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Titans Mailbag: Jim Wyatt Answers Questions from Fans

Posted Feb 17, 2018

TitansOnline.com Senior Writer and Editor Jim Wyatt tackles your questions in his latest installment of "Ask Jim."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Well, we’re another week into February, and another week closer to the NFL Combine, free agency, and the NFL Draft.

But there’s no longer a wait for another Titans mailbag.

It’s here…

Robert Orr from Houston, Texas

Question: Hey Jim. Just a quick question about FA. Why is it that we constantly see people being signed outside of the free agency period?  Do FA rules only apply to certain types of FA's? I've always been a little shaky as to my understanding of the ins and outs of it all. Thanks in advance for helping to sort it all out Jim!

Jim: Hey Robert. Good question, because I know it’s confusing. The guys you’re seeing signed this time of year are players who weren’t already under contract. Take cornerback Demonte Hurst, for example. The Titans signed him recently because he was cut in December, and without a team. Guys like Tyler Ferguson and some of the others you saw signed in January were signed to “futures” contracts. Most those guys ended the year on the practice squad, and now they’ll be able to work out when the new league year starts. But free agency isn’t scheduled to start until March 14. That’s when players with expiring contracts will hit the market. Teams will have an opportunity to try and re-sign some of their own before free agency begins. But that’s when you’ll see the bigger name players sign – and for bigger money.

William Gamble from Big Lake, Alaska

Question: Dear Jim. With free agency coming soon I was wondering: Are we going to get more special teams players or will things stay mostly the same? I would love for our special teams unit to be a top 5 threat to strike fear in our enemies. Best Wishes, William Gamble

Jim: Hey William. Some of the early signings in free agency – Brynden Trawick, Daren Bates, Eric Weems -- last year focused on special teams, and I think it will continue to be a point of emphasis for GM Jon Robinson. The special teams units improved last season, but there’s still room to grow. I suspect coach Mike Vrabel’s background on special teams will keep this being a top priority. And keep in mind the team now has a new special teams coach in Craig Aukerman.

Julie from Oregon City, Oregon

Question: I have a few questions – Feel free to pick and choose if you want to answer any.  But first, congratulations to the Titans for making the playoffs.  Sorry they didn’t get further, but they should still be proud of their year.  They got further than 24 other teams. 

First question – Many teams feel they get more than their fair share of bad calls by the refs.  It also appears that many of those iffy calls are “non-reviewable”.  So…. has the NFL ever considered anything along the line of giving each team one extra challenge during the game, but it can only be used to challenge a ref’s normally non-reviewable call – or for that matter to challenge a ref that didn’t call a penalty that a coach normally cannot do anything about? 

Second question - I’ve been following all the coaching changes going on not only with the Titans, but across the league.  How difficult is that on the players?  Is starting an entirely new system difficult, or are the players so familiar with all types of systems that it really doesn’t matter? Do coaches in general use the same type of language/words in relation to play calls, etc. or do players basically need to learn a whole new language? If it’s a whole new language, are the players able to get a new play book with that language now so they can begin to learn it, or do they have to wait until training camp?  Are there “statistics” on first year coaching changes - does a coaching change statistically set teams back at first, do they stay about the same the first year, or take that desired leap forward? 

Last question -   Have you heard how Jack Conklin is doing since his surgery?  Wishing him a quick and smooth recovery… Thanks for the time…    

Jim: Hey Julie. Thanks for the email, and the questions. I’ll roll through these:

For starters on the officiating, I know the competition committee addresses officiating/rules changes each year during the offseason. The owners meetings are scheduled for late March in Orlando, but I haven’t seen the agenda yet and I haven’t heard buzz about potentially adding a challenge. Good question. Question 2 on staff changes: It’s definitely an adjustment for players when a change takes place, and it makes the offseason even more important. Teams with new head coaches get an extra few weeks in the offseason program, which means the Titans will start on April 2. But there will be some drastic changes players will have to adapt to fairly quickly to be ready to execute in OTAs and minicamps, and to get ready training camp and the season. As for Conklin, his surgery was a success. But he’s still going to need plenty of time to recover to be ready for the season. There’s a chance he could begin training camp on the team’s Physically Unable to Perform list, but the hope is he’ll be ready for the regular season.

J Williams from Angleton, Texas

Question: After reading the final letter (last week) from Dave, and being a fan of the same era, I had many of the same feelings that he had regarding the coaching carousel and was a fan Fisher as well. However, I have thought about this since the hiring for Vrabel.  Teams have a window of opportunity with a core group of young players, especially at the QB position.  Two 9-7 seasons are far from great success - on the other hand - Robinson has put together an interesting staff, and while we have no input, we do have power of the purse.  2018 should NOT have a drop-off or a step backwards - anything short of a playoff at home would be a descending step in my thinking as a Monday morning QB. Jim, would you please keep us up on the new schemes and nuances from both sides of the ball?

