NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Happy Holidays!
It's Christmas weekend, and it's also Week 16 in the NFL.
Big game for the Titans on Sunday, huh?
Santa isn't the only one sorting through mail this days. It's been a busy week here, too. I obviously got a lot of feedback after last Sunday's game against the 49ers, and I've tried to be fair. I let some of you vent in here. But some of the emails? Man, talk about the naughty list. Oh my.
But I appreciate everyone taking the time. If your question isn't in here, don't get discouraged. Keep sending them my way. If I get similar questions, I usually have to pick one. And when emailing, remember, I can't include words like &$#@&$! And @%$#&(G!
Let's do this…
Asa Fitzpatrick from Lutz, Florida
Question: Hi Jim. My question for this week is about the Pro Bowl. How come Kevin Byard didn't make the Pro Bowl? Last time I checked, he was leading the league in interceptions, and he was leading the AFC in pro bowl votes for a while too. What changed?
Jim: Hey Asa. Kevin finished first in Pro Bowl voting among fans, but after players and coaches voted, he didn't make it. Each vote counts one-third in the process. It's a shame. Kevin leads safeties with six interceptions, and is second in the NFL in picks. I definitely think he's deserving. He's an alternate, so there's still a chance he could go.
Matt Faulks from Dickson, Tennessee
Question:RUN. THE. NO. HUDDLE. OFFENSE. MORE. With Terry Robiskie calling the plays the offense is predictable and can't move the ball. Marcus Mariota is clearly more comfortable with the hurry up from the shotgun. Gosh we have to beat the Rams :(
Jim: *Hey Matt. I definitely think it could be used more moving forward, but we'll see. Marcus sure looked comfortable against the 49ers, and it's something the team has worked on in practices all season. And yes, this game is big. Same for next week! *
Jeff Saunders Murfreesboro Tennessee
Question: If Titans (beat) to Rams, does beating Jags mean AFC South title!
Jim: Hey Jeff. The AFC South title hopes are pretty simple: Titans have to beat the Rams on Sunday, and the Jaguars have to lose to the 49ers. If both those happen, the Titans would have to beat the Jaguars next Sunday.
Allan Nakayama from Bradenton, Florida
Question: Hi there. I sent you a message I think around week 6 when the Titans were 3-3. And I mention with some good early picks this young team would do better than last season. (9 win season, 2016/2017).
Since I'm from Honolulu, Hawaii I took interest in the Tennessee Titans, because Marcus Mariota. But right now I don't think they will make the playoffs. Because the Titans don't have a DEFENSE to stop L.A. Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Titans offense is awful, offense coordinator should be fired, along with the defensive coordinator. This season is over, 8-8 and missing the playoffs. That's too bad, I thought each year you should be able to improve over last season mistakes. Anyways, Mele Kalekimaka.
Jim: Aloha Allan. Mele Kalekimaka to you as well. I understand your frustration, but I'm not endorsing any firings in here. Things need to get better, or you're going to be right about the record. But let's see how things play out first. Best to you.
Bill Bohall from Portland, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. Have finally recovered from a World Series I'd sooner forget. But I'm stokes about a FA outfielder who may be joining the Dodgers next year since we aren't so over taxed.
Couple of random thoughts:
1- Know the NFL prides itself in being a leader and not a follower but I have to ask...The CFL has a rule I like. It's the rule allowing the punt receiver I believe 2.5 yards of "no fly zone" around him before he fields a punt. Can't see the harm in this rule and perhaps a benefit or two- less violent hits, increased action. Let me hear your thoughts and tell me if I'm missing something....
2 - In watching the difficulties laying new sod in Nissan Stadium, can surviving the MLS might present a problem....Field turf an option?
Have a great day and Thanks for really improving the coverage of the Titans: Titansonline, radio, tele, etc. and ...Go TITANS !!!!!
