ORLANDO – OK, so this isn't the Bowl any of you had in mind this time last week.
The Titans, at least four of them, are at the Pro Bowl here this week. Not Super Bowl LIV, which is next Sunday in Miami.
But the time for moping is over. There's nothing that can be done except to look ahead to the 2020 season and envision another run to the big game. In the meantime, many of you continue to celebrate a season to remember, one that ended with a trip to the AFC Championship Game.
Let's discuss all things Titans as running back Derrick Henry, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and punter Brett Kern get ready to play in Sunday's Pro Bowl.
Let's go ...
Marcos Lucero from Albuquerque, New Mexico
Question: Hello Jim, first off thank you for what you do. I have enjoyed reading this mailbag all season. I had the great opportunity to be able to attend the AFC Championship game and even though we came up short it was an awesome experience and there were lots of Titans fans at that game. (Much better than my first ever game in Denver). I began following the Titans when Mariota was drafted because I am a big Oregon fan, I can truly say watching the team these past five years have made me into a huge fan and I love the style of ball they play. My question is what positions do you think the team would need improvement on the most? TITAN UP!
Jim: Hey Marcos. Well, it's really early in the offseason, and so much depends on what happens in free agency when it comes to what needs to be addressed. Looking at the team at the end of last season, I still think the team needs more help at edge rusher. I'd say that's the No.1 area for improvement. I'd like to see more pop from the No.2 running back, and improved depth on the line, too. But which direction the team goes in free agency and the draft really depends on what happens with the team's own free agents. Henry and Tannehill are two of them, and cornerback Logan Ryan, tackle Jack Conklin, quarterback Marcus Mariota, linebacker Wesley Woodyard, tackle Dennis Kelly, linebacker Kamalei Correa and receiver Tajae Sharpe are among 20-plus guys scheduled to become free agents. Re-sign some of those guys and the need to add others at that position go down. Lose some of them, and that position becomes a need. It's going to be an interesting offseason.
Dakota Eltzroth from Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Question: Hey Jim, I hope all is well and I just wanted to write in and say what a year! I am proud of the Titans and I hope they are proud of what they have done. I am looking forward to next year and continuing the support for this team as a lifelong fan! I just have a couple of things: First, if this can get to Mariota, I just want to say that I truly wish him the best and I will always be a fan of him as he helped turn around a franchise; he may not have reached the top of the mountain but he sure did start the climb and get us in the right direction and I would love for him to be a life-long Titan but I know he will be successful for another team! Next, I want to just ask if there is any "noise" around Tom Brady coming to Nashville? I see it on national media as it would make sense but I just wanted to get your take on it. There are a lot of decisions to be made at QB this off season and I trust the man in charge (especially to sign Derrick Henry)! Thank you Jim and TitanUp!
Jim: Appreciate you taking the time Dakota. Good to hear from you again. I'm not going to dive into the Brady buzz that's out there, because I'm not going to disrespect the QB who just guided the team to the AFC Championship Game, winning in Brady's house along the way. I've seen plenty of others discuss it. Hey, a story like that is great for conversation, because the media discussing it can say, 'Hey, I told you it could happen way back when" if it in fact played out that way. And if it doesn't, then they can say, 'Hey, I never said it was going to happen, just that it could happen." You can't lose in that scenario. So I'll leave that to others.
David Crank from Fort Mohave, Arizona
Question: Hi Jim just a real quick question I was a big Mariota fan wasn't happy when Tannehill got put in, but I have to say that I am even a bigger Tannehill fan now. So how do you feel about our chances to keep Henry and Tannehill on our offense. The Titans were so much fun to watch this year hope we can keep it going next year.
Jim: Hey David. Well, that's priority No.1 and No.2 for the GM, who has a lot of money -- and the franchise tag – in his back pocket.
Paddy Kennedy from Dublin, Ireland
Question: Hi Jim I just want to say how much I've enjoyed watching the Titans play this season. They were outstanding. When we watch the game live in Ireland it's in the early hours of the morning but well worth staying up for. Roll on next season.
Jim: Cheers, Paddy!
Kenny Gore from Horse Cave, Kentucky
Question: Wow, what a season!! From 2-4 to the AFC Championship... I must say I love this team! It has been a really special season. I saw EVERY player put in maximum effort every week! Love it!! I feel great about the direction of this team!! Now my question: I hate to see Dean Pees retire. However, he has earned it! Do you know if he was mentoring/teaching any member of the defensive staff to take over?? I feel like he is the type of guy who wanted to leave some one capable of a seamless transition. Thanks for keeping us informed during this amazing season!! I look forward to more next season!!
Jim: Hey Kenny. I hated to see Dean leave myself. He's a good man, and a great coach. As for whether he was mentoring anyone, this hire will be Mike Vrabel's call. And he knew this was coming down the pike long before Pees walked up to the podium to deliver the news to everyone else. I'm sure the head coach has some candidates in mind.
