Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Well, it’s been an interesting week at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Atop the activity: The Titans are searching for a new offensive coordinator after the Packers hired former Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
We’re still rolling here as well, and it continues with the latest Titans mailbag.
Let’s do this…
Sean Freeman from Statesboro, Georgia
Question: Hey Jim, I know you covered a lot of questions concerning the QB situation and you said it depends on free agency. What do you think our chances are of pursuing Nick Foles even as liable back while Marcus Mariota’s durability is still in questioned?
Jim: Hey Sean. Well, this has taken over among the most popular questions in the mailbag. Yes, everyone wants Nick Foles it seems. Not just in Tennessee, but I’m sure every single team in the NFL wants a back-up who can play like a starter and win playoff games and Super Bowls. There’s a lot TBD with Foles, of course. Among the things to consider: the Eagles would probably love to have him back. If he went elsewhere, he wouldn’t come cheap. Foles earned a base salary of $4,000,000, a signing bonus of $2,000,000, and roster bonus of $3,000,000 this season. That’s a lot for a ‘back-up” – more than four times what Blaine Gabbert (who won two games this season) made in 2018. I’m not going to break any tampering rules by saying the Titans may/may not have interest in Foles if he were available. Let’s just let some things play out first, like the playoffs …
Takashi Terauchi from Milan, Italy
Question: Last year, we saw Dennis Kelly become a quality starting right tackle (ranked 5th by PFF for RT if I remember correctly?). He used to be an above average backup, below average starter, but I feel like now it is a waste of talent if he stays on bench. Is there any chance Jack Conklin moves to one of the guard position next season? Kelly clearly outplayed Conklin this year at tackle, and mauling style of Conklin could thrive at guard. Fixing interior pass protection is key for Titans to improve next year and Conklin is better at pass protection than any of our current starting interior linemen. I’m also a big fan of Corey Levin at center. If that happens, I believe Titans are one quality guard away from having a drastically improved offensive line. Imagine from left to right: Lewan, Conklin, Levin/Jones, FA/Draft, Kelly. What do you think of this lineup Jim?
Jim: Hello Takashi. I agree with you – I thought Dennis played really well. He’s a real asset. As for Jack Conklin moving to guard, I’d be surprised. I like Levin, too, but I suspect the team will evaluate other true guards in free agency and the NFL Draft. And I also think the coaching staff is confident Conklin will return to form in 2019, another season removed from his ACL injury. While you’re suggested lineup looks good, I’m expecting some new names to be in the mix as well.
Troy Patterson from Iowa Falls, Iowa
Question: Hi Jim. Long time Oilers/Titans fan from Iowa. Do you think part of the problem with the offense is that they have had 4 OC’S and 4 HC’S in 8 years? I don’t think Mariota has had a chance to comfortable with an offense. What are the chances the Titans could lure Chip Kelly away from UCLA to be the OC? Since he was Mariota’s Coach at Oregon do you think that would be a good fit? Have you heard any other names mentioned? I’m ready for next season to start, I hope they make a splash in free agency and get some good draft picks. I really enjoy reading your questions and answers!
Jim: Hey Troy. There’s no doubt it’s made it tougher. This will be Mariota’s fifth OC, as he heads into his fifth NFL season. As for Chip Kelly, I think I received three or four questions about him this week. He seems to come up any time there’s an opening here because of his connection with Marcus. But like you said, he has a head coaching job at UCLA. And I read in the Los Angeles Daily News if he leaves for another job in the first four years of his deal (which he signed last January), he must pay a $9 million buyout to the school. So there’s that. I’m not going to speculate on candidates here because coach Vrabel hasn’t shared his list with me yet (and he won’t), but I hope this quiets the Kelly talk and let’s us focus on something more realistic like trading for Antonio Brown (just kidding) …
Demario Patterson from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. I grew up a Cowboys fan living in Memphis, TN (mostly because of my dad) but once the Oilers relocated to Memphis that one season in 97; I met Steve McNair as a 7 year old kid and been a Titan Craze fanatic every since. My wife and I recently just moved to Nashville this past August 2018, between us titans fans I wanted to be closer to my team so please don’t let the wife know LoL; all jokes aside she loves it here. My question is what are your thoughts on the offensive scheme that best suits our abilities with us having two different coordinators in Terry Robiskie that was run heavy year before last and recently Matt LaFleur that seem to be more balanced? We have two running backs that will strive in either and Mariota that I believe is great, just needs a consistent coordinator. Thanks for the time!
