NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Well, how did you enjoy the first weekend in a while without a Titans game?
The playoff games were pretty exciting, though, and this weekend's games should be good ones.
My inbox has been flooded with questions since the end of the season. A lot of Marcus Mariota chatter in the last mailbag, and questions on the QB continue to roll in. But plenty of other topics are on the table as well. I'm doing my best to keep up.
Let's do this…
Dusty Carter from Pike New Hampshire
Question: My main focus is on the future of the Titans. I have been a fan when they were the Oilers in Houston, the transition to Nashville, and still today. Will the Titans use their franchise tag on Derrick Henry instead of Marcus Mariota? If so, what are the Titans looking to do during the draft, maybe a QB? I know this is far- fetched, however I have seen crazier moves.
Jim: Hey Dusty. The Titans exercised Mariota's fifth-year option for 2019, and Henry is under contract for next season as well. So the franchise tag won't be in play for them this coming season. After that, well, we'll have to see how things play out. As for drafting a QB, I wouldn't rule it out. But that doesn't mean it will be early. Remember, the Titans used a sixth-round pick on a QB (Luke Falk) in last year's draft.
Nancy Hall from Lebanon, Tennessee
Question: I am very happy to see that DC Dean Pees will remain with the Titans. But I am curious about our OC. Haven't heard a word about him staying or leaving. If he leaves, how will that affect Mariota in terms of having yet another OC to play with? Much was said this year concerning how different LaFleur's techniques were and that Mariota had a lot of learning to do - and that it may even take 2 years to get it down pat. So honestly how would bringing in another OC affect Mariota and his play and his confidence?
Jim: Hi Nancy. You're referring to OC Matt LaFleur, of course. I know you sent this question before the news hit last night: The Packers are reportedly hiring Matt as their new head coach. It's great for Matt, a sharp guy who was clearly on the fast track. But it's going to be another challenge for quarterback Marcus Mariota, who will have to adjust to yet another offensive coordinator. I'm sure coach Mike Vrabel already has some guys in mind he'd like to interview.
Desmond Sands from Spartanburg, South Carolina
Question: Hey Jim, I've been a Titans fan since the 90s. My question is do you think JRob and Vrabel will address the O-line this off-season? Marcus has been running for his life all season and I think keeping him upright will definitely get us over the hump with a healthy Mariota. The Colts addressed their o-line troubles and it definitely benefited them this year with Andrew Luck shredding defenses. Also a better backup to Marcus would help and we should really use Derrick Henry way more at the beginning of the season instead of the end -- we really could've won that Bills and Chargers game with the ball in 22s hand and we would still be playing in my opinion. 2019 will be a better year for us. #TITANUP
Jim: Hey Desmond. Yes, I do. How they do it – free agency or the draft – is the big question. When I look at some of the areas where the team needs to improve in 2019, I list the o-line as one of those areas. Way too many sacks for Mariota in 2018, as you mentioned. As for Henry, I asked Vrabel at the season ending presser if the ending of Henry's season might impact how things looks in 2019. His answer: "Every player on the team will be utilized as well as they play. I would say that if he started off 2019 like he ended 2018, I think that would be great. That would be unbelievable for everybody." So it sounds like some of what happens hinges on Derrick and his performance.
Sander van Peppen from Schiedam, The Netherlands
Question: Hey Jim, first time writing. First of all, thank you for your work covering the season. With NFL coverage practically zero in my country, your writing was the best way of keeping in touch with the Titans. Much as though I'd love to visit a home game in Nashville, I probably won't have the opportunity to do so in the near future. I was really excited when I learned of the Titans game in London, and I had a great time attending that game. How likely do you think it is that the Titans will return to London during next/a future season? The way they performed during this season after the changes in coaching staff and all the injuries, makes me believe the future ahead is very bright (with Marcus as our QB!), and I hope I can be a part of it more often!
