Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Well, I thought we’d be getting ready for another football game about now.
Unfortunately, it’s now the offseason in Titan-land.
But the questions and comments continue to roll in at a fast and furious pace.
So let’s let cracking on another Titans mailbag. Buckle up …
Sean Lewis from Chuckey, Tennessee
Question: Good morning from East Tennessee. In your days covering the Titans, have you seen any single player deal with as much crap as Marcus Mariota has to deal with from the “fan” base? It absolutely disgusts me what some people will say on social media.
Jim: Hey Sean. As a matter of fact, yes – Steve McNair. During his early days with the Titans, he was the subject of a lot of criticism from a portion of the fan base. In the season opener against the Bengals at the start of the team’s Super Bowl season, McNair was loudly booed before he eventually led a comeback. When he missed five games and came back from back surgery, a lot of fans didn’t want him back – they wanted Neil O’Donnell to remain as the starting quarterback. McNair eventually won most folks over, but it took some time.
Romeo Ford from Columbia South Carolina
Question: Hey Jim! It’s been a while. My question is: What’s the likelihood that we could bring Antonio Brown to Tennessee? We REALLY need someone who has breakaway speed and have possession hands. Also in future reference for the Draft; 1st round edge rusher (when Casey went down we saw that our line just stunk, there were no pressure on the QB) 2nd round (wide receiver with a breakaway speed with possession hands, now that’s only if we don’t get Antonio Brown).
Jim: Hey Romeo. Good to hear from you again. I knew I’d get an Antonio Brown question this week! There’s no denying he’s a heck of a player. But the stuff that went down at the end of the season with him in Pittsburgh, that’s concerning. Still, I’d have to consider it if he’s truly on the trade market when the new league year starts in March. He’s a game-changer, but I’d have to make sure he’s not a locker room-wrecker, too.
James Glover from Santa Fe, New Mexico
Question: Jim, great job covering the Titans this year. Really appreciate all the hard work you do to keep all us fans informed about our favorite team. I can easily say my best memory of the 2018 season was coming from New Mexico to Nashville to watch the Titans destroy the Patriots at Nissan Stadium. Given all the activities and news you covered during the season, what was your most memorable Titans moment?
Jim: Hi James. Appreciate it. The weekend you came to town – the win over the Patriots – was definitely a highlight. I’d say the best for me was the comeback win, and the ending against the Eagles on the OT catch by receiver Corey Davis. The London trip was also very memorable, it just ended poorly. But I was blown away by the fan support in the UK, and the scene at Wembley Stadium.
Jamie Konitzer from Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Question: Greetings and Happy New Year Jim. Boy what a disappointing loss in Week 17! I know we had to go into that game with our backup QB but as a fan, I was hoping the home-field advantage would propel us to victory. I’m sure that Jon Robinson, our GM, had to answer some pretty tough questions after that loss to the Colts because we did fire a coach last year after going to the playoffs and actually winning a game in the playoffs. We have to draft a QB in the first rd of this years draft, right? I mean, we need a QB that’s going to play 16 games. It’s really not that hard to stay healthy in the NFL. Just ask Pat Mahomes in Kansas City!
Jim: Hey Jamie. Happy New Year! Yeah, the ending was a bummer. But I don’t think controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk (or the GM as you mentioned), is second-guessing the decision at head coach. That decision was made with the big picture in mind, not just one season. I think Mike Vrabel did a really nice job in his first season, despite a ton of key injuries and a schedule that included nine games against teams that made the playoffs. Last year’s team coached by Mike Mularkey had minimal injuries, and that team played a softer schedule against a good number of teams playing back-up QBs. As for drafting a QB in the draft, well, we’ll see. To say it’s not hard to stay healthy in the NFL, c’mom. Tell that to guys like Andrew Luck, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Alex Smith, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill, etc. All those guys have missed significant chunks of time recently….
Oscar Ó Sé from Dublin, Ireland
Question: Hey Jim, really appreciate everything you do to keep us updated about everything. My question is about your opinion on our draft strategy. With Brian Orakpo retiring, do you think it will change our draft plans much or was that already a position that needed addressing in the early rounds?
Jim: Hey Oscar. I really don’t think it changed as a result of Brian’s retirement. His contract was up, and I didn’t think he’d be back anyway. With that said, I do think more help is needed at edge rusher. It will be interesting to see what happens with Derrick Morgan as well, since his contact is up. He’s scheduled to become a free agent in March.
