NASHVILLE, Tenn. – So, the Pittsburgh trip didn't go so well.
The good news is the Titans are 6-4, and they still control their own destiny.
More good news: It's mailbag time.
Let's do this:
Ken Lovelady from Sugar Land, Texas
Question: Jim, I'm here in the Houston area stuck between crazy Texan fans and of course the dreaded Cowboys. As a long time Oiler and now Titans fan I get a lot of grief from my peers. Question, Marcus Mariota has now thrown more pics than TDs; in fact he's thrown as many interception this year as he did his entire rookie year with fewer TDs. He has been hurt every year since we got him and I believe he's playing hurt now. Is it time to start looking for a replacement? I love the kid -- great attitude and a ton of intangibles. However, he has not improved (where it counts) this year over last year. Your thoughts please.
Jim: Hey Ken. No, it's not time to start looking for his replacement. And to be honest, I'm shocked by the number of times I've heard this recently. Mariota's stats aren't as good as last season. Mike Mularkey was asked yesterday why the INT total is up. Mularkey said several things have factored into the high interception number, from pressures to blitzes to receivers not being where they are supposed to be on plays. Of course he's made some bad throws as well. Fans need to be patient with Mariota. He's a heck of a player, is committed, and his teammates love him. He didn't play well on Thursday night, there's no denying that. But he reminds me a lot of Steve McNair, another guy a lot of fans were done with after some struggles early in his career. McNair's TD-INT breakdown in his first six seasons was 65-49. Mariota's totals halfway through his third season: 53-29.
Steven Zaccardo from Rochester, New York
Question: Hey Jim. I'm a life-long fan from upstate New York (weird right?) who has been extremely disappointed as of late. Even while winning 4 games in a row it was evident that play-calling on offense was highly questionable at some points. We love to start off games with a lot of motion and intricacy, but it always seems like the more the game progresses, the more stagnant and predictable our play-calling gets. Personally, I just want to know if you think Mularkey is capable of taking this team to the next level. In my opinion we should move on from him to a new, younger, and more evolved style of coach like McVay of LAR. I think the time for us to take that next step is right now and we need to stop wasting time with a coach that has yet to prove to anyone he truly deserve to be in charge of a team with as much talent and potential as ours.
Jim: Hey Steven. I get it with the fandom. Life-long Dodgers fans here who was born in Nashville. I don't get it with the talk of ditching the head coach in his second full season. Mularkey coached the team from a 3-13 record to a 9-7 mark in his first season. The Titans are 6-4 this season, and with six games to go the team is in a great position to win the AFC South and make the playoffs. Yes I think Mularkey is capable of taking this team to the next level. Thursday night turned ugly in the second half, but things are on the upswing with the team despite some inconsistencies. The team has to play better, no doubt. But some of the problems – dropped TD passes on well executed plays, fumbles into the end zone, interceptions – can't all be pinned on coaching either. Hang in there.
Jakob Landes from Columbia, Missouri
Question: When will the offensive coordinator realize that we need to stop with the flashy offense in the red zone like the failed Eric Decker play? Why aren't we running the ball like we advertise? What's wrong with Murray? Why isn't he producing to the level he did last season and when will Henry get his first start?
Jim: *Well, Jakob, that's one of the plays that falls into the category of, 'If it works you look like a genius, and if it doesn't then it's a bad call." It's easy to second-guess when things don't work. After getting stuffed on run plays three out of four times on 4th and goal from the one in Cleveland, I remember hearing from some fans about why the team didn't have any more imagination there, that things were too predictable. The Steelers defended the play well, so it got blown up. Murray hasn't had the year he did last year. Part of it is because he's played through shoulder, knee and hamstring issues, and part of it is because room hasn't been there at times. The carries have been close between Murray (117) and Henry (101). *
Cedric Jeans from Memphis, Tennessee
Question: How many more years do you think the fans have to endure watching Mariota attempt to grow, before the GM decides to go with another quarterback?
Jim: *Hey Cedric. This is just me, but I'm thinking after Mariota's third contract. I hope I'm still around then.
