Matt Hasselbeck was already at Baptist Sports Park this week preparing himself for next season.
The Titans’ quarterback took a week off after his team’s season ended with a 23-22 victory at Houston on New Year’s Day. That win put the Titans at 9-7 on the season, but narrowly left them short of the playoffs.
After the Jets had lost at Miami and Cincinnati later fell at home to Baltimore, the Titans needed victories by Denver and Oakland in the afternoon games to make the playoffs.
The drama unfolded on the plane ride back to Nashville, and Hasselbeck recalled that experience during an interview on the debut show of 104.5 the Zone’s ‘The Midday 180′ earlier this week. You can listen to the entire interview right here.
“I think we were really in shock,” Hasselbeck said. “We won the game in Houston and knew the Jets had lost. Cincy had lost, so we were kind of feeling like all we need is the Raiders and Denver to win.
“The Denver game was going on at the time, and seriously, the whole plane was rooting for Denver. We had Tebo chants going and everything. It was hilarious,” Hasselbeck said. “The game ended, I think they had a fourth down and didn’t convert and it was like, ‘Wow,’ I don’t know if it really sunk in.”
Just like that, the Titans’ season was over.
“The next day we had exit physicals and exit meetings. By the time I got done meeting with my coaches I had to see, pretty much all of my teammates had already left. I think it was just being in shock a little bit. But if you sit back and evaluate the season I think it is good that we were able to end it on a high note in terms of playing decent football at the end of the year, getting better, not getting worse. For whatever reason, winning that last game does make a little bit of an impact in your offseason, how guys feel and kind of the fire that burns inside to take the next step.”
Hasselbeck will use the disappointment of not making the playoffs as motivation this off-season.
“I really wanted to win the division,” he said. “I expected that was something we could get done, especially with Indy’s situation with Peyton (Manning) being out. I thought there was a real opportunity there, but we weren’t able to do it. We weren’t able to take it from the Texans. That’s probably the disappointing thing for me is that I really expected that we would be in the hunt for that.”
The Titans don’t want to require help next season, Hasselbeck said.
“You can look back at the games and we’ll look back and analyze it if we had done this or done that, but the bottom line is we didn’t get it done,” he said. “You really just get 16 chances to do it. We were banking on some help. We were banking on the Jets, the Raiders or the Broncos to win in that last week of games and that didn’t happen, so we didn’t get a chance to go back down there and play the Texans.”
Hasselbeck isn’t waiting for the official start of the offseason program to begin preparing himself for 2012.
“I went in there today and started working out for next year — nothing crazy — but our offseason program starts April 16 and that’s not when you start to get into shape. That’s when the whistle blows and Steve Watterson, the strength coach, expects us to be ready…we’re going to get after it.”
Hasselbeck said Watterson put everyone on notice.
“Basically he said, ‘Listen, when you come back on April 16th, you’ve got to be ready to go. It’s not like on April 16th you come in to get ready to get in shape, you’re in shape on April 16 and we’re going to hit the ground running.”
He believes the future of the franchise looks bright.
“I think if you’re in charge of running a team, you’ve got to feel pretty good about the direction of the Tennessee Titans,” Hasselbeck said. “You’ve got to feel good about some of the young players, the depth, and really just the direction — who’s steering the ship and all that kind of stuff. A lot of times if you have a solid foundation it just sets the table for success in the future.”
Tags: hasselbeck, Watterson
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