It is just one game in the regular season, albeit against a conference opponent. It’s on the road, but so are seven others on the schedule. There is history involved. In fact, it dates all the way back to the early days of both franchises, yet it is nothing close to a rivalry.
Still, there never has been a better opportunity for Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak to step out from the shadow of his predecessor, Jeff Fisher, the longest-tenured and winningest coach in team history.
All it will take is a victory Sunday when the Titans play the San Diego Chargers.
For all that Fisher accomplished in his 15-plus seasons on the job — there was plenty, including the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history — he never beat the Chargers.
Not here. Not there. Not in the regular season. Not in the playoffs. Not even in the preseason. Didn’t matter whether San Diego was one of the best teams in the AFC or one of the worst. Likewise for the Titans.
In eight meetings between 1994 and 2010, Fisher was — that’s right — 0-8. The breakdown is as follows: 0-6 in the regular season, 0-1 in the postseason and 0-1 in the preseason.
For the longest time, his teams never even made any actual progress toward a victory either. In the first seven contests, Tennessee scored 17 points or fewer. Finally, on Halloween 2010 the Titans broke through with a whopping 25, yet still managed to allow 33.
To understand just how unlikely that hole is in Fisher’s résumé, consider that it rarely took him more than two chances to ring up a regular-season "W" against any single opponent.
The most troublesome foes to topple were San Francisco (three attempts), Pittsburgh (four), Minnesota and Miami (five each) and Seattle (six). He finally broke through against the Seahawks in the final game of 2009, although the achievement was barely noteworthy given that Chris Johnson became the NFL’s sixth 2,000-yard rusher that same day.
The futility gets even more baffling when you consider that one of the game’s all-time busts, Ryan Leaf, won four games as a starting quarterback. One of those was 13-7 over the then-Tennessee Oilers in an utterly dreadful affair at Vanderbilt Stadium during Week 2 of the 1998 season.
Fisher got to overtime against the Chargers once, late in 2007 at LP Field. The Titans moved the ball just three yards in their lone post-regulation possession and ultimately fell 23-17 when they allowed a 16-yard touchdown run. They got another crack a month later in the playoffs — on the road — but lost 17-6. Of course, that was an improvement over the three times he took his team south of Los Angeles during the regular season. The average score of those contests was 37-14.
It all creates a giant “what if” in regard to a 1995 preseason game between the teams that was scheduled but never played. League officials pulled the plug due to concerns regarding the playing surface at the Houston Astrodome, specifically soft spots on the field.
That was Aug. 19, just days after negotiations began in earnest between owner Bud Adams and Nashville officials regarding a possible relocation. Ultimately many pointed to it as a critical step in the process that ended with the move and eventual transition to the Titans.
It also was Fisher’s first full season as head coach and his first training camp. As it turned out, it was the first step down a path of constant misery in regard to his experiences with the Chargers. Things only got worse from there.
Sunday’s game will be Munchak’s first crack at the San Diego. A win won’t mean any more than any other in the standings, but it just might speak volumes about the direction in which the team is headed.