Tennessee Titans Thursday Throwback: The “Brief” Legendary Stretch of Billy Volek

Tennessee Titans Thursday Throwback: The “Brief” Legendary Stretch of Billy Volek

by June 17, 2021 0 comments

When the Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl quarterback Steve McNair suffered a serious chest injury early in the 2004 season, the Titans placed their fortunes in the hands of a quarterback who was far from a household name. An undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, Billy Volek entered the NFL in 2000. Until 2004, he had thrown only 72 passes over four full seasons before stepping in for McNair.

Nobody in the league, even those within the Titans organization, knew what they would get out of the 28-year-old who had made just one career NFL start up to that point. Nobody would’ve predicted Volek would do something that at the time had only been done three times prior, by only Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, and Phil Simms. That feat was throwing for more than 400 yards in consecutive games.

The Rise of Billy Volek

In his first start, Volek offered a glimpse of what hopeful and even the most pessimist of Titans fans could expect for the remainder of the year. Volek completed 39 of 58 passes for 279 yards and threw two touchdowns to no interceptions in a loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Volek had a couple of quiet starts after his somewhat surprising debut until a game in Week 10 against the Chicago Bears. He threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns in another tight loss. But the signal-caller really began opening eyes in December. In Week 13, he threw for 426 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 29-43 passes, albeit in a 43-29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Just six days later, Volek completed 40-60 passes for 492 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in a 40-35 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Over that seven-day period, Volek threw for 918 yards and eight touchdowns, but it was a pace that he wasn’t able to withstand. He would finish the season with some amazing numbers. In 10 games, eight of those starts, he connected on 218 of 357 passes for 2,486 yards. He threw 18 touchdown passes versus 10 interceptions and recorded a quarterback rating of 101.4. The Titans won just two of Volek’s eight starts, but that seemed to be more the fault of a defense that allowed 30 points or more, seven times in 2004.

All Things Must Come to an End

The following season saw McNair back from injury. As a result, Volek had very few snaps. But it looked like Volek’s fortunes might change. Perhaps he would get a chance for an encore as a starter in 2006, after the team’s decision to release McNair in June of that year. 

But when the team signed veteran Kerry Collins in late August, Volek asked to be traded after drafting Vince Young. The Titans shipped Volek to the Chargers for a sixth-round draft pick.

Volek spent the next six seasons backing up Philip Rivers in San Diego, where he never started another game. He completed a mere 25-44 passes over six seasons, throwing one more touchdown pass. Volek’s biggest claim to fame on the West Coast occurred in the 2007 playoffs when he came off the bench in the fourth quarter to lead a game-winning drive against Indianapolis. The Chargers cut the 36-year-old Volek before the 2012 season, in favor of Charlie Whitehurst.

Although it didn’t pan out, Volek appeared to be a rare undrafted success story for that’ brief’ moment in franchise history. Though short-lived, it remains noteworthy.

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Husband, father of 3 and an avid sports fan. Living out my childhood dream of writing about sports, now that I'm in my forties.

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