MIAMI – It's been a busy week in South Florida leading up to Super Bowl LIV.
No, the Titans aren't here, but if you've been keeping up on Titans Online you've seen plenty of Titans-related stories. And if you follow me on Twitter (@jwyattsports) you've seen a lot of Super Bowl content there as well.
Or, maybe you've gone on a football detox following the AFC Championship Game, and if that's the case, well, I understand.
Before I get into the mailbag, I did want to share a quick, funny story from this week.
Here it goes: I was in a pizza spot in Miami Beach on Wednesday night, watching the Vanderbilt-Kentucky basketball game by myself, and eating a few slices at the counter. Maybe five people were in there.
In walks a young man and his parents. It was Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. I didn't want to bother him, but I did call my daughter (who attends the University of Alabama) to tell her he'd just walked in. She's a big fan of his, and couldn't believe it. Eventually, I needed a refill on my Coke. And, of course, the Tagovailoas were sitting right next to the fountain machine, the only ones at a table.
I said hello to them, and I told them about my daughter. They were really nice. We talked briefly about Marcus Mariota, who went to the same high school as Tua in Honolulu. After a quick chat, I gave them a thumbs-up, went back to my counter top spot, and proceeded to watch Vandy run out of gas (as one of the pizza makers repeatedly clapped while standing in front of me as UK pulled away, ruining any chance he had of getting a tip).
The next day, I was hanging out on Radio Row, chatting with Eddie George (jeez, I'm sounding like a name-dropper, now), and here comes Tua walking by. At this point I'm beginning to wonder if he was stalking me. 🤣 We looked at each other, smiled, and he gave me a low five and we talked about the pizza, which actually was pretty good. I obviously recognized him, and I guess he recognized me because I had on the same Vandy visor with a pencil sticking out the top of my head. Then we headed in different directions.
So that's the story. Mainly sharing this story just to say what a nice young man Tua seems to be, just like the other Hawaiian I got to know in Tennessee.
Now, on to the Titans mailbag. This is a short one, because I have to get back to the party on South Beach 😎 …
Paul Newton from Santa Fe, New Mexico
Question: Jim. Not sure if you remember, I was very skeptical of MM8 in 2018. I did not submit anything the entire 2019 season. The reason is I wanted to stay away from emotional posts. I am so glad I did. Now, the season is over, and it is time to submit my 2 cents. Question: Do you think it is possible to keep Ryan Tannehill, Jack Conklin, and Derrick Henry for next season? I personally think those 3 would go a long way to keeping this team on an upward trend.
Jim: Hey Paul, Well, in a perfect world that would happen. And I'm sure GM Jon Robinson is working to try and keep a lot of the unrestricted free agents. How it happens, well, that's the tricky part. Some could be re-signed to new deals, and the franchise and transition tags are available. Where do things stand? Your guess is as good as mine at this point. I flew to Orlando the day after locker clean-out day for Pro Bowl week, and I haven't been back in Nashville since. I've been down here, covered up since the start of Super Bowl week. It's early in the free agency process, though, and there's plenty of time to get some things sorted out.
Bill Parton from Lexington, Kentucky
Question: How is D'Andre Walker progressing? I thought Titans got a steal last year getting him in the 5th Round. NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein (NFL.com), had him with draft projection of 3rd to 4th round and an NFL Comparison to Dee Ford. Based on what small sample size you saw of him is that a fair comparison for his potential? If he is healthy, could he develop into the other edge rusher needed? Thanks for all your insight.
Jim: Hey Bill. Good question. Actually, I got two questions about D'Andre this week, and I picked yours. I saw D'Andre around this season, and I've heard some good things. Coaches were impressed with him before his injury last year, and I think he's going to be a serious contender for a roster spot, and playing time, in 2020. In a lot of ways he's a forgotten man outside the building, but folks inside are optimistic about him.
Alejandro Contreras from Jupiter, Florida
Question: Hello Jim. Even we didn't make it, and even I don't have tickets, I'm gonna hang around the HardRock on my Titans gear, proud Titans gear. Do you have any idea where I might have a chance to catch any of our boys around the stadium on Sunday morning? Thanks!!
Jim: Hey Alejandro. You'd just have to get lucky. And, to be honest, I'm not sure who is going. I've seen Derrick Henry, Rashaan Evans and Kevin Byard around this week, and I know Ryan Tannehill is scheduled to be an NFL Honors tonight. But not sure they're going to the game. I actually doubt they do. A lot of NFL players hang out in the Super Bowl city during the week, but they don't go to the game.
Steve Gates from Clive, Iowa
Question: With the lack of kicking game success, I feel it makes a lot of sense for Titans to spend their last draft pick on Georgia kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship. Usually the last draft pick doesn't make the team but in this case, you save money releasing Succop. I know he's not a proven quantity, but they can fight it out in preseason. Winner takes all.
Jim: Hey Steve. Blankenship is a good kicker, but I wouldn't hold your breath thinking the Titans might use a draft pick on a kicker. Color me skeptical. The team has a few options, including letting Ryan Succop and/or Greg Joseph and potentially battle it out with another kicker in a competition leading up to the season. Stay tuned.
Carlos Otiniano from Miami, Florida
Question: I was a big fan of the Miami Dolphins and now I'm a fan of the Tennessee Titans. I feel that Tannehill had the capability to take the Dolphins to the next level but with a weak offensive line and poor coaching he wasn't able to play as he is capable of. What are the chances of him staying in Tennessee and how Titans community feels about him replacing Mariota?
Jim: Hey Carlos. Ryan did a great job after taking over for Marcus, and even the most ardent Mariota fans had to concede it was the right move. Of course, some still contend Marcus got a raw deal, but a lot of those folks, not surprisingly, happen to be from Oregon and Hawaii. (Cue the emails from others). I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I respect the heck out of Marcus. He's one of my all-time favorite people. But Ryan Tannehill lifted the team's season from the wreckage, and now we'll see what happens moving forward.
Joshua Bomar from Knoxville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. I've been hearing rumors that Tom and Gisele have registered their kids in a school in Nashville. Do you know if there is any validity to these rumors?! Is it possible we could sign the G.O.A.T. to a 1 or two year deal? If so, would this be a better short term move to bring in Brady similar to what Denver did with Manning, or do you pay Tannehill an exorbitant amount for a long-term deal. Personally, I'm really torn on which would be a better decision for the organization. On one hand, Brady could short track you to the Super Bowl, but on the other hand, Letting Tannehill walk after the season he had seems like it could be a mistake as well.. Oh man, this is a tough call. What are your thoughts on this Jim? Thanks for everything you do for us fans, and congratulations to the entire organization for a spectacular season!
Jim: Hey Joshua. Good to hear from you again. I've also said this before: I'm not going to disrespect Tannehill by talking about Brady at this point. And I'm also not going to talk about Brady because I like my job too much. As a team employee, if I'm talking about Brady, who is currently under contract with the Patriots, then that could be considered tampering. So I'll let others talk about the rumors. Speaking of rumors, since you live in Knoxville, I hear Jon Gruden was spotted at Gus's Good Time Deli and he's interested in coaching the Vols. You heard anything about that? Sounds legit to me …
Have a great Super Bowl weekend everyone.