Then Tennessee collapsed in a playoff game after the 2000 season at what now is LP Field, losing 24-10 despite dominating the game in a lot of ways.
Since that fork in the road, the teams have gone in very different directions.
Writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean: “The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, and they will play for a second championship on Sunday in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers. The Titans, meanwhile, haven’t won a playoff game in nine years and are coming off a 6-10 season.”
But that’s not the line of demarcation I’ll use.
The 2008 Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The sixth-seeded Ravens won in Miami to earn another playoff trip to Nashville. And Tennessee lost that divisional round game in a similar fashion to the game in 2000, even though the score was a lot closer, 13-10.
The Titans are 29-35 (.453) with no playoff appearances.
The Ravens are 43-21 (.672) with a 6-3 playoff record.
That playoff meeting in Nashville was Joe Flacco’s second playoff game, and while he’s had his ups and downs, he’s now a Super Bowl quarterback.
Instability at quarterback is only part of the reasons the teams have been so different.
John Harbaugh has developed into a steady coach while Jeff Fisher’s tenure fizzled out and Mike Munchak hasn’t established any solid footing after two seasons.
Led by one of the NFL’s top general managers, Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have continued good roster building.
The Titans actually have more starters and contributors out of their last four drafts, but it’s partly because of previous failures -- think Young, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Chris Henry, Paul Williams -- that so much opportunity is available.
Baltimore’s gotten far more production out of outside veterans it’s brought in: Center Matt Birk, receiver Anquan Boldin (via trade), fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, resurgent left tackle Bryant McKinnie, receiver/returner Jacoby Jones.
Compare that to Tennessee’s veteran additions: Receiver Nate Washington, linebacker Will Witherspoon, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, safety Jordan Babineaux, guard Steve Hutchinson, end Kamerion Wimbley, returner Darius Reynaud.
The Titans fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and didn’t see much change with Dowell Loggains promoted to replace Chris Palmer.
The Ravens fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and got a major boost from Jim Caldwell taking over for Cam Cameron.
It’s a copycat league, and the Ravens were already a model franchise in many ways.
The Titans are one of a long list of teams that need to look at how the Ravens work and borrow some ideas.
Quarterback is the key, but the gap between these two teams was a playoff field goal just four years ago. It’s a deep moat now.