Christopher Harris form College Station, Texas
Question: I want to thank you and everyone in the Titan organization for the Best Titan Season in a long Time! Quick story, my daughter was 6 months old when the Titans went to the Super Bowl and had fallen asleep on my chest during the Music City Miracle! 20 years later, we were pulling for the Titans to advance and win the Super Bowl!! Man, that would have been Amazing!! The memories and stories would have been priceless. Regardless the outcome, this Titans season brought my family closer together as we cheered and rallied the Titans deep into the AFC Championship game. The 2019 Titans Team and Season will always have a Special Place in our Family! Much Titan Love, From Our Family!!
Jim: Thanks for sharing such a great story Christopher. Glad you guys had a lot to cheer about in Gig 'Em country.
Rick Pinkerton from Terryville, Connecticut
Question: I have been a fan since the first game in 1960. I can say that THIS team was the most fun and inspiring to watch. They went places where no one thought they could go. I was so proud of them. Most of my family are Patriot fans, but after we beat them they were ALL Titan fans. We became a team that the entire country took notice of. Half my family didn't know who Derrick Henry was. They NOW know. As for the game. we lost to a better team that day. We did not beat ourselves . We had no turnovers. As for using Derrick in the second half, KC put together long-time consuming drives that took him out of the picture. We did not have time to use him, playing from behind. Finally a question, Why was Amy never shown on TV The other owners were. I feel it was disrespect to her and she should have been shown like Craft and Hunt
Jim: Hey Rick. The Chiefs are good, no doubt about that. I'm not going to knock them. I will say, however, I think the game might've played out differently had the first half played out differently. If the Titans had taken the ball down the field and scored on their last possession of the first half and gone up 24-14 instead of going three-and-out, punting it, and letting the Chiefs score to lead 21-17, things could've played out differently. But what-could-have-been scenarios don't mean anything. As for why Amy wasn't shown on TV, well, I can't answer that one.
Josh Graves from Mesa, Arizona
Question: Jim has there been any talk about the uniforms being switched back to the old ones or maybe a different design? What's the consensus among local fans in your opinion on the approval rating of the current unis?
Jim: No talk whatsoever, Josh. I think the majority of fans like them.
Thomas Smalley from Wichita, Kansas
Question: Hey Jim first i wanted to say thanks for what you do and keeping us fans up to date on things and answering are questions. So I actually have a few questions first one is unfortunately now that are season is over what will they do about KING 👑 Henry and his contract and Ryan Tannehill contract and all the other guys who's contracts are up that are becoming free agents. Second question is what are the positions that the titans need to worry about this offseason. Also I want to say TITANUP we always have next year to make it. Hopefully you pick my questions to answer and show on ur page. TITANUP FROM HERE IN WICHITA, KANSAS
Jim: Hey Thomas. I hit on some of this earlier in the mailbag, but left this in here so your KING emoji could make it. Well done.
Thomas Drey from Marshfield, Missouri
Question: Hey Jim, hope everything's well in your neck of the woods. Long time reader, first time question. My question is regarding Mariota's future with the team. I think a lot of people are expecting the team to drop him in the off season, but I feel like there is an amazing opportunity that is being overlooked here. Why doesn't the team keep him and use him like the Saints use Taysom Hill? He's athletic, he can throw the ball well enough, and all they gotta do is stick him with some WR coaches to work on his hands and footwork and viola: dangerous play action threat that will make every team think twice about what we're gonna do. What do you think, Jim? Heard any rumblings about this being an option, or if you think it would work? Thanks for your time, TITAN UP!
Jim: My neck of the woods is good right now. Looking at palm trees and sunshine, and heading out to a Pro Bowl practice. The Mariota question has been a topic in here long before the season ended. And I've answered it the same way every time: I can't see Marcus being back. And based on what he said after the game on Sunday, he can't see it either. He wants to go to a team where he has a chance to compete for a starting job, and that's no longer on the table in Tennessee. He's not interested in being a spot QB, and I don't blame him.
