Only 12 NFL teams have never won a Super Bowl, and the Tennessee Titans franchise happens to be one of those.
The Titans have only been in the Volunteer State since 1997, but couldn’t even win one as the Houston Oilers, which joined the NFL in 1970.
For better or for worse, we take a look back at Tennessee’s closest attempts at hoisting the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy. Here are five of those such instances, ranked from Nashville Hot to not on a scale of Hattie B’s Hot Chicken heat levels.
Heat level: Mild (Touch of Heat)
1978, 1979: Two AFC championship losses to Steel Curtain
Before the Titans settled in the foothills of Tennessee, the franchise was based in the heart of Texas, going by the Houston Oilers from 1960-1996, the first decade of those years in the American Football League.
In the 24 seasons since arriving in Nashville, the Titans have only appeared in nine playoff games.
But they saw 12 playoff berths before that in Houston and even came close to back-to-back Super Bowl invitations under coach Bum Phillips during the peak years for Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell.
In 1978, the Oilers ended their successful season with a 10-6 record, advancing to the playoffs to win a wild card round against the Miami Dolphins. The divisional round then resulted in a victory over the New England Patriots, though the Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately stopped them short of advancing to the conference championship, 34-5.
The Oilers dusted themselves back off in 1979, setting their sights on postseason play once again. An 11-5 season record earned them entry into the playoffs, where they dominated the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. They made it just far enough to witness history repeat itself, as they advanced to the AFC championship, only to lose the Steelers for a second consecutive year, 27-13.
The Steelers, known for their ferocious defensive line known as the “Steel Curtain,” won the Super Bowl both seasons.
Heat level: Medium (warming up)
2017: Divisional round hopes bashed by Brady
We travel into more recent history now for this second round of heat, where the now-Tennessee Titans really begin to spice things up.
After logging four consecutive losing seasons from 2012-15, Tennessee flipped the script from 2016-19 by successfully logging four sequential 9-7 records.
The 2017 season was an especially exciting one for Tennessee. Not only did they finish with a winning record, but they also advanced to postseason play for the first time since 2008.
The two-headed running monster of DeMarco Murray and a second-year Derrick Henry led a bruising offense for coach Mike Mularkey. Safety Kevin Byard was an All-Pro on defense.
This re-introduction into the playoffs came in the wild card round against the Kansas City Chiefs. After a grueling start, Tennessee returned from halftime with a thrilling comeback that earned them a 22-21 win.
The Titans struggled to keep up in the divisional round. There, the New England Patriots ran away with a 35-14 victory behind three touchdown passes from some guy named Tom Brady.
Heat level: Hot! (Feel the heat)
2020: AFC South crown, but Lamar pulls road upset
Fast forward two years to 2020, and now we’re really kickin’ up the heat.
Tennessee ended the season as the new kings of the AFC South. The team became an almost unstoppable force thanks to Henry, who graduated to star running back and royalty, really. King Henry became the NFL’s first player to rush for 180 yards or more during three consecutive games. He also amassed 2,027 yards on the ground in the regular season.
The team’s impressive 11-5 season record awarded them a wild card round playoff berth against the Baltimore Ravens. Titans fans assumed the Ravens would be a manageable first opponent given postseason playoff results the year before and the home-field advantage in Nashville.
But Tennessee ultimately walked away with a 20-13 loss to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
Tennessee’s 2020 football season is certainly a spicy contender in the heat rankings. It’s nowhere near as smokin’ as the year prior, though.
Heat level: D*mn hot!! (fire starter)
2019: Mahomes hands Titans AFC Championship comeback
Now let’s back up one year to 2019, when Titans fans set their passion ablaze.
The three playoff berths Tennessee had secured in the last decade had only resulted in six postseason games and mostly early exits. Only three of those were wins, with two coming in 2019.
The Titans advanced past the New England Patriots in the wild card round, never a small feat. Then they blasted through the Ravens in the divisional round, making fans especially eager for their Super Bowl potential.
It wasn’t until the AFC Championship that their train reached the end of the line. Despite an early 17-7 Tennessee lead, the Kansas City Chiefs proved to be an opponent they couldn’t power through, leaving the Titans with a devastating 35-24 loss.
Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdowns and rushed for another in the win. He then led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title over the San Francisco 49ers two weeks later.
Heat level: Shut the cluck up!!!
1999: The longest Super Bowl yard
For the hottest year in Titans history, we go back to the turn of the century when Tennessee celebrated their first and only Super Bowl appearance.
Their 13-3 regular season record was the near tops in the league, but the Titans still needed a wild card round victory against the Buffalo Bills, using the Music City Miracle to advance.
Next, they knocked out the Indianapolis Colts in divisional play and swiped past the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship.
Tennessee’s efforts culminated in a trip to Super Bowl XXXIV for a winner-take-all faceoff against the St. Louis Rams. This was under the direction of coach Jeff Fisher, the winningest coach in Titans history, and led by Eddie George, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.
Tennessee was down seven points in the fourth quarter, attempting to recoup that deficit in the final play of the game.
Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Tennessee wide receiver Kevin Dyson just shy of the goal line, leaving the Titans just one yard shy of a victory and a 23-16 loss.
The incident — often referred to as The Tackle or The Longest Yard — has gone down in history as one of the most memorable endings in Super Bowl history.
Unfortunately, the Titans have yet to find themselves on the winning side of such a story.
Titans 2022 Super Bowl LVI odds
Tennessee’s current 9-5 record situates their odds of finishing out the year with a Lombardi trophy at .
Even if they managed a postseason entry, that’s no guarantee they’ll go all the way. The Oilers/Titans carry a 17-22 record for the 39 total playoff games they’ve participated in.
Their potential for an AFC Conference win sits at a slightly better odds.
On the bright side, they still hold onto the best odds of winning the AFC South — though not by much.