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Taylor Lewan's wild ride: From Whitney Mercilus rivalry to 'Friends in Low Places' salute, Titans' most colorful character departs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Taylor Lewan needed an assist to find the press room at Titans headquarters. From the locker room, he’d headed down a long hallway to the lobby where security pointed him through another door to us.

Taylor Lewan

He was pissed, the only player any of us remembered coming into our little area holding his phone open to an Instagram post and working his way down to me, last seat in the second row.

“What’s this?” he asked, holding it up.

I told him it was a screenshot of Whitney Mercilus beating him badly during a 20-6 loss in Houston the day before. He was unhappy, but Ken Whisenhunt had just spoken of the team’s pass protection failures after a sixth consecutive loss. Zach Mettenberger, Lewan’s buddy, was sacked seven times. The next day, Whisenhunt was fired. The next week, it came to light that Lewan, a first-round pick in his second season, was stripped of his captaincy by interim coach Mike Mularkey in favor of Dexter McCluster, based on experience.

The heat of the moment and of the time made the story memorable, but that Lewan got past his frustration with me – as he would have with anyone -- is what I want to get to here, on the day we learned the Titans informed him he’s being released in a move that saves them $14.841 million and leaves him with zero cost against the salary cap.

When healthy, he was perhaps as athletic a left tackle as there was in the league and the reason his other employer, Barstool Sports, made “Run Left” hats.

He carried on an impressive string of franchise left tackles, from Brad Hopkins to Michael Roos to him, though injuries kept him from reaching the levels his two predecessors did.

Titans media and fans watched him grow and a player and a guy and enjoyed it. In one of the first pieces I wrote for this site, on July 31, 2017, his then fiancé Taylin Gallacher told me “Being judged for who you pretend to be and not who you are is a lot easier (for him). There is a little more reality to the song and dance now.”

And in a locker room where Bruce Matthews was in the middle of constant games he invented, where Neil O’Donnell once weaved through naked on T-Rac’s scooter to lighten the mood, where Josh Evans smashed up a cardboard Shrek to uproarious laughter after tiring of the nickname and where Steve Watterson pulled off pranks on a weekly basis, Lewan may have represented the last consistent big laughs.

His Boss Hog press conference after signing his first big contract extension, was, in his own words, theatrics. And he was a rare Titan with a big personality who had the quality play to give him the platform to speak his mind without fear. That though, isn’t what made him so interesting.

“I’ve always been an individual that’s flown by the seat of his pants,” he said.

He’d always remind you he was just a left tackle trying to do his best there. But ask him broad questions about team or league themes and you could quote him in every story and there would be no close contender for who else you might use first.

He brought an energy and fun to work that was valuable in every facet of the job, and drama to games that could annoy people but was fine with me when he was playing at a high level, which was often when he was healthy.

With the power of “Bussin’ with the Boys” with Will Compton, he convinced grown men with fathers of their own to call him dad (and also got Mike Vrabel to say he would cut off his private part in exchange for a Super Bowl win.) He also connected with fans as a top Predators cheerleader, chugging beer and tossing catfish.

The Mercilus Insta post was ancient history when he immediately accepted an invitation to hang for an hour with the All-22 of this site when it was still new.

Over the span of his Tennessee career, the good quotes for others have dwindled and the fun takes place predominantly behind the scenes. Most everyone is muted and guarded and worried. Often it’s understandable, which is a shame.

It wasn’t all good, obviously. He had bursts of penalties where even he called himself a liability. He could get overly emotional and lose focus which led to fines for confronting officials and taunting. He ridiculously maintained that Rishard Matthews was still “for the boys” when he quit on the team during the 2018 season. His four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s PED policy – which he said was the result of a contaminated supplement – was a huge issue for the team at the start of 2019.

And after three Pro Bowls in 2016, 2017 and 2018 the injuries started to mount. He tore an ACL in 2020 and again in 2022 when the initial repair surgery was an issue. In his last four seasons, he missed 34 of 66 games (52 percent) and while the Titans did some quality repair at the position in Derrick Henry’s 2,000-yard season with Ty Sambrailo and David Quessenberry, Dennis Daley was a disaster in 2022 and the team missed the force Lewan was at his best.

“Lewan in his prime was an elite left tackle and was paid as such,” Blake Beddingfield said. “Elite size, athleticism and the mentality for the position to handle and man block any of the top rushers. He developed into one of the best run-blocking offensive linemen with a rare ability to block corners, second and third level defenders with balance, body control and athleticism to not only locate but make contact.”

Last we saw Lewan in the locker room, he passed by on the day the Nashville chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America presented the first Eddie George Good Guy Award to Kevin Byard. Lewan put on a colorful poncho, a perfect fit, and plugged Plaza Mariachi.

I had texted him and told him he should pass through the locker room that day if he was going to be in the building, and he did. I wanted to apologize that we took so long to start up the award because he would have been a multiple-time winner.

He said he knew.

 

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