NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Are you ready for some football?
It’s almost that time again – the Titans, on Monday night, against the Texans.
I hope everyone had a wonderful week, and Thanksgiving Day.
Today we’re giving thanks for another big batch of questions. It’s time for another Titans mailbag…
Derrick Harper from Magnolia, Arkansas
Question: Hi Jim I’ve been a Titans fan since they came to Nashville. I love the addition of Matt LaFleur as offensive coordinator under Mike Vrabel. Do your think he can impact the Titans offense the way he did the Rams in LA?
Jim: Hey Derrick. Well, that’s the plan. Soon, I expect the Titans to be racking up 50-plus points like the Rams did on Monday night against the Chiefs… OK, so I’m kidding. We're not there yet. I like LaFleur myself, but I also know it’s going to take time before it comes to close to looking like the Rams. From the beginning I expected some bumpy roads, and we’ve seen it. Some weeks the Titans have looked good on offense, and other weeks, well, things have looked abysmal. I just think everyone needs more time in the new offense, from Marcus Mariota, to the young receivers, the o-line and even LaFleur. Matt’s not a guy that makes excuses. He wants things to look good right now. I suspect we’re still going to see some ups and downs the rest of the way, and the expectation is the group will be more consistent, and have more games like the one vs. the Patriots. I can’t help but think the addition of some more playmakers during the offseason would help jumpstart things in the future as well. But for now, the current group needs to step it up.
Dale Smith from Memphis, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim, What are the Titans playoff chances now sitting at 5-5 and two games behind the Texans?? What are the scenarios for us?
Jim: Well Dale, I think this game is a must-win as far as winning the AFC South goes. Lose on Monday night, and the Titans would be three games out with five to go. A win on Monday, however, and the Titans would be one back, with the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker. But we can’t forget about the Colts (who could forget about the Colts after last week, right?). Another game with Indy is on the horizon on December 30. Even with a loss on Monday, the Titans aren’t out of it for a Wild Card spot, however. Behind the L.A. Chargers, who currently hold one Wild Card spot with a 7-3 mark, the Dolphins, Ravens, Bengals, Colts and Titans are all 5-5, so there’s an opportunity. Of course it doesn’t help that the Titans lose tiebreakers with losses to a bunch of those teams, and the AFC record is 3-5.
Scott Marlin from Montrose, Iowa
Question: Why can't the Titans string 3 wins together? I can't even remember the last time it has happened. Problems handling success?
Jim: Hey Scott. I get it – the Titans have been way too inconsistent. But you make it sound like it’s been 10 years since the team won three in a row. It was earlier this season – starting with a win over the Texans, and then back-to-back wins over the Jaguars and Eagles.
Matt Blackwell from Honaker, Virginia
Question: Hey Jim!!! Thanks for all you do keeping us updated on the Titans...My question is...Do you think Mariota is a franchise QB? It’s so hard to find even a decent QB more less an elite QB so I think you have to pay the man and do whatever it takes to build around him...Thanks again for all you do.
Jim: Hey Matt. I do. I think he’s shown on a lot of Sundays he’s more than capable, and I like his work ethic, and approach. Has he been up and down during his career? Yes, but you can’t ignore the fact he’s had to deal with three different head coaches during his four NFL seasons, a bunch of different offensive coordinators, with plenty of personnel changes around him. With that said, he’s going to have to prove he can stay healthy, and available, to make it an easier decision for the decision-makers moving forward.
Clement Perry from Waxhaw, North Carolina
Question: Hey Jim! Still repping my two tone blue, but we gotta be more consistent. My question is: Do you think Mariota's future with the Titans hinges on us making the playoffs? I like the guy a whole lot!! He's proven to be clutch, but he's has to stay on the field. There is no denying we're a better team with him. I just think he's one of the best young stars in the NFL.
Jim: Hey Clement. I don’t think his future hinges on the team making the playoffs. Let’s not forget the team picked up his fifth year option for 2019.
Tony Beal from Martinsville, Virginia
Question: Hey Jim. Long-time fan here. Been with the team since the early 80’s!! My question is about Coach Vrabel. In all his interviews, he gives credit to the team for the wins, but places to losses in the hands of the coaches. Even when the team obviously doesn’t play well. Does he hold players accountable for their mistakes? I haven’t seen him fuss at anyone during the games. I like how he praises his players but shouldn’t he also put some blame on individuals that make mistakes?
Jim: Hey Tony. Well, you’re right on Vrabel taking the blame. And it makes it hard for the players to start pointing fingers and making excuses when the head coach is so accountable. With that said, he’s not giving anyone a free pass, I can promise you that. I see it every day in practice. The guy is no pushover. Far from it.
Frank Gabel from Mason, Ohio
Question: Jim. The last 2 seasons the Titans O Line was consistent and even had 2 Pro Bowl Tackles. This year they changed their blocking scheme and have been anything but consist. Any thought of switching back to what had worked? All the same linemen, just a new blocking scheme!!!!
Jim: Hey Frank. I hear ya, but it’s just a matter of guys needing to play better. As I mentioned of the gate, scheme changes take time. And we’ve seen some unsteady play from guys. I agree – things need to improve up front. Some weeks the unit has been good, other weeks, well, not so good. Mariota has been sacked way too many times.