Natalie Adams from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Question: I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — home of one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Yet I am still a Titans fan, always have been and always will be. The fans of the Titans show loyalty year after year even though we are forced to watch these mediocre seasons. Then when the Titans finally had a chance to give the fans something to cheer about Marcus Mariota is on the bench and we were forced to put all of our hopes on Blaine Gabbert. I understand that it was suggested to him that he should sit this game out but in my opinion he was just scared. I am a 19 year old girl and you better believe if my team and all of my fans were counting on me, nothing could have gotten in the way of me playing in that game. He just doesn’t have the heart, extremely disappointing as I think he does show true potential. Now onto Mike Vrabel. He shows no emotion and no passion on those sidelines. We were playing terrible Sunday night and he is over there just standing with his mouth open not saying a word. I just don’t get it. The fans deserve better. So I guess my question is when will the fans finally have something to cheer about? We definitely deserve it for being loyal year after year when there is absolutely nothing to be loyal to.
Jim: Hi Natalie. Thanks for your email from the Steel City. Well, I can tell you Marcus wasn’t “scared.” He was advised not to play by a renowned spine specialist, and he took his advice. To say he doesn’t have the heart, I don’t really think that’s fair. As for Vrabel, believe me, the guy has plenty of emotion. I’ve witnessed it. A head coach doesn’t need to throw his headset down every time he’s upset. As for having something to cheer about, you’re making the Titans sound like a 3-13 team. Yeah, it stinks the team missed the playoffs – that was the goal. In many ways, this season was a disappointment. But let’s not ignore the fact this franchise has won 9 games in each of the past three seasons, including a playoff game at Kansas City last year. It could be better, but things could also be a lot worse.
Mark Sanderson from Burlington, North Carolina
Question: Hi Jim. Has the venue been set for the upcoming draft and are the tickets only available via lottery? Also, do you have a gut feeling about what position we might draft?
Jim: Hey Mark. The draft will be spread across multiple venues downtown, and those will likely include any combination of Ascend Amphitheater, Music City Center or even set up on Broadway by the river. Fans can register for an opportunity at standby tickets using the NFL Draft – Fan Mobile Pass app. And lastly, the Titans are scheduled to pick 19th.
Randy Phillips from Mount Vernon, Illinois
Question: Jim. Am I the only Titans’ fan that realizes how close this year’s team was to being the AFC South Champs and the number #2 seed in the AFC? Flip the one point losses to the Bills and Chargers and there is your answer. I also want to show some love to the Titans’ Franchise QB Marcus Mariota (there are a lot of armchair QB’s out there). Ready for him to be healthy in 2019, and have some consistency with the coaching staff.
Jim: Hey Randy. Hope all is well. I think most folks realize this – and that’s what makes the ending of the season more painful. Oh man, to have that Bills game back. … And that two-point call in London. The Titans could be off this weekend – because of a playoff bye.
Salomon Kalach from Jersey City, New Jersey
Question: Jim. I just heard Deion Sanders express concern about the Titans future considering that Mariota gets injured every season, and it reminded me that we had the same issue with Jake Locker, who could never reach his potential because of injuries.
Is it the o-line, our playing style, or are we just jinxed? I’m all about creating a “physical team” but this season it seems like EVERYONE got injured. If it’s the play style, then it’s not sustainable, and it’s also unfair to ask that level of sacrifice from the players. In other words, are they being exposed unnecessarily? Is the play calling lousy? Or what else can the team fix to perform at the level they should, especially the offense? Thoughts? Thanks!
Jim: Hey Salomon. The comparisons to Jake Locker are ridiculous. I like Jake, but in four seasons he started 23 games with the Titans. You’re not the first who has brought it up. Yes, there’s no denying Marcus has had his share of injuries. But he’s also played in 58 of a possible 66 games, and started 45 of his last 50. As for the injuries across the board, it’s football – some are going to happen. What the team wants to try and prevent are the strains and muscle pulls.
Thomas Trahan from Saint Ignatius, Montana
Question: Hi Jim. I read your mailbag every week, you’re the perfect man to cover everything Tennessee Titans. Tough loss man I’m heartbroken for these guys, I’m already counting the days til next season. I appreciate the work Mike Vrabel has done to instill a more competitive mindset in the team this year because it showed. That being said I’ve been a Mariota supporter since I was in boot camp and my buddy wrote a letter to me informing me of Tennessee’s decision to select him, I’ve witnessed the joys of big wins against Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson to name a few. I want to believe that he’s our guy, the competitive player that he has shown is second to none, but the injuries. Can he stay healthy enough to put together not just a solid season but a great season? And if not what should we do to address the position? Should we invest in a solid interior lineman in the off-season or possibly the draft? All I know Jim is I’m sick of seeing this team meddle in mediocrity when I know we can go out and establish dominance and impose our will on any team in the league. P.s. I am also taking into account the key injuries this season, maybe if the whole team is healthy I won’t have to hang my head at the end of the season next year.
