Tough. Fearless. The best.
The AFC South Time Machine is running low on plutonium rods as it finishes its trek through the 10 best players in the history of every franchise in the division.
The series wraps up with the 10 best Tennessee Titans of all time. Like the Colts, the Titans have a franchise history that predates their presence in Nashville. For the purposes of this exercise, however, we are ignoring anything that happened in Houston. So don't ask about Warren Moon and Earl Campbell. They are aren't on this list by design.
1. Steve McNair
We all know of McNair's inspiring career and tragic end.
I doubt there's any debate that he belongs in this spot, and the numbers alone don't do him justice. He was a three-time Pro Bowler, an MVP and took the Titans to the playoffs four times and to the brink of glory once.
He was the greatest Titan.
2. Eddie George
George was the embodiment of blunt force trauma as a running back. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and piled up 1,000 yards in six of his seven seasons in Nashville.
George was a workhorse back who totaled 300 carries every year of his career but the last. His yards per carry numbers were never great, but there was no question as to what the Titans would do on offense. George was getting the ball, and he'd get his three yards and head back to the huddle to await another chance to pick up three more.
3. Bruce Matthews
It's hard to separate Matthews' days in Houston from his days as a Titan, but he certainly merits at least this high a spot. He only played his final five seasons in Nashville, but made five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams during that stretch.
When anyone below him on the list can accomplish something like that, we'll discuss moving him down. Until then, the Hall of Famer is right where he belongs.
4. Frank Wycheck
Wycheck made three Pro Bowls with the Titans and was a major part of the offensive identity for the team. He is still the second-leading receiver in Titans' history.
Of course, that's not the reason Titans fans remember and love him.
5. Derrick Mason
Mason piled up four 1,000-yard seasons as a receiver, went to two Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro kick returner during his tenure in Tennessee.
He's still the city's all-time leading receiver, despite putting up some fine seasons in Baltimore after he left.
6. Keith Bulluck
Bulluck's 770 tackles are a Titans' record (third most in franchise history), and mentioning his one All-Pro season doesn't begin to cover his impact.
Bulluck could do it all from the linebacker spot. He could rush the passer, twice picking up five sacks. He could cover, ringing up five picks in 2007. He could hit, finishing his career with 15 forced fumbles.
While his peaks weren't as high as the two players who come after him on this list, his long-term impact and versatility give him the bump.
7. Jevon Kearse
The Freak burst onto the scene in 1999, forcing eight fumbles, picking up 14.5 sacks and winning a host of awards including Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Through three years in the league, he had 36 sacks and was compared with the most ferocious ends of all time. Injuries caught up to him, however, and after 47.5 sacks in his first five seasons, he finished his career with only 26.5 more split between the Eagles and Titans.
It's hard to rank a player whose career was so intensely productive for such a short time, but Kearse helped carry the Titans to the Super Bowl and still ranks as the best sack-producer since the franchise moved to Nashville.
8. Albert Haynesworth
There was a time when Haynesworth was arguably the best non-quarterback in football. He was the Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and was twice named an All-Pro.
It's easy to forget his seven dominant years with the Titans in favor of his ignominious meanderings through the league that followed, but while in Nashville, he was an absolute force in the middle.
It's hard to measure the impact of a tackle statistically, and there was always a sense that as good as Haynesworth was, he could have been better. He never played more than 14 games in a season and only managed to do that twice.
9. Michael Roos
For seven seasons, Roos has been one of the better left tackles in football. He was named an All-Pro for his work in 2008, but has been very good for long time. In many ways, he's the anti-Kearse, with years of solid play instead of a short, intense peak. Or maybe that's George.
Either way, I enjoy saying anti-Kearse.
10. Samari Rolle
Rolle was a versatile corner for the Titans picking up 8.5 sacks and 14 picks in his first four years with the club. He was an All-Pro in 2000, and an excellent player for seven seasons before moving on to the Ravens, like so many other names on this list.