I’m sitting here looking at my Eddie George bobble head and remembering the birth of the Titans. In some ways looking at this bobble head is like picking at a scab of nostalgia.

In the seven years between the team’s introduction as the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 through George’s last year with the Titans in 2003, the Titans were a combined 72-40 in the regular season. During that time they had four winning seasons and only one losing season. Winning 64% of the time, the franchise saw plenty of success at the start of their time in Tennessee.

The team went 8-8 in each of their first two years in Tennessee (1997 and 1998), missing the playoffs. The Titans made the playoffs four times in the next five years – winning thirteen (1999), thirteen (2000), eleven (2002), and twelve (2003) regular season games. They advanced to the Super Bowl in 1999 and the conference championship game in 2002. Tennessee saw divisional playoff losses in both 2000 and 2003. In 2001 the Titans only won seven games, which isn’t terrible but it wasn’t up to snuff for that iteration of the Titans. 2001 was also the only year of George’s eight seasons with the franchise that he failed to rush for 1,000 yards.

In the first seven years after George’s departure, from 2004 through the end of Jeff Fisher’s tenure at the close of the 2010 season, the Titans were a combined 54-58. During that time they only had two winning seasons and stumbled to three losing seasons. The salary cap purge hurt the team early in this span of years, while team dysfunction brought Fisher’s reign to a disappointing end. After a fairly dominating run that bridged the millennia, the Titans finished the first decade of the 2000’s with a whimper.

In 2004 the team won just five games. They won only four games a year later. Their winning seasons came in 2007 (ten wins) and 2008 (thirteen wins). The Titans made the playoffs in both of those seasons, their only appearances during this seven year span. They lost the first game of the playoffs both times, a wildcard matchup in 2007 and a divisional game in 2008. Break-even seasons bookended the playoff years. The Titans went 8-8 in both 2006 and 2009. The Titans only won six games in 2010, which marked their second year in a row with a six game losing streak. It would be Jeff Fisher’s last year as a coach of the Tennessee Titans.

Mike Munchak took over as head coach in 2011 and the Titans improved to a nine win team before falling to just six wins in 2012. Yes, the era of Eddie George and Steve Mcnair was long ago but I think that’s why a George bobble head was a good choice for the franchise to send as a gift to season ticket holders. It is a not-so-subtle hint at what they hope to achieve moving forward.

This isn’t about simple offensive production. After all, consider that in his first five years with the team, (his best five years), George had five 1,000+ yard seasons, totaling 6,874 rushing yards and 42 TDs. In Chris Johnson’s first five years with the Titans he has five 1,000+ yard seasons, totaling 6,888 rushing yards and 44 TDs. That’s more yards and TDs on 300 fewer touches for Johnson.

If it isn’t about production, what message is being sent?

George’s contributions went beyond production. He rushed for 1,000 yards in seven of his eight years with the franchise, (he had 939 yards in 2001), but he only averaged over four yards per carry two times. His overall average with the franchise was less than 3.7 yards per carry but what he lacked in explosion was made up for in consistency. He never carried the ball fewer than 300 times in any of those years, amassing 10,009 yards on 2,733 carries in total. He added sixty-four rushing touchdowns as well. His work ethic and leadership were never questioned and, non-coincidentally, the team only had one losing season in eight years.

Back then you always knew what you were going to get from George - from the Titans. Eddie George was a guy who would hold onto the ball even when knocked unconscious. He’d play through injury. He’d sacrifice his body. He’d do anything and everything he could. He exemplified effort. He was the ultimate team guy, even more than Steve McNair, and you never doubted that he’d be there for you.

Johnson has been far more productive than George ever was and he’s never missed a game but would you praise him in those words? Would you similarly praise the Titans in general?

No. Not recently. That’s just not Johnson’s style and it hasn’t been what the Titans seem to bring to the field each week.

Reminding fans of George is about reliability. It is about accountability. It is about consistency. It is about attitude. The Titans want fans to recall those early years. The want to recapture that spirit of effort and ethic - a culture of winning. They want fans to associate the franchise with success. They want a return to excitement. They long for the former glory of the past.

That is why this Eddie George bobble head was sent out to season ticket holders. It’s a two-tone blue Delorean, of sorts. A time travelling phone booth. A map stolen from the Supreme Being. A... piece of plastic to capture my imagination as the offseason drones on in boring monotony.