Looking In The Nashville Mirror

June 5th, 2017

Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira Kaufman, the most beloved and esteemed columnist in town, has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. His columns pop here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.


The Buccaneers have a trending partner in the AFC, a mirror image poised to make some noise after years of deathly silence.

The Bucs and Titans suddenly find themselves joined at the hip pad.

Flourishing quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were selected 1-2 atop the 2015 draft, and Tennessee GM Jon Robinson worked under Jason Licht in Tampa before taking over football operations in Nashville.

“I can see a lot of similarities between us,” says Licht, who spent some anxious moments during Round 1 of this year’s draft before the Titans chose cornerback Adoree’ Jackson at No. 18 — with O.J. Howard still on the board.

Like the Bucs, Tennessee has the look of an ascending team with a franchise quarterback. And like their NFC counterparts, the Titans spent this offseason giving the young face of the franchise more weapons.

While the Bucs were adding DeSean Jackson, Howard and Chris Godwin as targets for Winston, Robinson hit the draft hard — selecting wide receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, and tight end Jonnu Smith, within the first three rounds.

Both teams are coming off 9-7 seasons, finishing second in their respective divisions, and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter sees plenty of parallels, particularly in terms of offensive scheme.

““The Titans are a team I watch a lot on offense, we run similar systems,” Koetter said on WGFX-FM in Nashville. “That’s a team I like to watch to get ideas from those guys on how they’re attacking teams that we both play. They did a great job this year; the Titans did an awesome job.”

Until he fractured his fibula late in the season, Mariota was arguably having a better year than Winston, throwing for 3,426 yards and 26 touchdowns in a run-first attack. He is expected to make a full recovery in time for the season opener at home against the dynamic Raiders.


With wide receiver Rishard Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker now surrounded by rookie talent, the Titans appear more equipped to complement the NFL’s No. 3 ground game.

“The more weapons the Titans get Mariota, the better he’s going to be, and the better the team is going to be,” says NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. “Marcus, he’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Tampa Bay’s defense boasts better overall talent than the Titans’, but give Tennessee the edge on the offensive line, where 25-year-old Taylor Lewan and 22-year-old Jack Conklin form the best young tackle tandem in the league.

The Bucs are also in a tougher division, home of the last two NFC champions coming, and all four South clubs boast franchise quarterbacks.

While Tampa Bay’s backfield appears unsettled given the Doug Martin “situation,” Tennessee’s offense is built around DeMarco Murray, whose 18 100-yard games since 2014 rank No. 1 among all running backs.

Despite some differences in tendencies, the Bucs and Titans share a common approach.

“When Dirk took over in Atlanta [as offensive coordinator] when I left there, I think the offense remained the same,” says Titans coach Mike Mularkey. “It’s very similar now. He may have changed the terminology, but a lot of it is very similar. It is interesting where we’re at, with Mariota and Winston both running the same offenses. I think it’s eerie in that way.”

Titans head coach Mike Mularkey is nearly at one with Dirk Koetter

Robinson is off to a terrific start as an executive in Nashville and he’ll be the first to admit Licht has served as a savvy mentor. The Titans have a lot to build off, and if Davis lives up to his potential as a game-breaker, Mariota should enjoy a breakout season.

Even with mediocre weapons last year, Tennessee proved awesome in the red zone, scoring 36 touchdowns and adding 11 field goals in 50 possessions inside the 20.

That 94 percent scoring rate led the NFL.

Silencing his skeptics, Mariota has quickly evolved into a passer comfortable in the confines of the pocket. In their first two seasons, Mariota has fewer rushing attempts and fewer rushing touchdowns than Winston.

“Both teams have quarterbacks they are building around,” Licht says. “I couldn’t be more proud of the job Jon Robinson is doing in Tennessee and in my view, these are two franchises definitely on the rise.”

19 Responses to “Looking In The Nashville Mirror”

  1. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    I like Winston and Koetter over their HC, I think they definitely have the better GM and has built a wall for mariotta and have 2 legit starting RBs, bucs WR corps on paper has a shot to be the best in the NFL, time will tell…but NFC South is a tough division…but dont sleep on the Jags this year and Houston is a QB away from being a top team….just wish the bucs OL was better and defnisvely there are a few holes on the team

  2. Locked In Says:

    Happy for Nashville, great hockey team and Titans on the rise. How cool would it be to see TB and TN in the SB!

