NASHVILLE, Tenn. —The headline on Peter King's MMQB Mailbag this morning: Resuscitating the Titans.
It describes the job ahead for new general manager Jon Robinson, and in his story, King also talks about Robinson's upbringing in western Tennessee, and his health scare as a youngster.
King spent an hour with Robinson on Sunday morning at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
"Before then, I'd spent five minutes with him in my life,'' King said of Robinson. "I didn't know him really at all."
King, a long-time sports writer with Sports Illustrated and a Hall of Famer voter who's a part of NBC's Sunday Night NFL show Football Night in America, came away impressed.
He believes the Titans are in good hands, and poised for a turnaround.
"He is all football,'' King said of Robinson. "He not only has a good football mind, but he also understands the public part of the job. He understands he has to do some things now he's never had to do before. I think he understands basically, 'You're not in Kansas anymore' in that he now has other responsibilities than going out and scouting players. Now he has to be able to communicate with the public, deal with the coaching staff, all this stuff he's really never had to do before.
"Jon understands very well the fact that he has to get on the same page of Mike Mularkey and the coaching staff and he has to get the players Mularkey is going to want, and vice versa. Mike Mularkey has to understand what Jon Robinson wants. Now if there is a disagreement on April 28 (in the draft) or whenever, I am sure Jon is going to cast the deciding vote. But he strikes me as a consensus builder. And he strikes me as a guy who is ready for this job."
Robinson was hired as general manager of the Titans last month after spending the past two seasons as director of player personnel with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Prior to that, Robinson worked as New England's director of college scouting (2009-13) after serving as a regional scout and an area scout for the Patriots.
King especially likes Robinson's background with the Patriots, where he worked alongside Bill Belichick.
He learned a lot about Robinson in the lobby of the Westin hotel in downtown Indianapolis. King was challenged trying to get clues on who the Titans might pick at No.1, however.
"The biggest test for Jon, having the first pick in this draft, is to see if he is going to be able to generate any interest in that pick. For all I know right now he could be absolutely locked in on (Ole Miss tackle) Laremy Tunsil, or (Ohio State defensive lineman) Joey Bosa or whoever, he could be locked in on one guy. I don't know,'' King said.
"It's in his best interest not to spread that around, even in his own building. It's in his best interest to see if he can generate a buzz with that first pick. I doubt he is going to be able to, but you never know. If there is some coach out there – if (49ers coach) Chip Kelly absolutely loves (North Dakota State QB) Carson Wentz or the Rams decide they want to make a play for the No.1 pick – Jon has to put that in play if it makes the most sense for his franchise. And he understands that. I think he is going to be really good at playing his cards right and not telling anybody other than those who absolutely have to know which way he is thinking until very late in the process."
King knows Robinson has his work cut out for him with the Titans.
The franchise is just 5-27 in the last two seasons. But he likes the team's chances of improving, because of quarterback Marcus Mariota, and Robinson.
"I think they will get better. I am very, very bullish on Marcus Mariota. To me, I just think he has the perfect demeanor and the perfect set of athletic tools to take hardship and be able to bounce back from hardship and play well. Had I had the first pick a year ago, I would have taken Mariota. I really like the guy, and I like (Jameis) Winston too, but I am just very, very bullish on Mariota,'' King said.
"As far as Jon is concerned, I think overall, I want a football guy to run my team, a guy who has a good pedigree, a guy who is a worker who can build a consensus, someone who has been in places before where you put an emphasis in building in the draft and not building it the other way. Because long-term that is really the only way you are going to win long-term, building in the draft and that's the way Jon thinks.
"I think the Titans are in good hands,'' King continued. "Jon made a good point to me in that the way you win in the NFL is to stack some good drafts on top of each other. I think he understands this can't be a one-person draft. If you screw up the top pick of the draft, you are not very good at your job. He understands they have to get multiple answers out of this draft. I think his pedigree is good and I think he has a really good chance to turn this team around if he gets some time and he has a couple of good drafts right off the top. I mean, they are in the perfect division to be able to turn it around. There is not a powerhouse team in the division, so I would be pretty bullish on his chances to turn it around."