in East Brainerd.

"We rediscovered who we were," Keith said of the final 10 games. "The thing that bothered everybody the most about September and October was that we had no identity. Sometimes that identity is hard to find. We found that identity in August in 2008 and we started out 10-0 and went 13-3.

"Last year it took us until November to rediscover who we were, to understand that this is what we do, we're going to go do it to the best of our ability, and if we do that we'll win."

No one seemed to grasp that better than quarterback Vince Young, who spent much of the 2008 season on the sideline as veteran Kerry Collins guided the Titans into the playoffs. At that point many believed the team would trade Young -- the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft -- and pick another quarterback in last year's draft or next week's draft.

But a funny thing happened during last year's off week. Fisher benched Collins in favor of Young, who finished the season with 10 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a career-best passer rating of 82.8.

"A quick story about Vince," Keith said. "We asked him to lead off the Caravan this year. He was asked to be there at 7:45 Monday morning. He was there at 7:25. He did two school programs for us. He signed over 1,500 autographs. And he was as good at the end of the day as he was at the start.

"Vince really gets it now. He's becoming comfortable with every level of the job. I really believe he's going to have a great career from here on out."

Young isn't the only reason to feel better about the Titans. Keith spoke of Marks hitting the weightroom every day in January and February, which is normally considered down time. He spoke similarly of Britt's dedication to training.

All of this was certainly music to the ears of super fan Davis, who wore a Titans blue T-shirt to the caravan stop.

"I think Vince is starting to live up to his potential," he said. "He really silenced his critics last year. He gave us something we can build on."

And more than a scant reason to believe that this season will look much more like last season's final 10 games than its first six.

Next Article

Koronka example to mates

Previous Article

Smokies rout Lookouts