  3. Tampa Tony Says:

    I was wrong about Mariota big time he seems to be an ascending talent in the league as long as he stays healthy.

    Can’t remember the last time two QB’s were taken high that both seemed to pan out for their teams…

  4. Pickgrin Says:

    Robinson robbed us of Conklin last year who I can pretty much guarantee you was going to be our pick at #9. But the TENN GM is going to seriously regret going for “need” on defense at #18 and passing on OJ Howard in the 2017 draft. Thanks Jon. Bout time you made a mistake in our favor.

  5. ndog Says:

    They got 9 wins in the worse division in football and plus they played the Browns. Do it versus a real schedule and then talk to me. I know people will say but they beat x amount of playoff teams but that’s not the point the point is they are not challenged each and every week like we were and we have the same record.

  6. Stpetebucsfan Says:


    I’m with you! Nashville is a cool town and since the Lightning are gone I can root for the Preds.

    And I agree with you a Nashville-Tampa SB in Minny this year would be awesome.
    The final showdown between the top two picks who will forever be joined when QB conversations pop up. There’s Andrew Luck…and…which two QB’s taken since are better than either #3 or Mariotta?


    Yeah usually it’s like Manning and Leaf where one is great and the other is horrible. Then there was the famous 83 draft that produced three HOF QB’s and several other franchise QB’s who weren’t bad. Doubt though that we’ll see a draft that produces Elway..Marino..and Kelly in just one draft. Freaky.

  7. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Pre-draft my biggest concerns with Mariota were whether he’d develop into a lethal pocket passer who can win close games in the 4th and make big throws on 3rd and long. He had a losing record in close games in college; and typically went with his 1st or 2nd read in a simple offense. With Winston I already knew the guy could sit in a pocket and convert a 3rd and 20 and lead game winning drives under pressure in close games so that was my major logic for being a huge Winston>Mariota fan. And that I went to FSU lol.

    2 years in it looks like Mariota is developing nicely as a pocket passer who can win some close games. He has 4 game winning TD drives (Winston has 6) so he’s proven he can come up in some big moments.. He also has more choke moments than Winston through 2 years in terms of games they likely could have / should have won at the end and didn’t.

    Through 2 years he hasn’t been asked to do as much as Winston in terms of offensive complexity and pressure due to surrounding personnel; and he has gotten injured now 2 years in a row despite being hit 1/3 of the times Winston has been hit. Health is now kind of a question with him.

    Everything revolved around their run game last year; and both RBs were very effective with screens and both very effective in the red zone which is great for a QB. Also had Delanie Walker / Rishard Mathews / Kendall Wright (whose better than any of our #2s last year imo) so it’s not like he didn’t have some weapons. He is set up awesme this year with a top flight O-line; 2 top RBs; an elite #1 WR (Corey Davis) a great #2 (Mathews) another play maker (Taylor); plus Walker.

    Both QBs should be fun for fantasy. Mariota will likely have better protection and a run game. Both divisions should be competitive going forward…AFC South was a joke the last couple years but I think the Jags are actually about to turn it around; Houston may have a QB; and the Colts still have luck and actually seem to have done OK this last offseason for once

  8. Lord Cornelius Says:

    So had a second to chart all the game logs of close games for both Winston and Mariota and it confirmed what I thought. Essentially Winston has just lost 2 games by my count where he had a reasonable chance to win it at the end (i.e. down 1 score or less with reasonable time to tie or take a lead). That was the Rams game where he had 1:40 left at the Bucs own 40 and ran out of time; and the Oakland game in which he had multiple chances to win via a game winning FG or TD drive but failed. We can count Dallas too if you want but I don’t simply because we all saw the guy had no freaking chance in that 4th quarter due to the guaranteed 1.5 second from snap sacks that kept happening. I looked for Mariota drives killed by sacks but didn’t see anything like the Dallas game.