Jim: Hey Thomas. Thanks for taking the time. Can Mariota stay healthy? That’s the big question. And I think moving forward, his career depends on it. As for the o-line, I know I think it should be a point of emphasis in the offseason. While I think play improved down the stretch, especially in the running game, the team’s quarterbacks were sacked 47 times – that’s way too many.
Michael Newsome from Drexel, North Carolina
Question: Hi Jim, I have a question on behalf of my wife. I haven’t shaved since we won the Wild Card game vs KC Chiefs. I vowed to not shave again until we take the next step (either Divisional Champs, AFC Championship appearance, or 8-consecutive victories), however the problem is that my wife hates beards … she is wondering if you envision I will be shaving anytime in foreseeable future?
Jim: Oh man, Michael. This sounds like a hairy situation …
Josh Clayton from Queen City, Texas
Question: Hey Jim, first of all kudos to you for giving a voice to the fans… even to the ones you may feel are moronic though you’re too nice to say it. Being on some Titans fan pages is maddening at times with all of the uneducated bashing of our QB. “He should’ve played”, “Steve would’ve played”, “he’s soft”, “he’s selfish”, “he quit on his team”, etc, etc. The reality is those that spew that ignorance truly are the minority and the majority of us love and support Marcus 100%. We understand the frustration and concerns of Marcus being injured and missing time but we will never question his toughness, willingness to play through pain, or commitment to his team. Injuries are part of the game. As you’ve stated before… Steve, who was an unquestioned ultimate warrior, missed more time than Marcus and there were plenty of “fans” who wanted him run out of town too. It seems we still have them around only now Marcus is the target. But Titan Nation and the real fans LOVE our QB and our team. Tired of seeing Marcus get bashed and unappreciated. Those that are doing so need to TitanUp or get lost.
Jim: Hey Josh. Thanks for weighing in…
Paul Newton from Santa Fe, New Mexico
Question: Jim, thank you for what you do. I’ll go back to things I’ve said before. I think we need to draft a QB (Will Grier). I love Marcus, but the best ability is availability. He’s never available. I know that doesn’t come across as a question, but it is. I would love to draft an OLB opposite Landry. Maybe Polite or Sweat. What do you think? Sorry, I’m frustrated.
Jim: Hey Paul. I wouldn’t be surprised if a QB is drafted, but at this point not sure how high. Probably depends on free agency and what the team decides with Blaine Gabbert. I’m with you on more help being needed at OLB.
Bryan Pate from Champaign, Illinois
Question: Hey Jim. Thanks for the coverage and evenhandedness. My question is: have you had one of these mythical cupcakes from Orakpo and Griffin?
Jim: Hey Bryan. You’re talking about Gigi’s Cupcakes. I have not, but I hear they’re good. I’ve been too busy eating all this peanut brittle I got for Christmas. Going to try Gigi’s at some point, though.
Aaron Heiney from Salt Lake City, Utah
Question: My Guy Jim! Hope all is well! My question for you is what position do you think is the main focus of improving this off-season? I’d say injuries played a major role this year and as the season went on it really tested our depth at every position.
A healthy Marcus is gonna be key next season. You think J-Rob adds more depth to the O-Line in free agency or tries some magic in the draft? Also what do you think the odds are Kenny Vaccaro returns next season? I think he added a whole new level of energy to our secondary. And really complemented Byard well as the opposite safety. He became a fan favorite on the field, and I’m sure a lot of fans would love to see him back in a Titans Jersey next year. With Logan Ryan and Cyprien returning healthy next season, this Titan secondary is full of savages. Thanks for the time Jim!
Jim: Hey Aaron. Off the top of my head I’ll say o-line, edge rusher, d-line, and receiver. As for Vaccaro, that one will be interesting. I think he really played well, and his deal will be up. Johnathan Cyprien also remains under contract, and I like him as well. But will the team try and keep both? Not sure it can. Stay tuned…
Dave Weston from Dallas, Oregon
Question: Jim – Marcus is a wonderful quarterback for the Titans. He’s a great fit for a team comprised of really good individuals. If that team would have won three really winnable games this year — Miami, Buffalo and the Chargers it would have been the Division champion and never faced an “in or out” game at the end. In short Marcus’ absence in game 17 should never have been a problem. Each of the three games were winnable — the failing wasn’t the fault of the quarterback.
Jim: Hey Dave. There’s some truth to this. But we also can’t ignore Marcus started all three games you mentioned. So he’s not completely without blame himself. Just telling it like it is …