Josh Foster from Spartanburg, South Carolina
Question: Are the Titans a couple years away from being a contender in your opinion?
Jim: *Or maybe a couple of months. The team is 6-4 with a lot of winnable games on the schedule. Take care of business, and Nissan Stadium is hosting a playoff game in January. The team has to improve to make that happen, of course, but 10 games in I think it's a pretty good spot to be in. And if you look at the NFL standings you'll see 21 teams with fewer wins than the Titans at this point. Is this team Super Bowl ready? Not from what I've seen so far. But how you play in December and moving forward is what matters most. I remember the 2008 Titans starting 10-0, and then fizzling out and losing in the first round of the playoffs. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. Have a good one, Josh.
Matthew Desind from Burley, Idaho
Question: Howdy. Has the team thought about using more no huddle and have Marcus call more plays at the line. Or moving to a spread offense? Thank you.
Jim: *Howdy Matthew. Mularkey was asked about this recently, and we've seen it some. The Titans practice the no huddle regularly, and he's been pretty good at it. I think you'll see it some moving forward as well. But this team isn't going away from running the football either. There will be a mix.
Charlie Hekma from Wheaton, Illinois
Question: Hi Jim. When can we expect the return of Tajae Sharpe?
Jim:* Sorry Charlie, but not until 2018. Tajae is on Injured Reserve and it out for the season. Since he went on IR before the cut down to 53 players in September, he's not eligible to come back this year like Harry Douglas, who went on IR after the cut to 53. It's an NFL rule. But he's doing well – I saw him in the locker room last week. I'll tell him you asked about him.
JP Woodard from Ohio, parts unknown
Question: What do you think has been the reason for the Titans offense struggles? Play-calling? The scheme? Or just lack of execution?
Jim: Well, JP, probably a combination of a lot of things. Interceptions, fumbles and penalties certainly make things more difficult, and we've seen some of that of late.
Trejean Watkins from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
Question: Hi Jim, first off that loss to the Steelers was awful. Yes we had plenty chances to make it a game, but too many mistakes and sloppy play eliminated that quickly. I'm asking this: This team has only had one complete full effort with efficiency from all three phases. That was against the Jags in their place. Other than that it's been a season filled with inconsistency and poor execution from either one side of the ball. When the offense sucks the defense is stepping up. When the offense is rolling the defense is executing poorly. What can this team do to make effort and execution way more consistent over the course of 4 quarters, game to game?
Jim: Yes Trejean, it was bad. What you're talking about is the goal for sure. I wouldn't ignore an impressive win over 6-3 Seattle (33-27). And both sides contributed to wins over the Colts (36-22) and Bengals (24-20). The Cincy game would've been a lot more one-sided if not for a fumble into the end zone and a dropped TD. Moving forward, I know the team is looking for more complete performances week in and week out.
Franco Grassi II from Yakima, Washington
Question: Hey Jim thanks for taking the time to read and respond to everyone's emails it really is a fun thing as a fan to actually get heard. Anyhow onto my question. Well it's more a question for Marcus maybe you can ask him the next time the two of you talk. I was just wondering why he waits til he absolutely has to to elevate his play and those around him? I understand situations and all that and play calling factoring into the scenario, but if we could put together drives like the game winners he's had (in recent) weeks, before we need a game winning drive it would make things easier. So like I said I'm just wanted to know why he waits til he has to to be elite? Your insight on what you think would be appreciated as well. Thanks for all you do Jim # TITANUP
Jim: Thanks for taking the time Franco. Well, I can assure you Marcus is not waiting around to finish strong. Obviously things didn't go well in Pittsburgh, but you're referring to some of the games when he produced game-winning drives late. He has been good in pressure situations late in games, which is a great sign. He has three game-winning drives this season, and seven in his career. But believe me, he's doing his best every snap. The goal for the entire team moving forward is to play well enough in games where it doesn't come down to the end.
Have a great weekend everyone!
The Tennessee Titans take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11 at Heinz Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)