Timing is everything.
And this should have been the Tennessee Titans’ time.
For years, the Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans tried to close the gap on the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. The biggest difference, of course, was that the Colts had quarterback Peyton Manning and the other three teams did not. Any gains made by any of those other teams were minimal, at best, and fleeting.
All of the sudden, with Manning unavailable this season those other three not only bypassed the Colts, they left them in their dust.
Indianapolis sank to the bottom — the murky, dark, nowhere-else-to-go-but-up bottom — and the others quickly found their places. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the final division standings were locked into place.
Now at the top of the heap — and basically unchallenged — are the Houston Texans.
They have a dominant defensive player in Mario Williams, a veteran and consistently productive quarterback in Matt Schaub and an elite wide receiver in Andre Johnson. Never mind that all of them have missed significant time with injury. They are the foundation pieces upon which the rest of that franchise stands so tall at the moment.
Had things worked the way they should have, the Titans could be — at worst — right there with them, and the entire NFL would be pointing toward the Jan. 1 game in Houston as an epic battle to shape the new order of the division.
Think about it.
Tennessee drafted a game-changing defensive player in the first round in 2005. The next year, it used its top pick on the apparent quarterback of the future.
Had things gone according to plan, Pacman Jones and Vince Young would be in the prime of their careers and the Titans would not be in the midst of the franchise’s most significant reshaping of its Nashville era.
Jones had the potential to be the type of cornerback every team covets in these pass-happy times. His speed and athleticism when he came out of West Virginia were unusual even by NFL standards. He had the added dimension of rare return skills that made every punt an adventure for opposing teams.
Then there was Young. In case anyone’s forgotten, he was Tim Tebow before Tim Tebow. He took over early in his rookie season and won games in unorthodox and often dramatic fashion — one of the most memorable being his overtime touchdown run at Houston. He was the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year and had people wondering whether the prototype of an NFL quarterback was about to change.
Quickly, they both flamed out. They were ill-equipped to handle the trappings and the scrutiny that came with being wealthy and accomplished professional football players. And let’s not even get into the efforts to draft a receiver from 2005 through 2007.
Sure, Jones and Young kick around the league to this day, but the dubious nature of their careers endures.
Young made one of the year’s dumbest comments in training camp when he called his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles, a “Dream Team” and included himself as part of the dream.
Jones, now with Cincinnati, was called for an untimely pass interference penalty two Sundays ago that helped Houston rally to win the game and the division. Afterward, a Houston player accused Jones of spitting on him.
Those things pale, though, in comparison to the shambles they made of the local franchise. It’s bad enough to miss on back-to-back first-round picks but it’s that much worse when they both were top 10 overall choices.
The Titans are still trying to recover. As a result, they missed out on a real opportunity.