    So by my count; in 2 seasons; Winston has lost 2 games he could have potentially won at the end; to go with 6 game winning TD drives. Mariota has lost 6-7 games he could have potentially won at the end; to go with 4 game winning TD drives. Here’s the Mariota examples for context of what I’m looking at:

    -Gets ball down 14-13 on own 30 just needing a FG to win with 1:41 left; throws interception on first play (rookie year)
    -Gets ball down 13-19 on own 20 needing TD to win with 2:19 left; drive chart shows tons of short passes over the middle killing clock and eventually killing drive as they ran out of time by time he got into jax territory (rookie year)
    -Gets ball at own 20 with 1:21 left needing a FG to tie or TD to win; throws interception from their own 47 with 50 seconds left (rookie year)
    -Also a game vs Colts where they lose on a failed 2 pt conversion that would have sent it to OT (rookie year)
    -Down 7 with 1:51 left; fail to convert a 4th and 4 at Oakland 12 and lose (2016)
    -Down 7 with 3:57 left; move down to Houston 28 (2nd and 6 now) and throws 3 incompletions in a row to end game (2016)
    -Down 28-36 @ SD with 6 mins left; throws a pick 6 on 3rd down that seals the game (2016)

    This doesn’t really mean everything or anything necessarily; but just something I’ve kind of been curious about.

  9. JJBucFan Says:

    Lord C-we win that Oakland game if not for a pass interference on Oaklands last drive (I think it was 4th and long, too) and basically a failure of our defense to stop D Carr in the second half and OT, but I hear ya- it would have been nice to see him bail out our D in that game.

    Also don’t forget- Winston hasn’t missed a game yet (knock on wood)

  10. BoJim Says:

    Tampa Tony Says:
    June 5th, 2017 at 9:47 am
    I was wrong about Mariota big time he seems to be an ascending talent in the league as long as he stays healthy.


  11. Tampa Tony Says:


    What about all the multiple turnover games Jameis has had that’s given the other team free points and good field position? His turnovers have killed this team two years in a row.

    I know he’s young and hopefully he learns to protect the ball better but the Bucs have lost a lot of one score games the last two years where they would’ve had a chance if the other team wasn’t getting free points and field position

  12. ndog Says:

    There is good old Tampa Tony spreading this Jameis hate again. It was just a matter of time.

  13. Pick6 Says:

    one big difference in favor of nashville was, ironically, they were lousy for one year while the bucs ascended to mediocrity. having the #2 pick with a great young franchise QB already in the building allowed them to totally fleece the eagles and gather high draft picks across 2 drafts. these have been 2 pretty good drafts for teams with non-QB needs and the titans have been all over the first 2 rounds in both

  14. Pickgrin Says:

    Just stop it Tony.

    Winston is a gunslinger who plays in a “vertical” offense. There will always be a few more turnovers than you want to see with this QB in this offense. Chit happens when you are winging it 20+ yards downfield at a much higher rate than the NFL average. (Wait’ll you see how often he makes those throws this year) 40% of last year’s interceptions had nothing to do with Jameis making a bad throw or a bad decision.

    The important thing is that Jameis Winston will make 3X+ as many amazing plays as he will “bad” plays. He has the talent and strength of will to put this team on his back if/when necessary and WIN games. You still don’t get why he’s so special do you Tony? Go re-watch this year’s Super Bowl for reference.

    Brady was stymied for almost 3 full quarters by the Atlanta Defense. Even had a pick 6 on his statsheet. The great Tom Brady throws a very bad pass and gets pick sixed in the SB. Damn… Down 28-3 in the 3rd quarter. Night Felicia.

    But we all know what happened in the 4th Quarter and into OT. “IT” Happened. He who has “IT” like none other in this league happened. Brady has never been the best anything in this league – athletic, scrambling, strong arm none of it. On paper Tom Brady has no business being compared to the amazing talents of Peyton Manning and John Elway and Dan Marino and Roger Staubach.

    And yet Tom Brady with that Super Bowl win in astounding fashion has rightfully cemented himself as the greatest QB this league has ever known. A 6th round pick that the Patriots lucked into is the greatest NFL QB EVER! Because he has “IT” like none other.

    Guess who else has “IT” at a level you rarely see on an NFL field Tony. The QB of YOUR Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Winston’s natural talents and skillset and high level grooming coming into this league is lightyears beyond what Brady possessed.

