NASHVILLE, Tenn. – No one had a bigger role in creating the opportunity Mike Vrabel has stepped into than Marcus Mariota.

It’s a bit odd to think of it that way.

But in no uncertain terms, Mike Mularkey’s inability to maximize Mariota’s talents was the chief reason Mularkey lost his job, creating an opening Jon Robinson picked Vrabel to fill.

That, combined with the fact that the quarterback is any team’s most popular topic, creates questions for Vrabel about Mariota.MariotaHeadJags

But the new coach has been reluctant to talk much about his signal-caller.

Write comment (4 Comments)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – That stereotypical crusty old scout chomping on a cigar with a billion Holiday Inn points in his account isn’t part of the Tennessee Titans anymore.

Among the changes Jon Robinson has made in his two seasons as the franchise’s GM is a significant turnover in the scouting department.

Gone are old-guard guys like Phil Neri, Marv Sunderland, Tim Ruskell and Mike Yowarsky.Scouts1

The college scouting staff Robinson inherited in 2015 had an average of 22.8 years of NFL experience heading into that season. By my count, the current staff has an average of 8.3 heading into this season.

Old scouts can be set in their ways and that can be a positive or a negative. New scouts haven’t seen as much and that can be a positive or negative.

The overall shift is not good or bad, but it is different. I think this is the youngest college scouting staff the franchise has had in the Tennessee era.

“I want them to continue to improve as evaluators,” Robinson said. “We’ve obviously tried to teach them what we are looking for in players, certain skills sets, position skills, critical factors, developing relationships

Write comment (0 Comments)

Pickers mailbag: Hand-timed 40s, Ben Jones' future and combine player visits

pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Greetings from Music City, where I've returned from the scouting combine. The Midday 180 had a successful trip, and you should head here to catch up on all our interviews, including sit-downs with Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson.

PK: The answer is one people who embrace change won't like. It’s mostly because they’ve always done it that way.

If you’ve "hand-timed" for year and years and you want to be able to compare Player A from this year to Player B from 10 years ago (when he was hand timed) and to everyone else you’ve ever timed, then it’s more apples to apples.

I’d think at some point you’d flip the switch to going by official electronic time, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

JonesJags 1

Write comment (0 Comments)

With heavier college influence than ever, NFL has been too slow to adjust to incoming talent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – For the longest time, football was a trickle-down sport. The NFL influences colleges and colleges influenced high school and on down the line.

CombineBanner

Now, things are trending the other direction.

“It’s trickling up,” Jason Garrett said.

As prospects and teams collide at the NFL scouting combine, pro teams who can best adapt to the talent pool are increasingly going to fare better.

That’s why it was big when Mike Vrabel at his introductory press conference didn’t set himself up as a coach who will fight against the tide of spread offense feeder programs, instead acknowledging those concepts are “where the game is at."

Said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter: “I think the NFL’s been slow to adjust because I don’t think the NFL wants to change. Heck, I don’t want to change. You’re all set in your ways. But what they’re giving you is what they

Write comment (1 Comment)

Mike Vrabel not interested in deception offense, wants to create conflict

VrabelCombineINDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Mike Mularkey characterizes his exotic smashmouth scheme as a deception offense.

That is not what the Titans will be under Mike Vrabel.

Football Outsiders contributor Tom Gower tweeted this a while ago, and I stashed it until I could discuss it further with Vrabel.

How much is Vrabel about attaching a team’s weakness and putting them in conflict?

Write comment (0 Comments)

PODCAST: Reviewing Jon Robinson, Mike Vrabel at combine

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Episode 6 of our podcast-only podcast is ready for you.

Part 1, like podcast versions of my public Periscope and Facebook Lives, is available through iTunes, here, or directly through the Vokal website, here.

paul kuharsky show print art

If you're a member of the site, Part 1 and Part 2 are together, and all you have to do is head below the line.

It's a full review of what Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel had to say at the NFL scouting combine, including the building of playbooks, who's the bad cop in interviews with prospects and the work to replace players with younger/cheaper options.

In the member's only section we dive into the future of fullback and you get first-listen on details of some of the reporting I'm doing here and what I plan to produce out of it.

Just head below the line for the whole broadcast.

As always, we welcome your feedback.

Write comment (0 Comments)

With college fullbacks 'fossils,' don't expect the Titans to go back to one

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel allowed for the possibility of a versatile fullback being part of the 2018 Titans.

But at the NFL scouting combine, Vrabel offered a big illustration of why we probably shouldn’t expect one.

FullbackFormer GM Ruston Webster drafted Jalston Fowler out of Alabama in the fourth round, 108th overall, in 2015. Many of us hammered the Titans for spending a pick that high on a guy who would work as a specialist.

San Diego State’s Nick Bawden is probably the best traditional fullback in this draft and I’ve seen him rated as a sixth- or seventh-rounder.

Fowler faded last season, when his snaps were exclusively as fullback and he couldn’t find a route to help on special teams.

He started showing up as a healthy scratch and was waived on Dec. 9. He’s now with the Seahawks.

I asked Vrabel if the Titans will be a fullback team.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Rob Moore on his receivers' struggles in Oakland: 'I’m accountable for that'

MooreNASHVILLE, Tenn. – There is no indisputable way to count drops.

Many receivers will say if a pass touches their hands they should catch it.

But a leaping touch of an overthrow is hardly the same as a drop of a pass that hits an open guy in the numbers.

By different counts, the Raiders had a lot of drops last season. According to STATS, Oakland’s 28 drops were the fourth-most in the NFL.

In different spots I’ve seen Michael Crabtree credited with nine and with five, Amari Cooper charged with five and three and Seth Roberts assigned five.

Those receivers are most accountable for their deficiencies. But second in line is the guy expected to coach them out of problems, and that was Rob Moore.

After three years coaching receivers in Oakland, Moore is the Titans’ new receivers coach.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Paul Midday logo 2b 2