Jim: Hey Bill. I appreciate it. I still haven't recovered from the World Series! I like the rule you mentioned. I do think it would be safer, and it could lead to more big plays. The MLS team won't play at Nissan Stadium – it would play across town. So I don't think field turf is an option. I personally like the grass as long as it holds up OK. It has been re-sodded since the last game on December 3, so hopefully it will be good for the next two – and the Music City Bowl.
Matt Faulks from Dickson, Tennessee
Question: What number alternates are the Titans that are named alternates? How close are they to being in if some other people drop out? Thanks!
Jim: Hey Matt. As you know, seven guys made it as alternates - special teamer Brynden Trawick, tight end Delanie Walker, safety Kevin Byard, kick returner Adoree' Jackson, right tackle Jack Conklin, quarterback Marcus Mariota and linebacker Brian Orakpo. I can't reveal order, but I can tell you some of them are close, especially Delanie. He revealed this week he's a first alternate.
Kev White from Salisbury, North Carolina
Question: First timer here Jim. I've been a Titans fan a lot of years. Got a question I would like for you to pass along to Amy Adams Strunk and Jon Robinson. How much longer will loyal Titan fans continue to have their hearts broken by this time? Jon spent a lot of time building up the roster, only to have it mismanaged on the offense end. The argument has been given of "a win is a win" or "at least they are leading the division". Neither of those statements are true anymore. The Titans have become the laughing stock of the NFL. Even "exotic-smashmouth" is a punchline for analyst and commentators. Winless teams garner more respect from the league and sports media. It breaks my heart that no one respects the Titans. And the play on game days leave little to be respected. When does it end? When will our Titans play to the level of the talent? Please pass this along Jim.
Jim: Hey Kev. Will pass along. Thanks for taking the time and best to you.
Tony Duce from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Where is Tajae Sharpe?
Jim: Hey Tony. He's on Injured Reserve, and is out for the season. He's under contract to come back next year. I've seen him around, and I'll tell him you asked about him.
Jerry Ballard from Mount Pleasant, Tennessee
Question: Hi Jim. I enjoy your coverage of the team. Thanks. My question is, which position groups do the Titans think they need to upgrade the most? I think it could be inside linebacker on defense and guard on offense, but I`d like to know what the professionals think about as well as your own opinion. I appreciate it.
Jim: Hey Jerry. I'll probably dive into more questions like this when the season ends, but I'll say a big-bodied interior defensive lineman, more help at outside pass rusher, more playmakers on offense, and I see both your mentions as possibilities – ILB and interior offensive line. Plus, the secondary is always a good place to add depth. The Titans will be picking much later in the first round compared to previous years, however.
Mike Sorey from Medical Lake, Washington
Question: Hey Jim. Love this column and love this team! Got my own 6 things that have stood out to me. 1: coaching and play calling is terrible. 2: Robiskie was wr coach before this and I haven't seen much from our wideouts. 3: love Mariota but he's in the wrong system. If titans wanted a pocket qb then they should've drafted one. 4: fans excited about wins this year. We r supposed to win when we have the easiest schedule and we play against backup qbs. 5: press conferences are full of the same excuses. "We need to fix this and fix that" ,"we gotta do a better job at this and that". Well then fix it. 6: "dump truck" after the last two games I think it just means slow and boring.
Jim: *OK Mike, I let you have your say. Appreciate you following the "Six things that have stood out" theme at least… *
Rick Pinkerton from Terryville, Connecticut
Question: Jim, I am writing this piece one day after the bad loss to the 49ers. I see the glass as half full. We are going to have TWO home playoff games to get to the PLAYOFFS. What else could you ask for?
Jim: Plenty to play for Rick, no doubt. Need to win.
Jerome Lhurriec from Nantes, France
Question: Hi Jim. First post for me. I have been a Titans fan for 15 years now and in France, it is sometimes difficult to follow my team.
