When former Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger thinks back to his time with the team, he remembers a mostly positive experience.

“I made a lot of good friends, had a good time,” Mettenberger said. “I still live there, you know. Nashville’s home. Really, I just love the city and love the people. It’s why I’m still around.”

For fans, however, memories of Mettenberger’s time with the team often aren’t so favorable. There’s a tendency, which certainly falls well within the realm of reason, to remember him for his failures.

As the Titans starting quarterback, Mettenberger’s record was a putrid 0-10. The team ultimately drafted incumbent starter Marcus Mariota to replace him. The only real moment of national publicity he received was during his infamous “selfie incident” during his first week as a starter.

“It was tough going those couple years I was there,” Mettenberger said.

There were good things, too.

Yet, it wasn’t all bad. There’s a reason that he was the starter in the first place, and there’s a reason that a significant number of fans and media members were calling for the Titans to pass on Mariota in 2015 in order to stick with Mettenberger.

One of Mettenberger’s most visible traits during his two years with the Titans was his toughness. Against the Texans in Week 8 of the 2015 season, Mettenberger took a vicious beating, arguably one of the worst suffered by a quarterback this decade.

Simply mentioning that he was sacked 7 times does not do the beating justice. One must watch the game to understand the agony that he, and the entire offense, went through.

When Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk saw the game, she decided it was so bad that then-head coach Ken Whisenhunt (Mettenberger’s future father-in-law, ironically) needed to be fired.

“I’d like to hope people try to see the positive of my time [in Tennessee],” Mettenberger said. “I enjoyed it. No regrets, really.”

In addition to the physical toughness, Mettenberger showed mental toughness during the 2015 offseason. For months, no one really knew what his future would hold, and the Titans ultimately decided to go in a new direction by drafting Mariota.

“It’s the old proverb, I guess, you know? Control what you can control,” Mettenberger said of the 2015 offseason. “But that’s the hardest thing for everyone to do. Really it’s just about blocking out the outside noise, taking care of what you can control.”

He continued to describe the relationship he and Mariota shared during their one year together. “Marcus was great. We had a great room when I was there with him, we had a lot of fun. He’s a great player, a great leader, and a great person.”

A second chance

Now, Mettenberger is trying his hand with the Alliance of American Football’s Memphis Express. This spring football league, deemed as a compliment, not a competitor, to the NFL is giving hundreds of football players a second chance to do what they love.

Some want to put good things on tape and are hoping for another, or their first, shot at the NFL. Others are simply taking advantage of another opportunity to play their favorite game and earn a paycheck.

In Mettenberger’s case, he’s keeping his options open. “I think I still have a lot of good football ahead of me, and this was an opportunity just to play football. Obviously, it’s been a couple years since I’ve been in the league, but I just really needed the opportunity to get back out there and play.

“Right now, my only priority is just playing. I can’t really worry about what’s down the road. That’s not the focus of it.”

At peace

A lot of players whose NFL careers were lackluster are quick to point out a single thing that went wrong or some kind of issue that got everything off to a bad start. For Mettenberger, this isn’t the case.

Instead, he seems to have found peace with how things went in Nashville. “I always thought I took care of business, I always thought I handled myself the appropriate way. I was a goofball sometimes, which was probably not the best given the position I play.

“But I really wouldn’t give myself any advice—that’s part of life: living and learning. I learned a lot of great lessons while I was in the NFL.”

Mettenberger may not have found success in the NFL as a player, but he did find a home, his fiancée, and meaningful relationships. In his eyes, those things alone make his two, brutal years with the Titans ultimately worthwhile.

Cover image: Winslow Townson/USA Today

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