Jim: Hey Demario. Hope all is well. I’m interested to see what transpires with the new OC. Good question on the scheme. I do think Vrabel will be looking for a balanced attack, one that can take advantage of Mariota’s skill set, and the running game. After seeing the way Derrick Henry finished the season, he has to be utilized in 2019, right? Hopefully the next OC will stick around longer. It would help everyone on the offensive side of the ball.
Paul Mackley from Bristol, UK
Question: Hi Jim. Loving the mailbag although sad that the questions are not about our glorious run through the playoffs! Being a distant UK fan this was an awesome season for me being able to take my son to Wembley to see my beloved Titans play in the flesh for the first time in my over 30 years of being a fan. Meeting Jevon, Keith and especially Eddie George and Amy Adams Strunk is something I’ll never forget.
I just don’t get the negativity this year, we had horrendous injuries at key times and Marcus had to deal with a lot with his injuries (a lot caused by a lack of protection) and yet another new offensive coordinator. But we were ultimately a missed two point conversion in London and a dropped pass from an 11-5 record!
So my question is with the Raiders (and Jags although I doubt they would give up a divisional home advantage) potentially hosting home games in London next year do you think there is any chance I’ll be spoiled with a second visit in two years?
Jim: Hey Paul. It was a fun trip. And as I mentioned in my Tuesday mailbag, this is something I am keeping an eye on myself, because it sure sounds like a possibility. I wouldn’t be upset if it happened…
Shane Decker from Leitchfield, Kentucky
Question: Hey Jim. I’m an avid reader and really do enjoy browsing through listening to other Titans fans questions and your responses. I really have 2 thoughts as this season has come to a close I should say. The first is about our offense. Marcus got hit a lot this year and to me it seems like a lot of that was simply holding on to the ball too long or is that a scheme issue. I look at how Indy turned it around by using a quick passing game and really getting the ball out quick and it just seems like other than a RPO here and there that everything was so slow developing for us. My second comment and question is about the draft. It’s been a long time since we really had an elite pass rusher. We’ve had some good ones like Kyle Vanden Bosch. I really consider Jurrell a run stopper that occasionally pressures the QB, but really no one since Kearse in his first couple of seasons that would really in my opinion force defenses to worry about pass protection. We’re in a division with some dynamic young quarterbacks in Watson and Luck so if there is a potential elite pass rusher there could you see us making a deal and moving around like last year? I really do think our defense is a player or two away from being special and think that would help us take the next step! Thanks for your time!
Jim: Hey Shane. When I look at team needs, edge rusher is definitely near the top of my list. With Brian Orakpo retiring and Derrick Morgan faced with an expiring contract, help is needed. I think Harold Landry has a chance to be special, and I like what I’ve seen from Sharif Finch. Kamalei Correa had some success in 2018. But more guys will be added, and it will come possibly in free agency and the NFL Draft. The pass rush needs more heat.
Morgan Brooks from Franklin, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. Love these mailbags that you’re doing as they give us fans a voice and showing what other fans think about certain situations. Anyways, Who specifically should we target in the off-season. Should we go after RGIII to better compliment Marcus’s game in the event of another injury and the offensive gameplan the titans have established? Should we pursue Golden Tate to upgrade our receiving core or turn to the draft again? Personally I think we should go after a proven Wr but that’s just my two cents. How should we go about upgrading our o-line? Ps. This season is not on Marcus Mariotas back. It’s not his fault that he got injured in week 1 and it seems like he came back still partially hurt as he was injured with the exact same injury vs the Colts and Redskins. For those of you saying he’s weak, ask yourself this: Is it worth the rest of your career for 1 game?
