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Admission is first step

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While Jeff Fisher was busy taking a shot at Jack Del Rio with a not-so-veiled reference to Del Rio's "keep chopping wood" incident, Del Rio answered a reporter's question Monday with a kind of directness and sincerity that made Fisher's remark a little less amusing.

"I feel like we've got some ground to close," Del Rio said when asked to measure the gap that exists between the 5-2 Titans and the 1-5 Jaguars.

Del Rio spoke those words calmly and with a degree of measure, but it was easy to detect their difficulty. They may not have stuck in his throat, but it was a question he would've rather not answered. It was also a question that had to be asked.

This franchise has been living a lie since 1999. What is that lie? That the better team didn't win that AFC title game; that the Titans still aren't the better team. The fact of the matter is that whether you believe the better team won or not, the Titans have supported their position rather well since then. They have the record to prove their point; the Jaguars don't.

With apologies to Fred Taylor -- you might remember Taylor's steadfast position that the better team didn't win -- there's no debating the subject any longer. Del Rio officially put it to rest this past Monday with his "ground to close" remark. Good! We all needed that.

If the first step toward recovery is admission, then maybe recovery began two days ago. Repeat after Del Rio: "We've got some ground to close. We've got some ground to close."

How much ground? That's the real issue now. Are these two teams in different leagues? Or are the Titans just a year away from the kind of fall the Jaguars experienced immediately following that AFC title game loss? Let's not forget the Titans' bulging salary cap. A year from now, Del Rio might be the one taking shots.

"Nineteen ninety-nine is a long time ago. This team needs to go forward," Del Rio said when asked about the different directions these teams took with that '99 season conference title game.

"We hope to make it a rivalry, but you have to earn that," Del Rio said.

His words were cathartic. They seemed to cut away what was left of the disease that was the Jaguars' AFC title game hangover. Or maybe that's wishful thinking. We'll see.

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