Tennessee Titans cannot bail on Malik Wills right now

Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tennessee Titans might have just seen their season effectively end at home on Christmas Eve.

They wasted a perfect opportunity to snap their four-game losing streak against the one-win Houston Texans, and the loss extended that streak to five games. Oh, and they fell out of first place in the AFC South.

It was more of the same as of late: an inept offense that can’t do anything and a defense that is trying everything in its power to bail out the offense but cannot. And with Malik Willis playing for the injured Ryan Tannehill, the task was even tougher, and the team could not overcome it.

The problems of the Titans offense are well documented at this point, and the way that the offense is designed is that every player is simply and X or an O, no one’s specific skill set is featured. That is a glaring issue when you have a developmental rookie quarterback playing his third-ever full regular season game.

Despite those disadvantages, that has not stopped many fans from calling for the team to ditch him.

Tennessee Titans have no clue what they have in Malik Willis yet

Despite being the third quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL draft, Willis was not selected until the 86th pick in the third round. It had nothing to do with his talent as everyone knew that it was game-changing caliber, but rather the fact that he was and is still so raw as a prospect.

He was going to need at least a year of sitting and learning as the backup, maybe two before he could be a starter in the NFL. So while the late selection was somewhat of a surprise, everyone inside the Tennessee Titans organization knew what they were signing up for.

Knowing that, why are we here after Willis’ third full game calling it a failed experiment? Sure, his base statistics have been abhorrent, but who would have honestly expected anything different in this situation?

Everyone knew that he should not be seeing the field in meaningful action this year, so struggling and making rookie mistakes are things that make sense for him to be doing. And it is not like he is being given much of an opportunity to succeed.

Yes, the Tennessee Titans have Derrick Henry, but they essentially have a practice-squad offensive line due to injuries and already suspect pieces and a wide receiver core whose best player is a rookie who has missed roughly seven games due to injuries.

The cherry on top is none other than Todd Downing, who succeeds in finding every possible way to hold offenses back even when you think it cannot get any worse.

And you might say that even through all of this, you might say that there is no excuse for Willis not being able to throw a ball 25 yards down the field. Even that is not as easy as you would think for a quarterback of his status in this offense.

Let’s face it, between the horrible play-calling and horrible supporting cast around him, Willis has no chance to succeed right now. This is not someone who has been given several opportunities to turn it around and has failed, he has played just three full games in a year in which he should be nowhere near the field, so he deserves to be cut some slack even on mistakes that seem careless.

What makes it even more mind-boggling about people wanting him gone is the nature of the quarterback position. Look at guys like Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Trevor Lawrence, and even Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, who all needed at least a year before they could realize their true potential.

Not everyone can come into the league and be Andrew Luck, in fact, most need lots of time before they are quality starters in the league. Willis especially is someone who needs ample opportunity before he is where we hope he can be, and the potential he has is too great to quit on.

Now, this is not to say that anyone should be sold on him as the future starter, and having some doubt about that is certainly understandable given what he has shown. But ditching a developmental quarterback who…hasn’t had a chance to develop would just send a horrible message to the entire team, and would just be an absurd decision at this point in time.

I will say that from the first time he has taken the field, Willis has gotten better in some aspects, even if the stats do not show it. His decisiveness has gotten better and better both in the pocket and running with the football, and his rushing touchdown on Saturday shows a glimpse of what could be in the future.

For guys like Willis, demonstrating coachability and growth, no matter how big or how small, is just about all you can ask for, and he has shown both of them. It is way too early to call him a bust, he just is not ready yet, and unless something completely unforeseen happens, the Tennessee Titans owe it to him to at least give him a real opportunity to live up to his hype.