Jeremy Raymer from New Brunswick, Canada
Question: Wow, what a season! Not quite the ending we hoped for, but after all the team struggled with this season who would've predicted the Titans would keep it together for the strong push to the AFC championship game? As the players were interviewed getting ready to leave for the off-season, a question was asked as to the culture change in the locker room over the past few seasons. Several times during the season it felt like the wheels might be coming off, and yet our guys kept with the "next man up" philosophy and showed that each one in our locker room had bought in and had prepared themselves no matter their place on the depth chart. Kudos to Mrs. Amy, our coaches and front office as well! There were many players who had a hand in shaping this team from where we were just a few years ago. I want to mention two. Delanie Walker has been with the team through many coaching changes and a couple mighty lean years. He was a bright spot for us with his individual performances when our Titans struggled, and yet he didn't make it about himself as many do. Remaining after each loss to answer questions from media during our 2-14 and 3-13 seasons couldn't have been easy but he did. From his very first season when he mentioned he was focusing on his pass catching (did he ever really struggle with drops anyway?) he showed himself to be personally accountable and professional in his preparation for game day. Though injury cut his season short this year, his consistency even through adversity set the bar for our young players learning the game while Delanie has been with the Titans. Another player that comes to mind when talking about culture change is Wesley Woodyard. Whether his role has been at linebacker or leading our special teams, he has not only been solid in his play but a vocal leader in the locker room and on the field. His encouragement of the younger players has been admirable - even those cutting in to his own playing minutes. I can't remember a time where he complained about his role being adjusted. He's kept a positive attitude throughout his years with us and our special teams has been better because of his leadership. This year's Titans have been special. Are there a couple of examples you can think of who've been examples of the culture inside our locker room regardless their role? Thanks Jim and hope your off-season is a good one!
Jim: Hey Jeremy. You listed some good examples in here. The culture was great this season, and a lot of that starts at the top with the GM and HC identifying the right players, and the players in the locker room setting the tone. I thought this comment here at the Pro Bowl from Jurrell Casey, who has been around since 2011, was pretty enlightening: "I can't lie -- it's the most enjoyable season I've had, just from in the locker room, being in the classroom with the guys we have, the environment around the team, the vibe we had. The overall feel was unbelievable this season."
Jon Patten from Scappoose, Oregon
Question: First off, thank you for your amazing coverage, honest answers (where permitted), unfaltering access, and creating a forum for Titans fans worldwide. In all the years I've read the mailbag, I've seen fans from Spain asking about places to see in Nashville while in town to cheer on THEIR beloved Titans. Full team ownership in pride and spirit, much like myself. Fans from the UK asking for info on opportunities to meet their favorite Titans, giving advice about sights to see and places to eat, and generally embracing the spirit of the game and sportsmanship for BOTH teams coming to play in their city. Fans from South America who get MOST, if not all, of their Titans news from your articles and the mailbag. So, from the bottom of my two-toned blue heart, I thank you. From me, for the brotherhood of Titans that you've helped assemble, thank you.
Ok, praise Jim hour over. My question. Given the apparent attitude toward Mariota as being on his way out of Tennessee, I've been greatly disappointed. The boy busted his butt constantly here in Oregon as a duck. Won a Heisman Trophy. Took us to the inaugural CFB Playoffs Championship Game. And then got drafted by my Favorite Team since I was a little boy and the Oilers still lived in Houston. The coaching has been inconsistent for the boy, they always wanted to make him play a style of football that he DIDN'T play in naturally, while limiting his growth. He doesn't protect himself as well as he probably should, pulls of some BEAUTIFUL scrambling plays, and demonstrates time and again that the arm truly is stiff. He also gets hurt a lot because the defense KNOWS he's faaaaaast, so spy is usually a given, and as stated, he doesn't protect himself as well as he probably should... He's a baller, he wants to make the big plays. Can't fault him too much for that, personally. But then I look at New Orleans, and Taysom in particular. And I start to wonder. What are the chances that Tennessee doesn't let him go in free agency? What if we TRY and transform him into our OWN swiss army knife? Mariota has burner speed, has shown the ability to catch the ball, break tackles, create in space and make guys miss, and can easily provide fairly accurate passing on the run. All of which we've watched Taysom do for NO. I seriously feel like it would allow Mariota to ball out and make plays while giving us a viable target for both receiving and drawing defenders toward him. And QBs already know the route tree. So what are the chances that we retain his rights and try to help his metamorphosis into the star I knew he could be back in his Green and Yellow days?
Jim: Hey Jon. Oh man, I was enjoying the praise. Why did you have to stop? 😊
Seriously, I love doing this mailbag because it brings Titans fans from all over the world together.
Well, I hit on some of this with Thomas from Missouri. But I'll add to it, and you mentioned me being honest (where permitted). So, here's my honest take: Yes, Marcus had to deal with a lot of adversity. Things weren't ideal for him during his time in Tennessee, with all the changes around him on the coaching staff. And injuries set him back as well. But this also can't be ignored: Marcus didn't play well enough to keep his starting job, and that can't be blamed on anyone but himself. And it has nothing to do with how well he played at Oregon, how well he played during his early years in the NFL, or how hard he's worked. In more recent years, he was off target on too many throws, appeared gun-shy too many times, and he looked like a guy who had lost some of his confidence. I saw it in games, and in practices. I really like Marcus. He's as classy a guy as I've ever been around. I hope he has great success wherever he ends up. I hope he has a career bounce-back like Tannehill has made in Tennessee. His mission now it to find a team that will give him a chance to start, and to play better than he did at the end of his days as a starter here in Tennessee.
Have a great weekend everyone!