NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Merry Christmas!
And here's to what should be an exciting week, one that will be capped off with a mammoth game at Nissan Stadium on Sunday when the Titans face the Colts with a playoff spot on the line.
Thanks for stopping in here once again.
Let's get right to this Christmas Day edition of the Titans mailbag…
Robert Wadhams from Burlington, Vermont
Question: Hey Jim. First and most likely only write in. I would just like to thank all the other Titans fans out there for their loyalty and dedication. I read your mailbag regularly and take pride in seeing the locations of the fans asking the questions. As a transplant myself, it's sometimes rough sledding for us in major markets ... but we Titan Up! My question is: How would you describe the atmosphere around there since you started? I thank you for keeping us (me) informed! Happy New Year of the Titans 2019.
Jim: Appreciate it Robert. I joined the team in 2015 after covering the Titans from 1999 to 2014 with The Tennessean. Inside the building, it's a completely different feel as the team has transitioned to new leaders at the top at GM and head coach, under the direction of controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk. I think general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel make a great pair, and they work well together. Players have clearly bought in, and momentum is growing. Now, the team just needs to keep it going.
Gregory Crouch from Wisconsin
Question: Hi Jim. I think we have seen the last start for Marcus Mariota as starting QB for the Titans. I hope I'm wrong more than anybody. I believe Gabbert will start against the Colts. The Titans will lose. I'm a player fan more than a team fan. Big Drew Brees fan and even more of a fan of Marcus. I hope he can find a way to stay healthy. I was a huge fan of Ray Allen in the NBA and everyone counted him out. That he would never survive his knee issue. He found a great surgeon, the rest is history. I hope the same for Marcus and wherever he ends up he has the same success. I think he will, given the opportunity. I hope this isn't my last email. That I have the chance to let you know I was wrong. Anyway, Gabbert the game ball? Should have been KB or the defense. This coaching staff has never wanted MM as their starting QB. I know you'll keep up the great work and I hope to email you in the future.
Jim: Hey Gregory. Appreciate you taking the time, but thinking you're off base here on a number of things. No matter what happens with Mariota for Sunday, you do realize the team picked up his option for 2019 don't you? And to say the coaching staff never wanted Mariota as their starting QB? Well, that's just wrong. As for the game ball, I thought Gabbert deserved it myself. He guided the team to a comeback win, in the clutch. It was a no-brainer in my mind.
Connor Scully from Erie, Pennsylvania
Question: Hi, Jim! With regards to the upcoming game this Sunday and considering it is against the Colts, would a win have a better franchise impact for this season and postseason alone (Vrabel's first as a coach), or do you think that the Titans finally beating Andrew Luck and getting that pressure off of them would help in the future seasons and help them continually compete for the playoffs? Go Titans!
Jim: Hey Connor. This is an easy one: Winning, and getting into the playoffs. The Titans aren't looking to clear a mental hurdle against Luck. He's won 10 straight vs the Titans because he's carved up the defense too many times, and the Colts have simply been better in a lot of those games. No matter what happens on Sunday, it won't have a bearing on games vs Colts in 2019 and beyond.
Seth Knott from Jackson, Missouri
Question: Hey Jim! I'm a converted Titans fan ever since the Rams left St. Louis! My dad was always an Oilers fan so it was an easy conversion. My question that I'd like to ask is about Mariota. What a class act. What a competitor. What a wonderful human being.
Is he our franchise quarterback? My opinion is yes. Is he injury "prone"?.. not really. Yeah he's gotten hurt each year but he's only missed 7 games. He just has to do a better job of learning to be more careful. I think the Titans are better with him. He can't help having 3 different coaches in 4 years. I've never been so invested in a team or quarterback... would love to see him stick around. Thanks!
Jim: Hey Seth. I'm with you on this. Yeah, he's banged up, but that goes with playing the position, especially when you're on the move – and you get sacked 42 times (like he has this season). What irritates me is fans calling him soft, like I saw plenty of on Twitter when he left the game on Saturday night. If he can play, he'll play. And I think the guy has proven plenty of times – most recently with his block on Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree – he's plenty tough.