I first write to you today because I have been shocked by the (49ers) last game. First: The lone TD the 49ers scored have been given by the refs. The interception was clearly an interception (and we can see at the end of the action that the def steal the ball to be the lone controller). After that Woodyard makes a crucial 3rd down stop. The official put the ball on the floor for a 4th down. And then take it and put it 2 yds away... That's a given TD...
Second (which really disappoints me). 3&2 1 minute to play. The game is on line... As a play caller or a coach, who do you trust more? Murray who struggles since the beginning of the year or Mariota, who struggles since 1 month but has been very very good in the game and has done all the work in the drive ? Guess it? Our playcaller gives the ball to Murray... Perhaps they wanted the 49ers to spend one time out but it was not enough... Mularkey said that they called a run because they could not afford a sack in that situation... Hey Mike! If you don't trust your line to protect your QB (which has been amazing during the drive and not really pressured), how can you trust your line to open a hole for your runner? That was a very bad call! That's a call made to avoid to lose when we would have needed a winner's call. A winner's call when you have 2 yards to gain, to have the victory and the play offs is giving the ball to your best player! Which is not Murray. Robinson will have a lot of area to improve next off-season. But the first one to address for me is the play-calling, not the players! Regards, Jerome.
Jim: Hey Jerome. Well, I agree with you on the Erik Walden play – it was an INT. And while it was a bad spot on the Woodyard play you're referring to, I have to admit – I think it was a first down anyway. As for the 3rd and 2 play, that's the most talked-about play of the week. In my mind, the play shouldn't have been blown up like it was. It just wasn't executed very well. And after Succop's field goal, the defense needed to get a stop there. It was a bad sequence of events, no doubt, and the late-game gaffes were surprising considering the team had won eight straight games decided by four points or less.
Lester Sugita from Honolulu, Hawaii
Question: Hi Jim. Like most Titan fans, I was really looking forward to this season. Unfortunately, the season is not working out how we all imagined. Almost everyone is placing blame on the players, whether it's Marcus or the receivers or the defense, blah blah blah. I beg to differ. All of these player are professionals. They are the elite of the elite. The thing they say about the equity of the NFL is that every team can beat any team at any time. I truly believe that. So why does everyone put so much blame on the players? Just look at the transformation of the Rams with Jared Goff. Why do I bring him up specifically? Jeff Fisher. How can a coaching change make such an impact on a team, specifically a player? Why did titan ownership keep him for so long?
The loss to the 49ers is especially heartbreaking because to me, that was the "show me" game. With a win, we possibly make the play-offs, with loss, it becomes really, really difficult. Obviously, the defense was awful in the final drive. I don't blame them because, even as spectator, I could see that the defense couldn't stop Garoppolo. One of my questions is that why would the titans coaching staff play to set up a field goal when it was evident that with time, the 9'ers would set-up a game winning field goal?
I know it's easy to say that the smart move was to set-up the field goal but that was a 50 yarder. But prior to that, running the ball again and again? Really? Vanilla offense and defense. A little coco sprinkles and marshmallows on vanilla ice cream don't make it Rocky Road. Geez it's a 90's Pittsburgh team. Everyone studied the defense and offense in high school so it's so easy to dissect. This is 2017! Learn something new. The Titans have a unique team in that the players seem to be "All-in" ready to follow. My final question to you Jim is that what is your HONEST opinion? Sincerely, Lester
Jim: Aloha Lester. Thanks for the question. But let's not break out the tombstone on this season just yet. Yes, it was a bad loss to the 49ers, but the Titans are still in the playoff hunt. A lot of other teams would love to switch places. Yes, it will be a regrettable ending if the team doesn't make it, but let's see how things play out. And personally, I like vanilla ice cream. Sure, I like Rocky Road as well, but I'm not throwing any shade on vanilla in here. Mele Kalekimaka!
