NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Welcome to December.
And welcome to the stretch run for the Titans.
Will it be a month to remember? Well, we’re about to find out.
One thing’s sure: It’s time for another memorable mailbag.
Jabari Jackson from Merced, California
Question: Mr Wyatt. I can appreciate how you answer all opinions in the mailbag, but the Vrabel hate from fans is disgusting. Give him a pass, I agree with the call but I do think he got too cute running the rock with Stocker (vs Houston). I'm not mad at LaFleur either. The game he called was tailor made for Mariota, his production speaks to that. Defense stunk it up and I hope they take that thrashing personal. We need a win baby, but we ain't getting it if the defense turns in another performance like Monday night's.
Jim: Hey Jabari. Appreciate the email. Vrabel can take the heat, and he’s not worried about the criticism. He’s focused on winning the game. I know that play call still stings – LaFleur had to answer for it on Thursday. But the coaches have turned the page and are ready for the Jets. And you’re right – the defense needs to step it up and start playing better than it has the last two weeks.
Luis Murra from Torreon, Mexico
Question: Hi jym!! I’m as frustrated as everybody else... My question is: What about the OL? Coaches, players... our team cannot run and it’s not like other years when the defenses played 8 guys in the box. The pocket collapses on almost every pass play (Mariota is not the best guy moving into the pocket of course). I think the point of emphasis should be the OL this offseason. What do you think about it?
Jim: Hey Luis. Well, I think the o-line play has been underwhelming if you ask me, which you did. Titans quarterbacks have been sacked 39 times, and holes haven’t been there in the running game. It’s tough to understand why things haven’t been better, because these five guys have performed well as a unit in the past. Jack Conklin was critical of himself this week when speaking to reporters, but it’s hardly been all on him. What happens in the offseason? I think that answer probably hinges on what happens in December, and hopefully beyond.
Kevin Dias from Honolulu, Hawaii
Question: Aloha Jim. As a Titans and Mariota fan, I was really excited with the addition of LaFleur because of how exciting the Rams offense has been of late. However, through my pedestrian eyes, the Titans offense looks nothing like what was/is happening in LA. Do you think we are just seeing an early version of what could be because it is year one in the system? Or do you think the Rams offense is more attributed to their head coach, not necessarily LaFleur? Also, I know I'm biased, but I think people put a bit too much blame on Marcus for inconsistency of the offense. Especially the commentators on TV broadcasts! I think the offensive line is the real concern. Mariota is a solid QB.
Jim: Aloha Kevin. It doesn’t look like the Rams, but I hope you weren’t counting on that right out of the gate. It takes time, and I know I anticipated there being some rough patches along the way. Now some games they’ve been a lot rougher patches than I thought. I will say Mariota has shown great improvement in recent weeks, and his completion percentage has improved significantly. But the Rams are operating at a higher level because of experience in the system, and frankly, because they have more playmakers at this point. Keep in mind running back Todd Gurley is one of the best backs in the game, and the Rams have some dynamic receivers. The Titans have some talented guys, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a work in progress.
Henry Long from Brentwood, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. Three comments and one question. I believe there are two positives after the Colts and Texan games:
1. It probably assures that Matt LaFleur will be here next year to gain more experience to help the Titans rather than receiving a head coaching offer.
2. It probably assures that Dean Pees will want to return to help Mike Vrabel and the Titans to be successful.
3. I also believe that with Lorenzo Neal or Jalston Fowler leading Henry there is a 90% plus chance the Titans would have made a first down or touchdown from the Texan 3 yard line.
Do you believe the Titans have come to the realization that they need a Fullback for run blocking or pass protection yet?
Jim: Hey Henry. Well, that’s one way to look at it….
As for the question, I don’t think the team has come to the realization it needs a fullback. I say that because the team didn’t add a fullback this week.
Damian Pace from Clearwater, Kansas
Question: Hey Jim. I moved to Kansas last year and glad I did to see all the heartbroken Chiefs fans. My question is do you think it’s a good idea to keep Brian Orakpo only because he has a lot better stats and more is experienced then Morgan since they are both up for free agency. And try to trade Morgan for maybe a pick for second or third round since he's younger and replace him with Harold but also pick up Brian Burns from the draft and let Orakpo help these two out for years to come?