Jim: Hey Sander. I must say, the London trip was a great experience and personally, I'd love to go back. Not sure if you've seen the reports, but the Oakland Raiders are reportedly in discussions with English Premier League's Tottenham Hotspur to share their new stadium in London in 2019. I've seen reports that the Raiders could play all of their home games there, or possibly four games in London. Of course it may never materialize, because there have also been reports about the Raiders playing in San Francisco, San Diego, and several other places as well. I bring this up because the Titans are scheduled to play at Oakland in 2019, so the Titans still don't know where that game will be played, and realize there's a possibility it could be in London. Things should come into better focus in the coming weeks…
Tim Everett from Salisbury, North Carolina
Question: Hi Jim! Longtime Oilers fan here. Adoree Jackson is a great sprinter, but he's been horrendous this year. From all the mistakes returning punts, to terrible defense. And Malcolm Butler was very quiet. Do you see Jon Robinson looking for secondary help this offseason? Thanks for the great job you do!!
Jim: Hey Tim. Appreciate it. I have to agree with you on Adoree' and the return game. He definitely struggled, and that has to be an area looked at heading into next season. But I thought he improved on defense, and the same goes for Malcolm Butler. When I look at the secondary, I think the Titans are set at cornerback – with Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson as the front-liners – and the big question I have is who will play alongside Kevin Byard at safety. Will the team re-sign Kenny Vaccaro, elect to ride with Johnathan Cyprien instead, or keep both?
Simon Aston from Leeds, United Kingdom
Question: Hi Jim. Greetings from England! What a season, what a rollercoaster!! I've been lucky enough to get over to Nashville to see the game against the Texans, & to London to see the Chargers game. The Titans have had seven or eight matches live on TV over here, so I've seen a great deal of the team this year. My question is about the coaching staff - what's your take on Coach Vrabel? What about Dean Pees & Matt Lafleur? Has this been a successful first year at the Titans for them? Do you think they will all be around next year?
I have to say I like some of the play calls I've seen, such as going for the win against the Chargers, so I'm happy overall with the set up now. Hopefully with a few additions next year, we can get back into the playoffs, although the home game match ups look tough!
Thanks to you Jim for keeping us long distance fans up to date. Cheers.
Jim: Hey Simon. Sounds like you're a great fan. For starters, I like Vrabel. And I thought he did a really nice job this season despite the fact the team missed the playoffs. The team won nine games versus a schedule that included games vs. nine teams that ended up making the playoffs, and despite some costly injuries. I've been really impressed with Pees and his defense – no question it was a successful year. The offense obviously needs to make some improvements, but it also needs more playmakers.
Warren Forseth from Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Question: The problem isn't Marcus Mariota It's the offensive line couldn't protect him. Every season It's the same old thing. Mariota gets hurt and then the Titans lose games. When are the Titans going to get a good strong offensive line? They stink every season
Jim: Thanks for weighing in Warren. I'm on record saying o-line play needs to improve in 2019. But to say they stink every season, that's just not true. I've covered a lot of Titans teams where it's been the strength.
Steve Kwiczak from Calgary Alberta Canada
Question: Hello Jim. I really have a statement to make rather than a question. Over the course of this season there were a number of times that Coach Vrabel decided to go for it on fourth down, or go for the 2 point convert (the Chargers game comes most quickly to mind). I read and listened to a great number of "experts" explain why these were bad decisions. The overall theme being (I reference the Chargers game) kick the single get to overtime. As a fan I hope Coach Vrabel continues to make these kinds of calls. I have always hated coaches that make decisions not to lose/extend the game, rather than make a decision to win (try) and end it. Not only does it show guts and a trust in his players, it sure makes the game entertaining for the fans. A long time Titans fan.
Jim: Hey Steve. Thanks for taking the time. I'm with you on this, and I sense the majority of fan base feels the same way. The feeling I get is fans like the aggressiveness, they just didn't like some of the play calls in those situations, whether it was the pass vs. the Chargers in London on the Luke Stocker run on 4th and 1 vs. Houston. I have a feeling Vrabel will stay aggressive…
Connor Scully from Erie, Pennsylvania
Question: Hi, Jim! There has been a lot of negatives from "fans" that I have seen, so I want to focus on the positives. I know it was a rough way to end, but factoring in everything that has happened during the season (new coaches, new schemes, significant injuries, tough schedule), I would argue this season was a great success! Yes, there were let downs along the way, but those should have been expected. We had some players prove how great they are (Jayon Brown, Derrick Henry, Rashaan Evans), and a completely new staff and scheme takes some time to adjust to. My question is how would you view this season for the team? Also as a side note, "fans" have been ripping Mariota apart, so whenever there is a chance to support him I want to. The guy has done wonders for the team, and I can't wait for what he does next year!