Carter Cheeseman from Fort Worth, Texas
Question: Hey Jim, I appreciate all you do for fans out of town. Moving from Nashville has been frustrating with the lack of coverage, so thanks for what you do! Any way it’s been awhile since I’ve written, but I just feel the need to respond to some of the negativity I’ve read the past couple weeks. I’m 17 years old so I can’t claim to have been with the team for as long as other people, but I have loved the team since I can remember. Obviously there have been some thin years recently, but as a fan you have to stick with the team through thick and thin. It seems to me that a lot of fans here are bringing way too many complaints and accusations against this team. Let’s keep it in perspective. This is a first year coach, and he is clearly doing a great job. We are set up with a core of guys for years to come. I love Marcus as a person and a leader! I’m not here to say he’s the best in the league by any measure, but he is still capable of great things and has played very well when healthy. Look around the league. You can’t say that we aren’t better off than at least half the teams in the league at the quarterback position. I don’t understand why fans are so eager to write him off and this team off. I still believe in him and these titans and as a fan I feel like that’s what we are supposed to do. Stick with your team, even when it’s frustrating. Negativity doesn’t help anyone in any situation, but I feel like if you have negative comments, don’t share them. What does that help? I don’t think it helps anything. I feel like it just shows a lack of true support for your team. Frustration is okay, everyone can get frustrated by a bad loss, I am very frustrated about this one to Indianapolis, but some of these comments are way too far. I mean it’s not like we’re the Oakland Raiders here. C’mon guys! Sorry that went long. Have a good one!
Jim: Hey Carter. I appreciate you taking the time …
Anthony Rooney from Fort Madison, Iowa
Question: Hey Jim I've been a Titans fan since the Music City Miracle game when I was ten years old. I love my Titans so I wanna see them turn this around and I truly believe that they can. I believe mixing in Derrick Henry more would give us a better balance. He hasn't shown the knack to be a starter outside of the KC playoff game but as a change of pace back he gets the job done. Dion's a good back but more of a balance between the two might make the opposing defense sweat a bit more. Your thoughts?
Jim: Hey Anthony. My inbox is loaded with Derrick Henry questions every week. My thoughts are Dion Lewis has been better on most Sundays, and he’s a tough guy to take off the field. That doesn’t mean Henry doesn’t have value, and I like what he brings to the team as well. I really like the way Henry has played since the bye, and LaFleur complimented him on Friday as well. He's been more physical, and decisive, the past two weeks. I can still envision games when he really takes over, and hammers away. But the Titans need to get some leads to allow the offense to hand him the ball over and over again. And when he plays, he needs to keep performing at a high level to get more opportunities.
Matthias Schuster from Rochester, New York
Question: Hey Jim. It sure has been awhile since we met in Buffalo but really feels like we are in the same place as a team.. trying to find our identity. It seemed like the game was over before it started. Did you see any vocal leadership from our veteran players on the sideline? TV only shows so much but it seemed like a timeout early in the first quarter before the game got out of hand would have done them well to wake up a little bit. Speaking of wake up, where did Matt LeFluer go? Running the ball on first down becomes very predictable and easy to stop. Even when we were behind he kept trying to force the issue with Dion and getting us behind the sticks which led to Marcus being left in a terrible position with a shaky O line performance. Seemed like the Colts weakness was their D secondary, especially with Hooker being out, but we didn't want to try and go deep on them? Maybe the OC should stand behind the podium right after the game and be accountable for these performances because it starts with him. Marcus is not to blame folks. Thanks for your time. #titanup
Jim: Hey Matthias. Aw, Buffalo, the good ole days. Just kidding. In my mind, that’s the most unforgivable loss of the season. Appreciate the email. Leadership hasn’t been the problem, and LaFleur has definitely been accountable himself. If you’re looking to place the blame on any one person, well, that’s hard to do. Across the board the Titans stunk it up on Sunday, there’s no denying it. And if everyone doesn’t start playing better – including the QB – it’s going to be a lost season.
Ian Krohn from Dallas, Oregon
Question: What would it take to get Luke Falk back on the team? He could easily step in as a back up to Marcus.
Jim: Hey Ian. Luke is still with the Dolphins, but on Injured Reserve. He was placed on IR in October with a fractured left (non-throwing) wrist. Let me just add this, and it’s no knock on Luke -- he’s young and he has talent. But Blaine Gabbert was clearly the better quarterback in the competition for the No.2 spot.
Alan Ray from College Grove, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. Lying on the couch, left eye ticking slightly, my therapist reminds me-it was only one game. I jest...but this loss cuts deeper than just losing a game. Some team loses every week. I get that. It is how we lose that is so gut-wrenching, frustrating and hope-dashing for Titan's Fans. Not to mention the satisfaction of payback we never experience having now been beaten ten times in a row by Andrew Luck. Sheesh! It was hard to watch and even harder to believe. How is that kind of game even possible with our talent pool and chance to make a run? It defies reason. Actually, I can think of one reason, among others, Malcolm Butler. The guy can't play at the level he should be playing for the money he's paid. He's had ten games to become what they signed him to be and yet...just watch his out-of-position, half-hearted and ineffective arm tackles in the Colt's game. Sure, he makes the occasional good play but for $30 million guaranteed he certainly isn't earning his money or helping the team. How can the coaches look at film after a game and still keep him on the field? He has cost us a few games and doesn't improve from one week to the next. I like him personally, but he doesn't play like a starting CB. Not even close. Sadly, Sunday's game looked like a whole team of Malcolm Butlers. It was agonizing to witness.Anyway, I'm sure it was tough for you to watch as well and I appreciate you letting me vent if this makes the cut. I don't envy you reading over this week's Mailbag. I'm sure it will be a tough crowd. All is not lost however. They have a chance to redeem themselves in Houston on Monday night. After all, it was only one game. “Fans on 3. 1-2-3. For the Fans!” Thanks, Jim.
Jim: Hang in there Alan. As for Butler, you really wanting to pin it all on him? Even he would admit he needs to play better, but he was hardly the reason the Titans lost against the Colts. It was a team problem. And if things don’t improve on Monday night, we’re going to be looking at 5-6.
Have a great weekend everyone!
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Houston Texans. (AP Photos, Donn Jones)