It is no longer a secret around the NFL that the Titans have one of the league’s top safety tandems. Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro have spent just two seasons together, but already have Titans greats wondering if they are the best duo in team history.
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) January 15, 2020
Blaine Bishop, considered by many to be the best safety to ever put on a Titans uniform, joined the A to Z Sports Nashville’s Titan Up Podcast where he was tasked with the challenge of ranking the top three safety tandems in Titans history.
Bishop was drafted by the Oilers in 1993, where he played alongside Marcus Robertson for eight seasons. In total, Bishop spent 10 years in the NFL and took four trips to the Pro Bowl. Bishop and Robertson were the longest tenured tandem in franchise history and even helped lead the Titans to a Super Bowl XXXIV appearance.
The most overlooked twosome might be Chris Hope and Michael Griffin. These two complemented each other perfectly. Hope was a versatile strong safety who could not only come up and lay the lumber, but had the ball skills to match. Griffin oozed talent in the defensive backfield. Griffin finished his nine-year stint with Tennessee totaling 26 interceptions – the most in Titans history.
It is abundantly clear that these three units are tops in Titans history, but who ranks No. 1? Blaine Bishop helped break down each duo.
“Today, I have to give it to Griffin and Hope,” said Bishop on who he believes is the best as it currently stands.
“I think Michael Griffin will go down as the most talented Titan [safety].” While there are still Titans fans out there who have a distorted view on Griffin’s time in Tennessee due to his struggles in the last couple of years of his career, Bishop doesn’t mince words about the two-time Pro Bowler “I never felt like he got all of the talent out of him. He could have been dominant for years,” Bishop adamantly pronounced.
“I think (Griffin) just played off of his ability. When he had to really start honing in on technique, that is when his career really slipped off a little bit.”
Despite some great years, Bishop doesn’t feel as though himself and Robertson qualify despite some great years due to the fact that they only spent three years together as Titans teammates. But that didn’t stop him from fawning over Byard and Vaccaro who are entering their third year together in Tennessee.
Scott Booker @kennyvaccaro: "Since the day he came here, he has been the same person since he's come in. He is one of the hardest workers we have and one of the first guys in the building. He's one of our most INTENSE defensive backs." #Titans
— Kayla Anderson (@KaylaAndersonTV) August 26, 2020
“I think Byard is going to go down as the best Titans safety in history.” I like his mindset, he’s got an old-school mentality. He studies the game.”
That is a statement most Titans fans would agree with. Byard was given first-team All-Pro honors in just his second season in the NFL. These early accolades contributed to the team signing him to a five-year 70.5-million dollar contract last offseason.
“I don’t want to be in the moment, but Vaccaro and Byard could surpass and be the best as a tandem. They need another year for sure, but I think they could do it,” said Bishop on the Mayor of Murfreesboro.
Top 10 Safeties in the NFL
(According to @VoiceOfTheStar)
1. Tyrann Mathieu
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick
3. Jamal Adams
4. Harrison Smith
5. Anthony Harris
6. Justin Simmons
7. Devin McCourty
8. Derwin James
9. Kevin Byard
10. Earl Thomas pic.twitter.com/4CNHhRyPUD
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 23, 2020
The duo will be put to the test this season after the departure of secondary coach Kerry Coombs, along with defensive coordinator Dean Pees. If the Titans get another All-Pro caliber season out of Byard, along with another strong year from Vaccaro, who has been so effective in the run game, this Tennessee team could be poised for another deep run in the playoffs.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports