Jan. 23, 2020
Ranking the 3 Nashville franchises based on future success
The quickly growing city of Nashville can now boast about the three professional franchises that now call the Music City home. Everyone in the United States is well aware of the recent success of the Tennessee Titans and the 2017 Stanley Cup final run of the Nashville Predators.
But where does the newest MLS expansion team, Nashville SC, fit into the cities passionate sports fold? Here, I rank the three franchises based on future success and give my prediction on which team will win the city's first championship.
1. Tennessee Titans
This rather obvious choice should not come as a surprise as the two-toned blue Titans shocked the NFL world making a run to the AFC Championship game this season.
Defeating the GOAT Tom Brady and the 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson on the road in back-to-back weeks as the sixth and final seed in the conference, head coach Mike Vrabel earned himself and his team a ton of credit. More importantly, he reeled all the Titans fans who had started to slip away back in with this phenomenal playoff run.
Although losing defensive coordinator Dean Pees and defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs will hurt, the core group of players on the team and the right moves in the offseason could lead the Titans right back to the AFC title game.
Surprising myself as I say this, I think the Titans will be the first Nashville franchise to bring home a trophy. Resigning Derrick Henry and franchise tagging Ryan Tannehill are priorities one and two over the next couple months. Moving on from Marcus Mariota, Cameron Wake, Delanie Walker, potentially Dion Lewis, and a couple fringe players will help free up even more salary cap space for general manager John Robinson.
The Titans already rank 14th in the NFL for cap space heading into the 2020 season that could rise into the top eight before the draft in Las Vegas.
Promising wide receiver AJ Brown and the emergence of tight end Jonnu Smith should have Titans fans buzzing about how deadly the offense could be under the guidance of Tannehill at quarterback and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith utilizing the plethora of talent at his disposal.
If the Titans can manage to make the playoffs and earn some home games, they could be in the Super Bowl by as early as next season.
2. Nashville Predators
It's funny how quickly a team can go from powerhouse to fringe playoff team in the NHL.
The Preds were knocking on the door of a title in the spring of 2017, but now, the team is at a very difficult crossroads. John Hynes has taken over as just the third head coach in franchise history after the departure of Peter Laviolette and the same players that helped guide the Preds to the Stanley Cup final are struggling to replicate that success.
The good news is that young playmakers Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, captain Roman Josi, and Viktor Arvidsson are all on long-term deals and the addition of Matt Duchene has been very helpful on the offensive end as well.
But, there is the lingering issue regarding defensive depth. Ryan Ellis has been out nearly a month with a concussion and it is has been clear that other than Dante Fabbro, the young talent GM David Poile was relying on simply isn't going to cut it.
Plus, the aging Pekka Rinne has had a tough season allowing nearly three goals a game and sporting a save percentage under .900. Add in the scary truth that Juuse Saros might not be the successor to the Finnish legend, and this team has a lot of work to do.
I don't see the Predators making it to the playoffs this year which could actually be very beneficial down the road. Let the players have a longer offseason and the front office staff can do some scouting and get a solid mid-first round draft pick.
3. Nashville SC
Success is not immediate when your city gets an expansion team into a professional league. That's for sure.
Look no further than Cincinnati FC in their season after moving up from the second tier USL to Major League Soccer. The club from Ohio finished the USL regular season in first place with 77 points during the 2018 season.
But, the first season in the MLS could not have gone worse as the team won just six matches and accumulated just 24 points in 34 matches.
Expect much of the same from Nashville SC this in their debut season in the top flight. While there are some talented veteran players on the team like Dax McCarty, Randall Leal, and Hany Mukhtar, manager Gary Smith is going to have his work cut out for him.
The good news for NSC fans is that Smith is familiar with the club and has been in charge of Nashville since the team went professional back in 2017. Some players will make the jump from the second tier to the premier league with Smith and it is clear that the club's front office staff is ready to invest heavily in the future.
One optimistic takeaway here is that it took Atlanta United just three years to capture the MLS title. Nashville SC should closely follow the blueprint Atlanta United created if they want to become a contender in North America.
I am hopeful for the future, but fearful of the present with this new soccer team. Give them time and the results should come.