NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Welcome to the first Titans mailbag of 2019.
Happy New Year! If that’s possible.
Yeah, Sunday’s season-ending loss to the Colts still stings a bit for many, I’m sure.
Plenty of you have plenty to say, so let’s dive in…
Michael Newsome from Drexel, North Carolina
Question: Hey Jim, I am sometimes hard on Marcus, because it's frustrating to not have your leader in the most important games. I've been a Titan fan since day one when they came to Nashville, and it's hard for me to imagine Steve McNair missing Sunday night's game.
Jim: Hey Michael. I’m not comfortable going down the road of comparing guys to McNair, or their injuries. Don’t know of many who would measure up to his toughness. But that was a different era as well. You want tough? Look at Eddie George. He never missed a game – played all 16 regular season games for eight seasons with the team. But let me add this: There’s no denying Marcus has had his share of injuries, and it’s an issue because it’s kept him out of games. But he’s also played in 58 of a possible 66 games, and started 45 of his last 50. And I said this in the last mailbag, and I'm bringing it up because you mentioned McNair. People gloss over the fact McNair missed games. He missed five games in his first season with the "Titans" because of an injury, and he missed a start in 2001, two starts in 2003, eight starts in 2004 and two starts in 2005. Fans rip Mariota because he’s hurt a lot. Well, he hasn’t been injured nearly as much as McNair was during his career.
David Stalder from Albuquerque, New Mexico
Question: Hey Jim. Will the team make Mariota play out the fifth year of his rookie contract without a new deal?
Jim: Hey David. This decision will be made above my pay grade. The GM, Jon Robinson, will decide this one. But Mariota is under contract for 2019 because the team picked up his fifth-year option, and let's not forget the team has other options other than a long-term deal moving forward after that. The franchise tag will also be available to use.
Scott Spurlock from Leader, Texas
Question: Not a question just a statement of fact. The Colts have a better team and they did it in one year. So their GM is Better than ours, The Coach is better than ours. The players are better too. I can only hope everyone from the top down knows that and works to change it. You can't get better if you don't know you are not good enough. Vrabel seemed to know that. I hope we stick with him for many yrs. If we stick with #8 as QB we need to get a top notch back up not the one we have... Just my opinion been following this team all my 56 yrs as i was Born in Houston and moved to nashville when the team did... anyway I see some bright spots, but then I was happy with our Last Mike head coach thought he was getting things turned around... but what do i know... Stability and a staff that learns from their mistakes. Thanks for a eh year
Jim: It's a year-to-year league Scott. I agree the Colts had the better team on December 30th of 2018, and they kicked the Titans butts on November 18 as well. No one is disputing that here. But to conclude their coach, GM, players are all better after one season, well, it’s a knee-jerk reaction. The Colts had the better team in 2018. They had the better quarterback on Sunday night. We’ll see what happens from here.
Vickie Roberts from Trenton, Kentucky
Question: Happy New Year Jim! Just a couple opinions and questions for you. First, I like what I am seeing Coach Vrabel do in creating a winning team that Titans fans can be excited about. Titans fans be patient -The best is yet to come! Secondly for those critics of Marcus for not playing in Sunday’s game they should “walk a mile in his shoes”. How many of these critics could honestly say if a medical professional told them they could not perform their job duties they would ignore the medical advice, show up for work and do their job at the standard they perform when healthy! As disappointed as I was at not having Marcus on the field, it can’t compare to the feeling of helplessness Marcus himself was experiencing. Which leads to my question: Is the problem not that Marcus is “accident prone” but that the OL is not providing enough protection for him? Is this something that needs more focus in the upcoming draft?
Jim: Hi Vickie. Thanks for the question. I agree on Marcus. He talked yesterday about how he was advised not to play, and how doctors worried about how an injury might impact his future. Some of the stuff I've seen said about him has disgusted me, I admit. Sure, I get that some folks are upset because he didn't play. But some of the backlash has crossed a line in my mind. I definitely think the way Marcus plays put him at risk of injury. As for the protection, there’s no question he’s going to have to be protected better in 2019. Marcus was sacked 42 times in 13 starts this season. Heading into this season he was sacked 38 times in 2015, 23 times in 2016, and 27 times in 2017. Heck, it's no wonder he's been injured.
Jordan Brummer from Bridgeport, Illinois
Question: Hey Jim. My question is should the Titans invest in a new quarterback because Mariota is frankly in my opinion is as fragile as a piece of glass. I am a very big fan of this franchise and would like to see them win a Super Bowl and I just don't believe Mariota is the answer and also I think they need another solid receiver.
