Special teams is undoubtedly the most underappreciated facet of a football team. It is a unit that is critical to any team’s success, especially at the NFL level. Special teams is an area in which a player’s ability under pressure can determine their employment status. When things are going well, special teamers get a tap on the helmet for doing their job and their livelihood is safe for the following six days. But when failures and poor execution surface, the “You have one job” mob comes in carrying pitchforks demanding demotion, or even a player’s release.
The 2020 Tennessee Titans have become all too familiar with the pitchfork carriers instead of the helmet tappers. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s performance this season has rivaled the highs and lows of Disney World’s most terrifying rollercoasters, resulting in th eloss of trust across the entire Titans fanbase. Combine that with the fundamental mistakes of long snapper Beau Brinkley, which ultimately contributing to his demise along with compromising the health of Titans punter Brett Kern – leave Titans fans struggling to find optimism in the special teams department.
Jon Robinson really ain’t F’ing around: Vic Beasley, Jonathan Joseph and Beau Brinkley all cut. #Titans
— Austin Stanley (@AustinStanley81) November 3, 2020
For the first time in 135 regular season games, the Titans will have a new long snapper, in Matt Overton, who will be the newest player delivering balls to Titans punters and holders alike. This all important third phase has consistently let what often appears to be a Super Bowl contending team down in pivotal moments this year.
But this story is not meant to highlight the horrifically underwhelming job the current Titans special teams unit has done this season, but it is to instead shed a light on the best special teamers that have played, and in one case still play, in a Titans jersey. This is the Tennessee Titans Mount Rushmore of special teamers.
Rob Bironas was the best kicker to ever grace the gridiron for the Titans. Bironas is an easy choice, not only due to the countless records he has for the Titans, but for the NFL records he has set that still stand today. Bironas holds the record for most made field goals in a single game (8), set in 2007 against the division rival Houston Texans. In the same game, he set the most points ever scored by a kicker in NFL history with 26.
Bironas ranks second all-time in the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans scoring category finishing his nine-year career with 1,032 points. Bironas was an ironman who never missed a game, starting in 144 consecutive games with the Titans.
Former Titans kicker @RobBironas nails a 60-yard game-winning field goal to beat the Colts in 2006. 📽
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) October 25, 2018
Siri, play “My Sharona” by The Knack.
Next up is Brett Kern. Kern has spent 12 years playing for the Titans and an argument could be made that Nashville’s favorite punter could have been the team’s best player during the last decade. Kern was as busy of a punter as anybody in the league during the first half of his tenure in Tennessee. He was consistently one of the most used punters in the NFL. Kern even lead the league in punts in 2014 (thanks a lot, Ken Whisenhunt).
Kern has three Pro Bowls to his name and was given First-Team All Pro honors in 2019. Kern is permanently cemented in Titans special teams lore. Kern also holds the franchise records for most punt yards (38,533) and most punt yards in a season (4,175).
We are Brett Kern days away from Tennessee Titans football ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/cRTorhv5uI
— Titan Up Podcast (@TitanUpPod) September 9, 2020
Yes, another punter. Look, the Titans’ offenses haven’t been the type to consistently light up scoreboards over the years. Maybe it was the extra repetitions, maybe the Titans just lucked out and found two generationally talented punters, but either way, Hentrich deserves a spot on Mt. Rushmore. The two-time Pro Bowler and 1998 All-Pro’s franchise records have been mostly overhauled by Kern’s efforts, but his 12-year tenure with the team consisted of reliability and consistency. The Titans have been blessed with only having to truly rely on two guys to handle punting duties since the 1998 season.
This is where it gets difficult. Mariani was a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 who served as the Titans’ deep man on both, punts and kickoffs. Mariani spent three seasons as a Titan to begin his career, and would eventually return for his farewell tour in 2016. Mariani was responsible for three returns go for touchdowns in his four years in Nashville. For perspective purposes, the Titans have had one such touchdown since Mariani hung up his cleats. He was given one Pro Bowl nod in 2010 and it could be argued that he was the most prolific return man in Titans history.
Mariani lays claim to the most kick return yards in a single-season for the franchise (1,530) as well as most return yards in Pro Bowl history (9) and most return yards in a Pro Bowl game (326).
— Titan Up Podcast (@TitanUpPod) November 3, 2020
Kevin Dyson is an honorable mention simply due to the fact that he had the most memorable special teams play in the franchise’s history, and really the history of the NFL. There will always be an argument for Dyson and there really is not a wrong answer for the fourth and final spot on the Mt. Rushmore of Titans special teamers.
17 years ago, the Buffalo Bills were actually in the playoffs!
Then the Music City Miracle happened and they haven't recovered since. pic.twitter.com/MszVccuSyQ
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) January 8, 2017