ATLANTA – It’s Super Bowl LIII week.
Once this week ends, the countdown will officially be on to the 2019 season.
But there’s no waiting around for another Titans mailbag. This one is coming to you from the Super Bowl.
Let’s dive right in.
Gavin Odell from Fort Riley, Kansas
Question: Hey Jim. I have a fairly complex question, but I think it's appropriate. I'm a Memphis native but, was a football letterman at MTSU before I joined the Army, so I know the sport pretty well. I can't help but to think that smaller schools like U of M and MTSU kinda get used as stepping stones when it comes to coaching talent. As soon as a coach comes in and performs decently or overhauls the program, they get called up to the big leagues in a sense (a Power 5 school). I say that to say this: with the departure of Matt LaFleur do you think the Titans have turned into one of those victims of being an "okay" team in a small-medium market that will eventually get their coaching talent stripped away every time the coach proves themselves worthy of a "better" job in a larger market and seemingly better situation? The LaFleur thing was discouraging for me. It was like he used us as that stepping stone to fulfill his personal intentions. I just hope this isn't a recurring theme.
Jim: Hey Gavin. I hear ya, but don’t necessarily agree. I think LaFleur was a rare case. You have to remember he left the Rams to come here, so I guess you’d also have to consider the Rams as a stepping stone to Tennessee since he got a chance to call plays in Tennessee, which was a bump up. Taking the better job in this case was a no-brainer --- he went from being an OC, to the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. I wouldn’t be discouraged by it. Things just worked out well for him, and I wish him luck. He’s a really good guy – treats people well. Now another quality guy and coach in Arthur Smith steps in and takes over. I found it interesting that both Delanie Walker and former Titan d-lineman Shaun Smith mentioned after the news broke that they believe Arthur could be a head coach in the future. If that in fact ends up happening one day, it would be because of his success. And I wouldn’t say he used the Titans as a stepping stone either. It goes with the business. So you have to take the good with the bad, I guess.
Thomas Yates from Lillamay, Tennessee
Question: Hello Jim. Thank you for the work you put in twice a week keeping the fan base apprised with the news, which brings me to my question. I have yet to discover an interview with Arthur Smith since becoming the new OC. Robinson, Vrabel, players, even Ken Whisenhunt has been interviewed, but not Smith himself. Would you be willing to reach out to him and find out his thoughts about his new role?
Jim: Hey Thomas. Appreciate it. I know a lot of folks would like to hear from him, and get his thoughts. Arthur was at the Senior Bowl, and he’s returned to Nashville. You’ll hear from him at some point. Believe me, I’d like to interview him. But right now we’re in a holding pattern until that happens. Others in the media I’m sure are champing at the bit, too.
Sonny Dock from Morehouse, Missouri
Question: So what do you believe that the Titans strong suits are? And on the same note, what do you believe we need to work on as a team?
Jim: Good question. I think the Titans are strong in the secondary, and at inside linebacker. Jurrell Casey is a game-wrecker. Offensively, Marcus Mariota is capable of winning games, and I like the running backs. Some really good players are scattered across the roster. But help needed on the o-line (interior), d-line, receiver, edge rusher and depth at several other spots. Yes, some things need to be addressed heading into 2019…
Evan Metz from Nashville, Tennessee
Question: Is Delanie Walker going to retire?
Jim: One day. But not any time soon.
Jordan Marbury from Birmingham, Alabama
Question: Hey Jim, With there being collectively about 20 great DE/DT’s, 5 OT/OG’s, and 6 WR’s in this year’s draft, given the high demand for each of these positions, wouldn’t you say it would be smarter to draft an OT/OG in Round 1, a WR in Round 2, and DE/DT in Round 3? I think the organization is way too paranoid about grabbing a DE/DT in Round 1. I’m sure there will be plenty of quality DT/DEs to last until Rd3. I’ve even heard rumors of a QB in Rd 1or 2, that would be a tragedy especially for a backup. Thanks for your time in advance.
Jim: Hey Jordan. Man, you’ve done your homework. The draft – and who goes when – is tricky. I always have to remind folks (I’m sure you already know), that free agency comes first. If the Titans get help in free agency on the o-line, then maybe o-line help isn’t as needed early in the draft. If the Titans hit on a receiver in free agency, then that perhaps changes the draft plan there. Ask me in late March or early April – after a few weeks of free agency -- where I think the team could go in the draft, and I’ll probably have a more educated guess.