Michael Sprecher from St. Charles, Illinois
Question: Jim. I have been a Titans/Oilers fan since I was 10 years old and living in the Houston Area. I have seen a lot of things happen to the Titans by way of officiating that completely turn me off to the NFL. The Renfro catch being one of the standouts. The one thing that I can expect from a Titans game is that the referees consistently call fouls on the Titans whenever there is a possibility of a spark to get anything going. I realize that you should never allow the refs to be an excuse, but every game I can see bad calls at key times. Here is an example just from the Arizona game (I am thinking of making a video for youtube of them all). In the first quarter Demarco breaks out for a big gain. Conklin is called for holding. Coach is clearly visible mouthing the words, "This happens every time we get something going". I agree!!! If you watch the play Conklin is driving through his block. How can Coach get some attention and resolution to these blatant bad calls from the refs? P.S. - Walden intercepted that pass. Only thing Goodwin caught was Walden's hands.
Jim: Hey Michael. Hang in there. I agree with you on the Walden play. But I must admit – it was a hold on Conklin on the DeMarco run. Even Mularkey admitted as much. I will also say this – there have been some shaky calls in games I've watched this yeat, but they tend to even out. Have a good one!
Bill in Spokane, Washington
Question: Mr. Wyatt. The Rams and Jags are crushing their opponents. The soon-to-be 8-8 Titans will certainly miss the playoffs. May I kick off the annual "Titans Offseason Goals" discussion?
1. The Draft: It's nearly impossible for a player to be 100% for every snap. Consistently good franchises value a roster full of quality depth over a roster featuring a couple of superstars and a bunch of chaff. Trade any/all 2018 first round draft picks for multiple picks in the 2nd-3rd-4th rounds. Stock up on B+ talent.
2. Defensive Secondary: Adoree Jackson is too little. Trade him for a draft pick. Draft an NFL-sized cornerback.
3. Running back: Sit Murray for these last two games. Let Henry work on his pass catching and pass protection skills.
4. Quarterback: Mariota is medically unable to play his style of run-option football for an entire NFL season. He's at best an inconsistent pocket passer. Cassel's career is over. Obtain, via draft or trade, a true pocket passer-style quarterback who is accurate, calm and decisive. Didn't Garoppolo just make you drool with envy? Thanks!
Jim: C'mon Bill! I could challenge you on a lot of these. I'll start with Adoree', who has been good this season. Sure, he's had some down moments, but he's held his own and he's just going to get better. Also, the Titans aren't going to sit anyone while looking ahead. The goal is to win games, and get into the playoffs. As for Mariota, no NFL quarterback is able to play a run-option style, and it's why no team runs that style of offense. Mariota is the team's quarterback of the future, and he's going to be a good one. And while Garoppolo looks great to me, let's hold off before we make him the next Tom Brady.
Tom Montesion from Livingston New Jersey
Question: Hi Jim, Been a bit since I've written in. Let me start by wishing you and yours a very Happy & Healthy Holiday season. I will be direct. Unfortunately but obviously the team has fallen short of the expectations and all the off season AFC South Champs hype. As I'm sure you've noticed, the frustration of our fan base is obvious all over social media. Predictable play calling, losing to sub .500 teams who can only manage to put up FGs, barely beating others and making 3 and outs routine. Now we are about to face 2 playoff bound teams and very possibly staring down a 8-8 season and worse, giving up the south crown to UGH..the once lowly Jags!!! That said, if 9-7 or 8-8 does happen, and if we miss the playoffs....(again)....what changes do you see happening with the coaching staff or elsewhere?
Jim: Hey Tom. Way too early for me to speculate here. Let's see how the season plays out first. The Titans are still in contention for a playoff spot, and if things play out well this weekend the AFC South title could be on the line the final weekend of the year. We need a Titans win and a Jacksonville loss (to San Francisco) to have a shot at that, of course. As for the Jags, they are lowly no more. They've already won 10 games, including a blowout win over the Steelers. So it's not like the Titans are now trailing a bad team in the division. The Titans need to improve and take care of business down the stretch, no doubt, starting on Sunday vs the Rams.
Have a great holiday weekend everyone!
The Tennessee Titans take on the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2000 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photos)