Don Green from Knoxville, Tennessee
Question: What's the status of Jurrell Casey and an update on Brian Orakpo?
Jim: Hey Don. Unfortunately Jurrell won't play vs. Colts – he's been placed on Injured Reserve. As for Orakpo, he was at least on the practice field doing some warmups last Friday, so that's a step in the right direction as he works his way back from an elbow injury. Will he play on Sunday vs the Colts? Well, practices this week should provide some big clues.
Mike McLane from Macomb, Michigan
Question: Hey Jim. I really don't have a question just a cheerful comment. I have been a loyal fan of this organization and have attended at least a game a season since the early 2000s and I have always enjoyed the Titan hospitality. I have made some great friends who I see regularly every year at their tailgate and I am just grateful to be a fan of what I think is a great organization from the owner to the fans. Simply, I want to wish every Titan fan happy holidays and of course TITANUP.
Jim: Thanks for taking the time Mike. Happy holidays to you!
Julie C from Oregon City, Oregon
Question: One quick question - It's probably silly, but I'm curious. At the end of a game when a player is awarded a "game ball" for outstanding play, what do they do with the ball? Some players must get quite a few. I'm sure some are kept because they have a special significance, but it just doesn't seem likely that they keep them all.
Jim: Hey Julie. Good question. I would say most players keep them. A lot of time the balls are decorated with the game, date, and the score – after the fact. Others take them home with them, as is. And a lot of guys save the football after big plays, or moments. Tight end MyCole Pruitt, for instance, saved the football from his first career touchdown vs the Redskins on Saturday night. He said he planned to keep it at his mother's house.
Thomas Prozinski from Aldie, Virginia
Question: Over the last 4 years with all these great QBs coming into the league, how many have won a playoff game? Only Marcus. From his rookie season to now only one player remains on offense, 3 head coaches, 3 offensive coordinators, 3 winning seasons, and ties the league with the most 4th quarter comeback wins... Not to mention the youngest WR corps in the league and his favorite and most reliable weapon out for this season. I just wanted to give him a little love. Question: I could also have put hurt every season as well. Why the big difference in sacks from the last two seasons?
Jim: Hey Thomas. Fair question. Well, his sack numbers have gone up, from 38 as a rookie, to 23 in 2016, 27 in 2017 and now 42 this season. I think it's a combination of things. Of course the protection (o-line, tight ends, running backs) should take some blame, and Marcus should as well for holding the ball too long on occasion. I also think the team's inability to run the football effectively early in the season contributed to the higher number, because play action wasn't as effective. Playing catch up also contribute – the 11-sack game in a 21-0 loss to the Ravens is a perfect example.
Bobby Sinsabaugh from Eugene, Oregon
Question: Do you think Mariota injuries throughout his careers are because he is forced to or is forcing himself to be a pocket passer and is trying to learn how to stay in and maneuver in the pocket a lot longer instead of scrambling out of it like in college? I ask this because I noticed that all of Mariota major injuries have ALL come from being in the pocket and not from him running or scrambling outside the pocket. I think at Oregon this was what kept him from being injured is because he escaped most of the time out of the situations that would of had Mariota get injured. Think about how many times Mariota has been sacked in his NFL career (130) vs college career (66) and to me that's too high for a player not get injured all the time like Mariota has become.
Jim: Hey Bobby. You make a decent point. But I also think the possibility of him getting hurt increases when he doesn't know the hit is necessarily coming, like what happens on a lot of sacks. Quarterbacks can't protect themselves as much in that scenario like they can when they're on the move in the open field.
Micah Layne from Coalmont, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim what a game! I was able to score some tickets for my daughter and I last minute thanks to ticket master. It was one of those edge of your seat games and the crowd around us was standing the whole game (great atmosphere). I was wondering if Orakpo will be back for the Colts game? It seemed we lacked getting pressure on the QB and couldn't set the edge at times probably due to lack of depth. Keep the win streak alive and go TITANS! Thanks Jim.
Jim: Hey Micah. As I mentioned to Don earlier, we'll have to see how the practice week guys. He's making progress – he said it himself when I talked to him last week. Getting him back would be big, no doubt, especially with Jurrell out.
Happy Holidays everyone! Have a great week!