Jim: Hey Morgan. Appreciate it. I enjoy the feedback from fans, and checking the pulse. It’s really too early for me to list specific players. Right now, it’s hard to know which guys will be available, because they could be re-signed by their teams. Not sure about RGIII, and we’ll have to see what happens with Tate in Philly. As for positions of need, the top of my list has pass rushers, receivers, nasty d-linemen, and offensive line help on it. And, point taken on Mariota. Thanks for the questions.
Nick Martinez from Russellville Kentucky
Question: Hey Jim. My question is about the OC who do you think Coach Vrabel will look to hire will he get someone from college or the league? I have all the faith that Marcus Mariota is the Quarterback for the future just build around him. I think we have done a good job with Derrick Henry and Corey Davis just need one more playmaker and interior O-line help and we should be fine. Have a good one Jim #TitanUp
Jim: Hey Nick. Wish I could give you some hints. I’m expecting Vrabel to explore all options, but I also suspect he has a list. I’m guessing it probably includes in-house guys, and coaches in college and the NFL based on when he made his initial hires last offseason. I’m with you on everything else, but some more holes to fill and positions to upgrade as well.
Carla Russo from Roswell, Georgia
Question: Hi Jim! I have a question for you…do you think it is fair that Blaine Gabbert gets no praise from the Titans fan base? People are so hard on him! This is the eighth coach he has worked with since being drafted in 2011! From what I see, he is doing a reasonably well job! I would love to see a team stick with him and give him some stability. What do you think?
Jim: Hey Carla. I think Blaine did a nice job in 2018. He won two games for the team – vs the Texans and the Redskins. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to deliver in the season finale. Blaine remains under contract for 2019. Does that guarantee he’s back? No. The question GM Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel are faced with: Is there somebody out there who’s a better back-up to Mariota? Robinson was complimentary of Gabbert when I talked to him this week.
Christopher Harris from College Station, Texas
Question: Good Morning Jim. Thanks for your hard work with keeping “ALL TRUE TITAN FANS” up to date with TITAN News!! First, I have a comment. “HATERS are going to HATE!” I’ve been an Oiler/Titan fan since Earl Campbell – Go Big Blue Glory Days and have been on this Roller Coaster for All the UPs and DOWNs. These past 2 years have been Great!! I can count on 1 hand our Great Franchise Quarterbacks. In my opinion, Marcus is in the top 3 only behind Moon and McNair! If I can give Marcus my 2-cents, “Continue to stay off social media and Just Do You! Avoid the Hate, if that’s possible!” I only hope and pray that our Owner and GM believe in Marcus as much as I do. Please pass this message to them, we desperately need to draft or sign the Best TWO Bulldozing/Brick-Wall Guards Available!! Let’s protect Marcus!! I would always question our past GMs with their draft selection and free agency signings, but I believe and have faith in Jon Robinson and Amy Adams. In my OPINION, the 2nd most important area to address in the draft and free agency is the “DEFENSIVE LINE AND DEFENSIVE ENDS”. Let’s Help Casey and add some FAST Athletic Warriors to the Front Line!! Our Great Play-offs teams of the past CONSTANTLY pressured opposing QBs every down, this has been a part of our formula for success. I have NO LOVE for the colts, but I am impressed with how the 3 players they drafted were Athletic Beasts and contributed to the team’s success from day-1. (HINT) Lastly, I want to tell Blaine Gabbert to stay positive and keep his head up! I believe that there wasn’t another Titan on the field who wanted to beat the colts more than Gabbert! Thanks for listening and if ever Jon and Amy want to fly a True Titans Fans into Nashville for an all-expenses paid week in Nashville and tour of the facilities I would Proudly Take One for the Team! Happy New Year Titans!!
Jim: Hey Christopher. Thanks for taking the time…
Ricky Bolling from Mount Juliet, Tennessee
Question: 1st thanks for taking our questions. I read were you said you thought we was set at cornerback next year. Do you really think that the ones we have on roster that one of them is a shutdown corner? Malcolm Butler showed us why he didn’t play in Super Bowl and Logan Ryan was awful too.