Ernesto Gonzalez from Evansville, Indiana
Question: Hi Jim! I've been reading more and more of your mailbag these last few years and I always love your answers! I just wanted to ask what you thought of Marcus Mariota? Personally, I think he's great! It's very disheartening to see how much the "Fan Base" hates on our quarterback as often as they do. I also wanted to know if you think our issues lie in the offensive line or the wide receiving unit with our lack of production the last few years. Here's to hoping for a great season in 2019-2020!!
Jim: Hey Ernesto. Appreciate it. I like Marcus – as a person, and player. But he’s going to need to take a positive step in 2019, while staying healthy. Protecting him better – and giving him more weapons – would help him as well.
Braulio Cardenas from Saltillo, Mexico
Question: I would like to extend the gratitude for an incredible year despite so many challenges that had to be overcome, especially the injuries of important players. To the owner Amy Adams Strunk, to GM Robinson, and to HC Vrabel and all his staff a thousand thanks!
Hiring Frank Piraino as a new fitness coach it's for the good and hope reduce the injuries next season.
An important loss was without a doubt Delaine Walker, and his return in 2019 will be very positive, however the next season is his 14th. Clearly the offensive line needs attention, but do you think that within the team's strengthening plans is the TE position?
Jim: Hey Braulio. Several holes need to be filled, and I do think adding depth and more to the mix at tight end behind Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith is a possibility. Luke Stocker is scheduled to a free agent, so we’ll have to see what happens there.
Phil Cook from Gallatin, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim. What are your thoughts on the Titans signing Golden Tate?
Jim: Some might say it would be golden… But we'll have to see what the GM thinks. He wasn't interested in giving up a high pick for him when he was available via trade. Will things change if/when he hits the market? We'll see...
Mark Sanderson from Burlington, North Carolina
Question: There is certainly a lot of frustration from the fans with Mariota this season from his inconsistent play to his injury history. If the Titans Facebook responses and message boards are any indication, then frustration is at an all-time high and many fans want to move on. I have been a big supporter and have believed with the right coach/system and talent around him, Mariota would thrive. But even I have my concerns after this season and Blaine Gabbert is clearly not the answer long term. Do the Titans look for an insurance policy to cover themselves long term for next year, or hope for the best next year and look for the next hopeful QB answer in 2020? We need a reliable guy behind center who can consistently move the chains, which we have not had in years.
Jim: Hey Mark. Good question. So good, I asked GM Jon Robinson about it at the Senior Bowl. He wouldn’t commit. He complimented Gabbert, who remains under contract in 2019, and said the team is looking at options at every position. But the fact he drafted Luke Falk in last years’ draft – after signing Gabbert – tells you it’s been on his mind.
MinhKhoi Nguyen from Cedar Park, Texas
Question: Hey Jim, been a Titans fan since I learned what football even was. My question is, with a new strength and conditioning coach do you expect players to come out the gate a little healthier this year?
Jim: Hey MinhKhoi. This is what Vrabel said he wants out of new strength and conditioning coach Frank Piraino: “I’m excited about bringing him in, bringing his energy, his expertise, his passion for improving players on the field. We want to improve them obviously in the weight room, but the whole intent is they translate that to the football field.” Of course, you’d like to see the injury numbers go down. But a lot of these injuries weren’t preventable. Broken bones, torn ACLs, etc, are just a part of a dangerous sport that’s played by grown men. You’d obviously like to see strains and pulls reduced, and guys in great condition.
Aiden Conklin from Spring Hill, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim, always like reading your mailbags. My question is in regards to the upcoming draft. I saw on one of the mock drafts that the Titans could pick Kyler Murray. Do you think that with all of the attention and distractions that come with Murray that there is any chance that the Titans draft him?
Jim: Hey Aiden. I saw that, and to be honest, I shook my head. I just can’t see it happening.
Have a great week everyone!
Follow Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and punter Brett Kern at the 2019 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla. (Photos: AP, Jim Wyatt, Lucas Stevenson, Ben Liebenberg, Logan Bowles)