Jim: Hey Connor. Good points. The season, well, it was a disappointment. No one wants to finish short of making the playoffs. But I feel things are heading in the right direction. Some new pieces needed to be added, but I'm expecting the Titans to be a contender for years to come.
Deborah Steen from Franklin, Tennessee
Question: In the past, I've attended many fun games. This was due in part to the game itself but also due to the fun, upbeat music played at the stadium. I know I'm not alone in this opinion. Many of the season ticket holders are over 50 and would rather listen to upbeat, party music instead of the rap grunge that's being played the last 2-3 years! Is there anything you can do to have the music more appealing?
Jim: Hi Deborah. I'm obviously not the DJ (you'd probably hate my music taste :)), but I'll pass along your concerns…
Phillip Sebree from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. I am a diehard from the time the Titans set foot on Nashville soil. So much so that my fiance is willing to let our wedding be in Titan colors. But all I want is for my family to attend and have a good time. Since I am a loyalist from the TN (titan nation), it would be a dream come true if I had my Titans as part of my party. Can you picture my groomsmen and/or maybe best man? I know it's an long shot for anyone from Mrs. Strunk, Jon Robinson, or any of the players, but I figured i'd try. P.S.: My woman thinks I need help on my tux -- she think a Titans style tux is not appropriate for the wedding.
Jim: Well, Phillip, it sounds like your fiancé is a trooper. And I hope the wedding goes well. But sorry, I can't make any promises here. Congrats on the wedding, though!
Douglas Hawthorne from Fort Worth, Texas
Question: Hey. I see a lot of fans hating on Mariota and I just don't think they're right. Mariota could be a franchise QB. He just needs an offensive coordinator and coach that he can grow under and better protection. Anyway, I feel as though the team has pretty good linebackers and a pretty good secondary, but never gets good pressure on the QB. I believe the team should focus on O and D line in our offseason. Will the team try to sign a big name lineman in the offseason?
Jim: Hey Douglas. We're on the same page on a lot of this. As I mentioned previously, I think the o-line will be addressed. I suspect the d-line will be a spot for additions as well.
Micah Layne from Coalmont, Tennessee
Question: Hi Jim. Hope you have had a great start to the new year. My Question is how many players under contract for 2019 (if any) will have injuries that won't allow them to be ready for camp? Also great news that Mr. Dean Pees will be back next year. And I was wondering if the Titans will set up a separate place away from the draft venue only for Local Titans fans because tickets will be hard to get? If no plans yet maybe this will get the ball rolling, maybe sell tickets for a local charity, it would be a chance for a sweet party! TITAN UP!
Jim: Hey Micah. I'm expecting everyone to be back and ready for training camp. Some might be held back for some of the offseason work in May and June, but by July everyone should be good to go, including Delanie Walker, who said recently he's still about three months away from being fully recovered.
Bobby Pope from McMinnville, Tennessee
Question: Hi Jim been a long-time reader but never written before. I thank you for all you do for the fans. I'm sick of hearing about Marcus not being a good quarterback I'm a long-time fan in Tennessee and think he would be a great qb for the Titans long term he gives to the community and is very respectful to others and is a competitive person. People are quick to say the bad stuff but never the positive stuff if he's winning he's great but I don't think people are giving him a chance. The coaching staff has changed every year. I know he's been hurt a lot but we need help on the oline. We keep spending money on defense and we are not balanced we have a great running back in Henry and he didn't get started till the end of the year. We didn't hear we need another running back that's what makes me think what changed at the end of the season why can't we play like that all season? I know it's a long season and we had a lot of injuries but everyone always points to Marcus; he has better stats than Steve McNair so far since he's been here I just think he would be great here as a titan if people would give him a chance. He wants to be here and I think the Titans could be great again cause of him I'm proud of Jon Robinson and the moves he's made so far and grateful for Amy for getting a coach who has played the game. Now we have a young offensive coach who can light it up if given the chance. I just thank you again for all you do and let's all titan up
Jim: Hey Bobby. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. Have a good one.