Jim: Thanks for the email. And we’ll keep you updated here at Titans Online. There’s no doubt everyone is shooting for bigger things moving forward with Coach Vrabel. The playoffs and beyond will be the expectation. It’s going to continue to be a busy offseason with the draft and free agency to build for 2018, and the future.

Robert Starkey from Corpus Christi, Texas

Question: Hey Jim. Long-time fan since the mid 80's. I was wondering if you could possibly relay a message for me to the organization? I would like to let them know on March 9, 2018 at my retirement ceremony after 20 years in the military they are going to make my son the happiest kid on earth. Mr. Underwood graciously wrote him a letter thanking him for his service and support during my career. You see, he may be a bigger fan than me (Which is hard) and I finally had the opportunity to bring him to the game in Houston this year since I was recently stationed down here to retire. Unfortunately we were dismantled but never rattled his support. Lol. I just would really like them to know they are gonna make me look like the best dad and him so happy in a month and I can't say thank them enough. Classy organization for taking the time to do that for me. Last thing, I haven't been this excited about our future in a while. Love the Vrabel hire, and all the moves since. Jon Robinson is going to turn this organization into the next Patriots Dynasty, and yes I believe that statement. He seems to be very calculated in his decisions. Been saying for years they should hire me and I'd turn that organization into Champions. Well, Bud’s daughter, Mrs. Amy Adams Strunk, is definitely making her daddy and all the fans proud. Oh, BTW, she has been nothing short of a class act and amazing Owner!!! She doesn't get the credit she deserves for the Titans turn around. Sorry for the long message. V/r, Robert L. Starkey II HMC (FMF/SW/AW) 

Jim: Hey Robert. I will pass along. And congrats to you! Thanks for your service! And your support. Best to you and your family.

Bart Fite from Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Question: Will the Titans be offering organized trips to England when the Titans play over there? I have some friends and myself that really want to go, but we would like to be on a tour with a group-thanks.

Jim: Hey Bart. That should be a fun trip. There’s actually a “Tennessee Titans Official London Fan Package” through Primesport. It’s listed on the web site. Here’s a link to it.

Tennessee Titans Official London Fan Packages titanup.co The Tennessee Titans are headed to London in 2018! Get your package today for this unique NFL experience and let PRIMESPORT handle all your international travel needs.

Chris Cannon from Evansville, Indiana

Question: Jim- Long time lurker, first time question.  Thanks for keeping us in the know regarding all things Titans.  My question is about the London game this year.  We are thinking seriously about going, using it as an excuse to get to Europe. Besides the game itself, what else can we expect over there? Are there any additional activities/events planned for these games?  Thanks a lot and Titan up!

Jim: Hey Chris. Maybe you can hang out with Bart? He just asked about it ^. So far, I haven’t heard about activities surrounding the game, but I’m pretty sure from talking to colleagues who’ve been, there will be extra festivities. As we get closer, that should come into better focus. It should be a great October trip, though. As we get closer to the game – maybe once the schedule comes out in April? – hopefully I’ll have some more info for you. Check out the link I sent him as well.

Alan Ray from College Grove, Tennessee

Question: Hey Jim. It must be pretty exciting for you hanging around Titan Town these days with all that newness goin' on. 

I really don't have a question Jim, just an observation and some commentary if you would allow me.

You know, as frustrating as the scheme and play calling were at times last season, I was thinking of Mike Malarkey the other night and just how much he truly did for the Titans and the Fans and the Town.  I know people are really excited about all the new coaches and many felt it was time for a change, myself included, but still, I'd like to give Coach Mularkey his props.  He's earned them. 

Who can forget that explosion of excitement we all felt when the Titans beat the Saints on the road in overtime for his first victory as (interim) HC? Man, that was an incredibly exciting comeback win for us and the beginning of the turn-around.  

Coach Mularkey took a disorganized and frustrated group of talented athletes and brought them together to create a winning culture, mindset and team.  He created a unit that doesn't need to be coached-up on how to play with toughness, or how to be accountable or what it takes to win or how to be a good teammate.  Our guys are all that and more already thanks to Mike.  He instilled all those disciplines into a bunch of characters along with a belief in themselves that they could win.  And they did. 

So I'd like to say thanks, Coach Mularkey.  You helped turn the Titans into the relentless, tight-knit warriors they are today.  It's now up to the new coaches to build upon your foundation and hopefully take them even further.  So thanks again Coach, and I wish you all the best. Thank you Jim, I appreciate all your good work too. Titan Up! -Alan

Jim: Hey Alan. Appreciate the email. This is fair to coach Mularkey, no doubt. Hope he’s still reading the mailbag.

Have a great weekend everyone!