By Jimmy Hyams
The Tennessee Titans signing of quarterback Ryan Taneyhill from Miami got a ringing endorsement from Mike Keith.
“He’s good, really good,’’ the Voice of the Titans for more than two decades said at a recent speaking engagement in Knoxville.
But for the Titans to reach their potential, the team would be better if Taneyhill sat the bench all year long.
“If we don’t see him for one down,’’ Keith said, “we’re a Super Bowl team.’’
That’s how much confidence Keith has in quarterback Marcus Mariota, a talent who has had trouble staying healthy for an entire season.
And that’s how much confidence Keith has in second-year coach Mike Vrabel, who guided the Titans to a playoff berth last season.
Keith pointed to a three-game stretch last season in which the Titans were about as good as any team in the NFL. They lost on a two-point try to the Chargers in London, won at Dallas then destroyed the Patriots 34-10 in Nashville.
“It’s totally doable,’’ Keith said of making the Super Bowl. “It’s a matter of reaching that potential.’’
Keith is excited about the return of All-Pro tight end Delanie Walker, a favorite target of Mariota.
Keith said Vrabel has an “unbelievable grasp of the big picture,’’ adding “this guy gets it.
“I never had a player who I felt would be more successful as a head coach than Mike Vrabel.’’
Keith noted that Tennessee is one of only six NFL teams to record a winning record three years in a row. The 9-7 team of two years ago won a playoff game at Kansas City. Last year’s 9-7 was unexpected.
“That team should’ve won four or five games,’’ Keith said.
Keith said the Titans needed help at guard, slot receiver and edge rusher and addressed them in free agency. He is excited about former Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown, the Rebels most productive receiver in history. And he likes guard Nate Davis.
Tennessee took former Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who suffered a torn ACL in February and struck a woman while in high school. Keith believes Oakland would have taken Simmons with the No. 4 pick had he been healthy.
Simmons might not be healthy enough to play until late November.
Keith said one problem facing the Titans: Its division is “so good.’’ The Texans, Jags, Titans and Colts have each made the playoffs last year or the year before. It might take an 11-5 record to win the AFC South.
Each team in the division has a successful NFL quarterback, now that the Jags have Super Bowl winning quarterback Nick Foles.
“If we win it,’’ Keith said, “we could be in contention to win the whole thing.’’
On Mariota, Keith says: “He’s the leader of our team. The players very much consider him the guy. ‘’
Keith posed this question: If the Titans cut Mariota, how long would it take for another team to sign him to start?
Answer: Not long.