Josh Potter from Jersey City, New Jersey
Question: Seems people are too hard on Mariota, at least to me. He reads defenses better than most and an accurate arm, he just has gotten some bad breaks. But to the question: Do you think Anthony Firkser and Sharif Finch will be with the team next year? Thought when they played they played way above expectations. Thanks.
Jim: Hey Josh. Both Firkser and Finch will be under contract, so they'll have to compete -- with more competition – in training camp. I liked what I saw from both of them, so they'll have a great chance to make the team, especially Finch, who I see as a rising star. Keep in mind Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith will be back at tight end in 2019, and I'm sure others will be in the mix. So Firkser will have to keep improving. He did a great job when called upon this past season no doubt.
Connie Lawson from Fall Branch, Tennessee
Question: I would like to see Joshua Dobbs be QB for the Titans next year. Would that be a possibility?
Jim: If you're talking as a starter, no. If you're talking as a back-up, he'd have to get cut by the Steelers for that to even be a possibility.
Jayme Rutherford from West Monroe, Louisiana
Question: Hey Jim! My question is why don't the titans get any respect? I've seen NFL analysts say the titans are boring. No one wants to see them on in the playoffs. "We rather have Luck it makes for a better story". We already rarely get praised when we win. And even if we win they would talk about the losing team the whole time. Example Titans vs Patriots. We destroyed them, and the question of the day was is Tom Brady getting old. Not about how the titans neutralized tom Brady and his offense. Is it because we're a small market team and no one cares? Thanks Jim and have an awesome 2019!
Jim: Hi Jayme. Well, respect is earned. The Patriots get respect because they win, especially when it really matters. The Titans will get respect by winning – especially in the postseason. It's a work in progress.
Joe Carlone from Laval Quebec
Question: Hey Jim. I've been an Oilers fan and a Titans fan for 30 years, and no matter what , I will always be a Titans fan. My question is: Can the Titans really compete with the large markets teams? It seems that we always come up short. They really need to get a wide receiver, a huge body to help Jurrell on the run, and a tough hard-nosed corner. Your thoughts?
Jim: Hey Joe. Going to run through these quickly – yes, the Titans can compete with large market teams. Just ask the Patriots, Eagles, Redskins and both New York teams, who all lost to the Titans in 2018. I realize you're probably talking Super Bowl here, but large market/small market doesn't matter. It depends on who plays well with momentum in the playoffs. I agree with you on receiver help, and a big body alongside Jurrell, and the hard-nosed corner is Malcolm Butler, who played well after a rough start last year.
Luis Lanuza from Lake Jackson, Texas
Question: Hello Jim. First of all, Happy New Years!! Titans defense did very well overall in 2018 season. I think Kenny Vaccaro was a great addition after Cyprien went down with injuries and he seem to boost that defense. With his contract done, do you see him coming back in 2019? He is part of their success. Also, it is obvious that our offense needs help. I think Mariota will be fine but there's no doubt that he needs help. What changes to the offense do you expect in the off-season? By the way, my bold prediction for 2019 is that Henry will be top rusher in the NFL. Fingers crossed.
Jim: Hello Luis. Happy New Year to you. That's the big question on Vaccaro. I thought he played well, and he wants to come back. But the GM and the head coach have a big decision to make. I may be wrong, but I just can't see both of them back on the 53-man in 2019. It would be a good development, yes, but I think it's probably one or the other. On offense, I see help being needed at receiver, on the o-line, and I won't be surprised if another tight end or QB (to compete for back-up spot) is added at some point in the offseason.
Have a great week everyone!