Jim: Hey Ricky. No disrespect, but this is a bad take by you. Malcolm played really well down the stretch, and Logan had a really good season. Adoree’ Jackson needs to keep improving, but overall I think it’s a good group.
Cato andre Nagy from Hovin, Norway
Question: I wonder if you have to come from America to play this sport? I really like this sport, and i love to try this sport and i really love your team. I can throw a ball far. I’m in my 10th grade and I’m turning 16 the 13 January. I know in my country we have rugby but that seems boring. I love your sport i like to play madden and nfl games on my phone. And I watch your games almost every time you play my dream is to play on that team and my favorite player is Marcus Number 8.
Jim: Hello Cato. Well, Happy Birthday! And no, you don’t have to be from America to play in the NFL. If you can play at a high level, you can play in the NFL. You’re still a little young for the job. Keep working, and maybe one day I’ll be writing about you…
Cade Fowler from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. I had a question about whether Mariota really is a franchise quarterback. Obviously, he was a high draft pick and he played at a very high level his rookie year. But the last three years, he’s mostly been mediocre. I know the Titans have had issues with the O-line and receivers in the past, but Mariota really seems to be struggling. I’ve played/watched a lot of football, and I’m not sure if he really has what it takes to go from good to the elite level we need to go to a Super Bowl. I wanted to get your take on if Marcus Mariota can be the quarterback we drafted him to be, or if it’s time to look to someone else.
Jim: Hey Cade. Appreciate you taking the time. I get this question in the mailbag a few times every week, it seems. And I’ve answered it in this space before. My answer remains the same: Yes, I believe he can be a “franchise quarterback.” But he’s going to have to prove he can stay healthy as well.
Drew Hicks from Carmi, Illinois
Question: The biggest frustration for me as a fan is seeing inconsistency. Another OC leaving. Obviously a big part of Mariota’s problems in his career is having to constantly adapt to a different play call and offense in general. Why can’t we keep our coaches and did we even try to persuade Matt LaFleur to stay? What are your thoughts about getting the constant change in leadership and how has it affected this team?
Jim: Hey Drew. Ideally, LaFleur would have come back for his second season. Yes, it makes it harder for Marcus to learn new terminology under a new offensive coordinator. But persuade him to stay? He was offered a head coaching job at one of the most historic franchises in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers. Not sure what the counter would have been here. I’ve seen some fans rip Matt and call him a traitor. Give me a break. A head coaching opportunity is a tough one to turn down …
Nick Kranz from Kokomo, Indiana
Question: Hey Jim! Hope you had a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. I think all of our NY’s would’ve been better had we had a little more help from our team. Onto the 2019 season! I’ve got a question. I have so much hope in the defense. I really think this will be an elite defense In the NFL. So excited to see guys like Jayon Brown grow. He is becoming one of my favorite players to watch. Would you say that the 2018 Tennessee Titans defense was the best defense of the Tennessee Titans team era? Thanks Jim! God Bless you!
Jim: Hey Nick. Same to you. The 2018 defense was good, yes – third in the NFL in scoring defense, and eight overall in yards. But with all due respect to the 2018 squad, it wasn’t the best. I look back at the 2000 defense that finished the season ranked No.1 in total defense.
Dennis Pfeifer from Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Question: After watching the last game of the season and watching Luck sitting back in the pocket with all the time he has to throw the ball I came to the conclusion that Mariota is being chased from the get go. No wonder he gets hurt because he is being sacked and slammed to the turf on a regular basis. When I read people saying we should move on and he can’t stay healthy it bothers me. There is a reason he gets hurt because he doesn’t have the great offensive line that Luck has. I think if the Titans had the Colts line Mariota’s life would be a lot different. The guy is out there fighting to make plays under very difficult circumstances. So my question is shouldn’t the offensive line be the top priority in the upcoming draft along with another top receiver?
Jim: Hey Dennis. I appreciate it. You’re right – Mariota was sacked way too many times (42), especially compared to Luck (18). And yes, I believe offensive line and receiver are among the biggest needs. Whether they’re addressed in the draft, however, hinges on what happens in free agency.