    We all know that Jameis Winston is not Tom Brady yet and probably never will be at a success level. But Jameis has all the intangibles you look for in a QB prospect + he performed at the highest level possible in College and literally willed his team through 26 straight wins when necessary including a National Championship + he is a natural and charismatic leader + he has one of the best understandings of how the game of football works that a Quarterback his age has ever had in NFL history. Almost nobody plays QB well their rookie season in the NFL without tons of team help (like faker Dak) – but Winston managed to play really well as a rookie and made obvious strides of improvement in his 2nd year even as most of his help (offensive weapons and Oline) struggled and or disappeared.

    Now we have weapons for Winston. Now you will see what Jameis is really capable of with players like Evans, DJax, OJ Howard and Godwin all on the field at the same time. The Bucs 2017 offense will be a thing of beauty if Warhop’s confidence in his front line turns out to be warranted.

    Why not just enjoy the ride Tony? No QB is perfect – but when your team’s QB truly has IT – as our’s does – then little else matters as long as the Ws are piling up which is exactly what’s fixin to happen this year for the Buccaneers.

    Or continue to nitpick and criticize if you want Tony which I’m quite sure you will. But sooner than later, your “complaints” about Winston’s game are going to be harder and harder to justify…

  15. Pick6 Says:

    regarding Mariota, he has already vastly outpaced my pro projection of him. he puts the ball where it’s supposed to be with tremendous reliability. i don’t know how complex his reads are etc, but it really doesn’t matter. the guy is efficient, accurate, and dedicated to his craft and the titans have themselves a potentially great QB.

    however, i still love Jameis for 2 qualities Marcus will never have. The first is durability, JW takes a beating but hasn’t missed a game in his life. When you are loading up on offensive weapons, the fatal flaw is if the triggerman is missing. MM has always been prone to missing games and I bet Tennessee fans fear the worst every time someone makes contact with their QB at this point.

    the second quality is charisma – this is a franchise that needed more than a good player to pull it out of the doldrums, it needed that 10,000 watt personality that could make everyone inside the locker room and around town excited about football again, and Jameis has delivered that in a way i cannot imagine MM doing. If the teams swapped QBs, i think there would be a little less buzz around town and lots of people still cynically projecting a raiders type scenario where a QB injury completely takes the air out of the team’s hopes

  16. Tampa Tony Says:

    Pickgrin and ndog

    When are you going to realize the margin of victory in this league is razor thin and you can’t have a QB who turns it over on average of once a game and sometimes even more.

    Trust me I love seeing Jameis attack a defense and challenge teams but you also have to be smart as a qb. But when you complete less than 25% of your throws longer than 20 yards he needs to readjust how he attacks teams.

    Get the turnovers down like nearly every fan, analyst, coach and anyone with some common sense can see and his production will sky rocket.

  17. First Down Tampa Bay Says:

    The Titans are good and all but Tennessee can’t touch us

  18. Lord Cornelius Says:

    @ Tampa Tony. I said “This doesn’t really mean everything or anything necessarily; but just something I’ve kind of been curious about.”

    It’s not me attempting to paint some perfect picture of each QB with some sort of grade. It’s just looking at how they’ve done with games on the line in the 4th quarter. That is something I thought Winston would edge him in and that seems to have panned out.

    Also you are completely wrong about Winston’s turnovers being crucial in many close losses. We really have not had that many close losses. I already mentioned 4 total that were technically 1 score games from 2016; and 2 I didn’t count for the reasons mentioned (the Saints game really wasn’t even a 1 score game). There were 3 other losses and they were all blow outs. In 2015 we only had 3 close losses and the rest multi-score losses; and of those 3 none were on Winston if you go check the game log (1 was another 2 score game that was artificially made to look like a 1 score game based on a late garbage TD).

    11 of Winston’s 33 interceptions have come in 3 terrible blowout losses (still on him regardless – no excuse). That means he has 22 interceptions in his other 29 games. That pace would average out to 12 interceptions a 16 game season which would be great for him.

  19. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Speaking of razor thin margin of victories:

    Titans are 9-10 in 1 score games the last 2 years; and of those 10 losses I charted 6-7 that Mariota had a very realistic chance of winning late if he performed better at the end. Of the 9 wins; 4 involved game winning MM TD drives.

    The Bucs are 11-7 in 1 score games the last 2 years; and of those 7 losses Winston realistically only had a chance of winning 2 late with better performance at the end of the game. Of the 11 wins; 6 involved game winning Winston TD drives.