Jim: Hey Damian. As you mentioned, both of those guys are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2019, so obviously some big decisions are on the horizon. The team won’t be able to trade Morgan – the trading deadline has passed, and the team won’t be able to trade him at season’s end since he’ll become a UFA in March. As for Orakpo, he’s had his moments this season, but he’s going to probably need to produce even more down the stretch to convince the decision makers he’s worthy of another deal.
Doug Wiggins from Kettering, Ohio
Question: I have been a long time Oilers/Titans fan since the A.F.L. started in 1960. I have also been coming down to training camp with a friend of mine since the team moved to Tennessee. Like everyone else, I'm totally frustrated with what is going on! I endured the back to back 1-13 seasons in the early 70's, and of course the worst loss of all when the Oilers lost the playoff game to the Bills. I just do not understand what these coaches are thinking? Mularkey would continually run on first and second down, pass on third down and then punt. You could call what he was doing every game. We were hoping there would be a lot more excitement with this year’s play calling. Against the Texans they started out passing on first down the first two times they had the ball, and they put up 10 points. Then they made the call to give the ball to Stocker, and the game should have been at least 13-0. When they were down 27-17 in the fourth quarter they were taking their time in the huddle, the game was on the line and they were wasting time. Where was the up tempo to try to get back in the game? Mariota is getting clobbered in the pocket, why aren't they calling plays for him to roll out away from the pass rush? They have five games to go, they should be able to win them all, unless they let mediocre competition beat them again.
Jim: Hey Doug. Appreciate the email. Keep in mind the Stocker play happened with Houston leading 14-10. As for the rest of your comments, I understand your frustration. Some things definitely need to improve. I know the team appreciates your loyal support as well.
Ben McAdams from Columbia, Tennessee
Question: I know it's been beaten to death, but I wanna beat it some more. I know many have criticized the play calls on fourth and goal in the Charger game and again in the Texan game. Personally I like the call to go for it in that situation and the message it sends to the players and the world that you believe in your guys, but the play call both times was absolute garbage. I've heard Vrabel, who I really like by the way, asked about it and he dances around it and gives a watered down response, and never really answers. Why doesn’t anyone nail him down and ask him directly. Why don’t you give Derrick Henry the ball on those plays? I think a lot of fans would like a real answer to that question. Also, Henry has outperformed Lewis in all but 3 games this season. Why is he not the featured back? All Lewis seems to do anymore is try to jump cut and get tackled, usually for a loss. They are both getting hit in the backfield but at least Henry usually gets back to the line of scrimmage. Always a Titan fan. Just frustrated.
Jim: Hey Ben. You’re in line with what I’ve heard from most fans – like the decision to go for it, hate the play call. Vrabel was hammered about it after the game, and on Tuesday. He owned it, and ended up saying it was a bad call. Could Henry have gotten it? Well, we’ll never know. I do think Henry has picked up steam of late, and he’s earning extra work because of it. Hang in there.
Daniel Pedigo from North Battleford, Saskatchewan
Question: Hey Jim. Been a fan since I was a teen during the great 99 run, but this is my first time asking you a question. Obviously a ton of fans have been upset a few times this year for one reason or another in a loss, and I won't pretend to not be one of those with this one to the Texans, but I have a genuine question that I think we're ALL asking ourselves since Monday night: Why on earth did we change the offensive gameplan from the first two drives to suddenly running it up the middle for little or no gain when we got up 10-0? It's bad enough when a gameplan doesn't adjust when it isn't working, but we had Mariota setting the world on fire early on then adjusted AWAY from what was killing the Texans to what they were able to snuff out entirely. Was that Vrabel’s call, Lafleur’s, and what could possibly have been the rationale?
Jim: Hey Daniel. Thanks for taking the time. LaFleur calls the plays on offense, so your beef is with him, I guess. Things did get bogged down, but in addition to the play calls, I can’t ignore the fact the team simply needs to execute the plays better. The plays look worse when guys aren’t doing their jobs well, and that’s happening on too many plays.
