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Beware of Titan envy


Theirs are names that are etched into the memories of Jaguars fans, and all of those memories are bitter. Led by cornerback Samari Rolle, the great Jaguar killer, the Titans are dangling a contingent of discarded star players under the Jaguars noses, as if to say, "Come on, little Jaggies, show us your Titan envy."

Rolle, who intercepted Mark Brunell enough times to qualify as a secondary receiver, is available for the Jaguars to sign. So is wide receiver Derrick Mason, defensive end Kevin Carter and offensive tackle Fred Miller.

All four of those players were officially released by the Titans today, as the Jaguars' Tennessee tormentors begin the serious task of collapsing the mini-dynasty that saw the Titans go to one Super Bowl, two AFC title games and four postseasons in a five-year period from 1999-2003.

What's happening in Tennessee was inevitable. We all knew it was coming. They postponed it as long as they could, which only meant the hit would be more dramatic when its time came.

The release of players such as Rolle, Mason, Carter and Miller is as dramatic as it comes. We're talking about star players. Rolle intercepted Brunell eight times; knocked Brunell out of the game with a controversial head shot in Nashville in 2002. Mason is the guy who iced the Titans' AFC title game win in Jacksonville with a touchdown return of a free kick. Miller and Carter were expensive acquisitions from St. Louis.

All four of those players play positions at which the Jaguars have need. A franchise that has been tortured by the Titans since the Titans scored three wins over the Jaguars in the 1999 season, may now be tempted to believe it can exact a measure of revenge by using one or more of those players to get over the hump and become what the Titans were.

They are extremely tempting names; too tempting. They have Jacksonville in a frenzy. Be careful, folks. Beware of your Titan envy.

It's not a new concept. It's only natural to become obsessed by that which we hate. The Jaguars have been the Titans' constant belly laugh. It happened most recently as the last time the two teams met, when the Titans stuck a dagger in the Jaguars' playoff hopes by winning a game in Jacksonville on Nov. 21 the Titans had no business of winning. Wasn't it like that in '99, too?

So, as a result of this persistent torture, the Jaguars and their fans have become hyper-sensitive to the names. Oh, what a joy it would be to use those same names to beat the Titans, huh?

Yeah, it would be, but are you sure those guys have enough left in the tank to be the players the Jaguars need to get over the top? Rolle is a 175-pound guy who's battled injuries and whose best years are probably behind him. Mason caught 96 passes last season but '05 will be his ninth year in the league and he had the NFL's worst punt-return average last season. Miller is about to begin his 10th NFL season and to give you a good feel for Carter's age, consider this: Tom Coughlin personally scouted Carter for consideration as the Jaguars' first-ever draft choice in 1995.

The names are extremely tempting. They are guys who, if they have something left in the tank, could put the Jaguars over the top. Don't, however, discount the trap they represent. In each case, they are players whose best years are behind them. They would be stop-gap only. They might give you a year or two, at best.

But what if their tanks are empty? What if the Jaguars spent a lot of money signing one or more of these Titans' discards and they became nothing more than a drain on the Jaguars' salary cap? What if they only did to the Jaguars' wonderfully healthy salary cap what they did to ruin the Titans'?

It would be the final indignity. One more time, the Titans would get the last laugh. That's why any consideration of courting the Titans' cast-offs must be carefully researched and include no reasonable doubt.

They are tempting. Danger usually is.

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