Jim: Mariota will be under contract for 2019 – the option year. We’ll see what happens from there. And believe me, everyone in the building also wants to win a Super Bowl. I do agree with you about the receiver position – more help is needed.
Rick Pinkerton from Terryville, Connecticut
Question: Jim, I want to say how PROUD I am of this team. They won 4 straight and had a chance to make the playoffs. It didn't work out like we had hoped, but I think we have a bright future. About Marcus. I believed he showed that he IS a franchise QB by not playing. What I mean is watching his back up. There is no comparison to Marcus's ability as compared to the backup, whomever it may be. He would have made those easy throws and run when needed. My question is How serious is his injury? I read somewhere that it was his spine. My prayer is that he heals totally, not just from a football standpoint but from a human standpoint, where he has no permanent injuries. I know that he is a WARRIOR and would do anything to win. He needs to be around for a long time, for I believe that he will lead this team to a Super Bowl. Please give him my regards. Happy New Year
Jim: Appreciate you taking the time Rick. Obviously, I’m not giving away any secret injury info in here, though. Here's what Marcus said about it all HERE.
Jonathan Long from Bowling Green, Kentucky
Question: When will the Titans move on from Mariota? He is inconsistent, not reliable, and has not played a whole season since he was drafted. He does not rally players on the sideline, gets hurt more than any other QB. If the Titans had a Baker Mayfield or even a Deshaun Watson we would be a significantly better team. Titans need to move on from Mariota and find our franchise QB.
Jim: I touched on Mariota’s future a few times already. You don’t like him because he doesn’t “rally” players on the sideline? You’re reaching now.
Larry Nakasone from Aiea, Hawaii
Question: Howzit, Jim! Happy New Year! Prior to the start of this season, I did not expect the Titans to post a record better than 8-8. New coaching staff, new scheme, and difficult schedule being the main reasons. However, here we are at 9-7 and barely missing the playoffs by one game. With all the injuries to key players, what coach Vrabel has done to get to this point is pretty remarkable. This season has got to be considered a resounding success by the rookie head coach. With a fully healthy team (hopefully) and a year’s worth of experience in the new system under their belts, I expect the Titans to be strong contenders next season. Also, the emergence of Dereck Henry has been a pleasant surprise and should help in the passing game as well. And yes, I still believe in Marcus Mariota! Hopefully, he can put the injury bug behind him and reach the upper echelon of star quarterbacks. I feel pretty optimistic about this team moving forward. It's a great time to be a Titan fan! Anyway, best wishes to you, Jim! Aloha!
Jim: Aloha Larry! I know after making the playoffs last season, that was the expectation this year as well. So failing to get there was a disappointment. But I did see a lot of positives myself during a year when nine of the team’s 16 games were against teams that ended up making the playoffs. Injuries killed the team late, and the losses to Buffalo and Miami came back to haunt the team. But I forecast brighter days ahead as well.
Travis Hayman from Spencerville, Indiana
Question: Jim- transplant from Cheatham to Indiana. Titans fan since 99’. I hate the Dolts. Vrabel needs to figure out how to beat the Dolts. I don’t care if we go 2-14 next year, as long as the wins are against the Dolts. At least the previous regime was all about knowing everything about the division teams and beating them. Love vrabel but we have to beat the division opponents.
Jim: I hear ya Travis. The Colts have been a real thorn in the side of the Titans for too long. Living in Indiana, I’m sure you hate hearing about it.
Julie G from Oregon City, Oregon
Question: I’m sure you will get multiple comments about an “injury prone QB” as well as folks advocating for a new one, so thought I’d throw out this thought. During the game, one of the announcers noted that the year before Andrew Luck was out for a year recovering from injuries he had one of the highest sack rates in the league - which resulted in his injuries. They didn’t call him injury prone - his injuries were the result of being slammed to the ground too much. The Titans pass protection ranked 31 this year, with one of the highest sack rates on the QB. I don’t think Mariota is injury prone - he has a pass protection problem. Injuries are a natural consequence of not being well protected. Do you think protection will be a top priority in the draft? The Colts addressed it for Luck, and he is now one of the best protected QB’s - and he is no longer getting hurt.
Jim: Hey Julie. Thanks for the question. You bring up a great point. And yes, I do think protecting Marcus better in 2019 will be a big priority this offseason. How that happens, and how many players will be new on the o-line, will be interesting to see. I'm curious myself, because I do believe changes are coming.
Have a great week everyone!
A day after their season-ending loss to the Colts, Titans players cleared out their lockers at Saint Thomas Sports Park, officially entering the 2019 offseason. (Photos: Gary Glenn)