Curtis Howard from Olive Branch, Mississippi
Question: Wasup Jim? Long-time reader first time writer. Love how you interact and listen to the fans rant. I just wish the Vrab would too! My question is obviously about Derrick Henry and I know you’re not the head coach and you can’t answer but why doesn’t he get more carries and I know we didn’t give Lewis 20 mil for nothing? Henry won a Heisman just like our QB And is a very talented players and has proven he can be dominant in this league, but this season alone for him has to be worse than the two years behind Murray simply from a production standpoint and reps. So my question is: Do you think the titans will ever unleash him like Alabama? You don’t draft second round picks to be backups and me personally would hate to see him on another team doing what we know he is capable of!
Jim: Appreciate ya Curtis. Coach is out there – he has a radio show in town, and the guys is really accommodating with his time. But he also had a football team to coach, and is pretty busy. Henry remains the most popular guy in this mailbag. Henry got off to a slow start this season, but he’s picked it up. I expect him to be a bigger part of the plan moving forward – if he plays well. But if you’re counting on him getting 25-30 carries a game, well, that’s not going to happen. Lewis is going to be a part of the equation himself.
Rick Pinkerton from Terryville, Connecticut
Question: Jim. After reading all the negative feedback on Tuesday I want to put a POSITIVE spin on this. Two points. Marcus has shown us that he IS the franchise quarterback and should be signed to a long term contract. Point #2: WHEN The titans win the rest of their games, leading up to the Colts, and beat them at home to secure the second wild card. Beating the Colts at home is going to be so sweet. GO TITANS
Jim: Hey Rick. Like your optimism!
John Williams from Danbury, Texas
Question: I feel the pain of all Tuesday's "ask Jim" entries. I remember one time many years ago when we, then Oilers, had a 3rd down and 30 something to go - we punted (yes 3rd down). I've seen plenty of ugly to last me a lifetime. I've also seen some great ball. 3 eras - Love ya blue, Run and Shoot, and finally, Air McNair. I won't share my angst - I will say that Mariota has been hit so much that it takes very little to trip him up now. Much more of the same could ruin a career. My question: Do you see Ms. Amy getting in anybody's grill like her late father would often do?
Jim: Hey John. Sounds like you’ve definitely earned your wings. You’re right on Mariota – he’s getting hit way too much. The Titans better find a way to protect him better, but he has to take care of himself as well. He’s been guilty of holding the ball too long on occasion. As far as Amy goes, well, she’s proven she’s not afraid to make changes if she thinks she needs to. But I also know she has faith in the guys she hired.
Clarence Hicks from Machesney Park, Illinois
Question: Hey Jim. First time writing. Long time Titans fan, no other team, Titans all the way! Watched the Titans vs Houston game, omg MM8 stats!! Wow. Lost the game, oops. Seen the mistakes, as well I see the purpose of the calls and what's trying to be done. My question is this: Why does it always look like the players are giving up whenever another team gets more points? Doesn't matter by how many more, but the giving up? They get paid to do their job!! If I was to give up at my job I would be asked to go home, I am even a union member. If I don't do my job til the end of my shift, I would have to look for another. So my point is why can't this be the same way? "O man we done by 17 points. O no we cant win" this type of attitude isn’t welcomed where any of us work, so why is it tolerated here?
Jim: Hey Clarence. I can appreciate your work ethic. But to suggest guys have been giving up, I can assure you that’s not happening. These guys are professionals, and yeah sometimes you just get beat, or look bad at times. It happens across the league. But “give up” in the NFL, believe me, the head coach and general manager will replace you.
Michael Towle from Tamaqua, Pennsylvania
Question: Hi Jim, first of all thank you for the great coverage on the Titans, information on them is sparse in the Coal Region of Pennsylvania. How much of an impact do you think the Delanie Walker injury has had on this team? Reflecting on the season until this point, I would think the Titans would be an 8-3 team rather than 5-6 if he were in the lineup. He’s the spark that the team is missing right now amongst other things. I’d like to know your perspective on it. Thank you and Titan Up!
Jim: Hey Michael. Appreciate it. I think Delanie’s impact has made a big difference. Let’s face it, he’s been one of the best tight ends in the NFL, and this team’s biggest playmaker. With that said, I do think Jonnu Smith has made great strides, and he’s getting better and better. It should pay off for him and the team in the future, which hopefully includes Delanie once again.
Lauren Steves from Columbia, Tennessee
Question: I may have overlooked it, but when is the Homecoming team coming out? With CJ before the game or half-time?
Jim: Hey Lauren. Over 80 former players will be at the game on Sunday. C.J. will be the Honorary 12th Titan before the game, which should be cool. The rest of the guys will be recognized at the half.
Dakota Eltzroth from Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Question: Hello Jim. TitanUp. I still back this team but what a hard couple of weeks we have had and hopefully we can turn this boat around. My question today is about Derrick Henry. I know you get a lot of questions but I truly am curious and want to know your opinion. For me personally, it feels like Henry should be the 3rd and 1 guy (and overall guy) and we never give it to him and we never get the 1st (now I don't have the exact statistic so I am unsure). I just saw last night when they put Henry in, it felt like the offense was clicking and we were moving. So my question- what is going on with Henry? Is something happening in practice that fans aren't seeing? Do you know why he is not getting the opportunity to be the running back of this franchise? Thank you for your hard work and again, TitanUp!
Jim: Hey Dakota. I hit on Derrick earlier. There’s no doubt his subpar play earlier in the year reduced his playing time. But he’s been better, and I think you’ll see more of him moving forward. But again, as I mentioned to Curtis, Lewis is going to play. Lewis has proven he can catch the ball out of the backfield and make plays, and his versatility keeps him on the field – and as a result, it keeps Henry off of it.
Steve Tilton from Safford, Arizona
Question: Hi Jim. It’s been a tough few weeks for the Titans, and especially for you. I know your mailbag isn't full of sunshine these days, but I appreciate your diligence and willingness in accepting fan feedback, no matter how fiery and heated it can get. I myself am as frustrated as anyone, but I know it isn't your fault and that you don't get to tell the coaches what to do. So I will try and ask a question you can actually answer instead of trying to ask about what might have been. My question is about the current state of the locker room. How is it these days? As an outsider it can be easy to see things as business as usual, as if players and coaches simply come to work, clock in and clock out, with a same old routine. Such a perception seems to explain the lack of execution and consistency in our team. But we on the outside don't get a clear picture, so I would love an insider's point of view of what the current atmosphere in the building is with the playoffs nearly out of reach. Thank you for your time, and once again thank you for putting up with the wrath of many angry fans. We appreciate you.
Jim: Thank you Steve. Hey, it comes with the territory. There have been some negative emails, but this team has earned them with poor play on a lot of Sundays. When I started doing this mailbag, I committed to including positive and negative questions in here, and they’ve made it. Some expletive-filled Qs get cut, but keep it clean without getting personal, and I try to include them. I get the frustration, and I want fans to feel like they can sound off and be heard. As for your question about the locker room, the mood has been about what you’d expect during an up and down season. But it’s a good group, and I haven’t noticed guys finger-pointing, or separating themselves from the team with a “me” approach. The leadership has been good, even though the play has sometimes been bad. Believe me, I’ve covered some teams where guys were mailing it in late, counting the days until the season ended. But I haven’t seen that from this group. Guys are working, and playing for one another.
Kyle Boudreaux from Houston, Texas
Question: What’s up Jim? Not much of question, just a bold prediction. We get another shot at the Texans in 6 weeks in the Wild Card round! 10-6 Titans vs the 12-4 Texans! That means another party from the fans in Houston! I just thought I'd bring some positivity to the mail bag instead of asking about that 4th and 1 call! See you in 6 weeks! Titan Up!
Jim: Hey Kyle. Appreciate the email. You dad was bragging about your slick fielding play at second base in Houston! Hope your prediction is right!
Have a great weekend everyone!
Series Flashback: Titans vs. N.Y. Jets
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series between the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)