What Tennessee Titans' GM Jon Robinson said at NFL Combine ... and what I heard | Estes

Gentry Estes
Nashville Tennessean
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Jon Robinson doesn't ever surprise me in media settings.

But he did Wednesday. Seeing the Tennessee Titans' general manager – way more of a grizzled football coach than he is a stuffed suit – tear up while talking with Nashville-area reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine, I didn't expect that. 

It was about the playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, in response to a question about what Robinson might have done differently. 

A month and a half later, Robinson clearly is nowhere near getting over the disappointment of how last season ended. His emotional reaction was a startlingly genuine glimpse into how much gets poured into a season and how much that one defeat took out of the Titans, all the way from the locker room to the front office.

Such a "wow" moment, curveball as it was, must be acknowledged. This is a franchise still mourning. I can feel that. I don't know what else to say about that.

It's not the mood I envisioned for this column.

So I'm going to move on.

Robinson is in Indianapolis facing a new offseason with a new list of pressing topics and tough decisions. In fielding questions about that Wednesday, Robinson was typical Robinson – which is to say he's a typical NFL GM this time of year, offering little substantive while sprinkling a few hints here and there.

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There's what Robinson said. And then there's what I thought he meant.

In that spirit, I'll recap the highlights by noting what he actually said ... and then what I heard in his answers. Just my read on it, mind you, but here goes:

On Ryan Tannehill

What Robinson said: "He's made a lot of great football plays for us. I mean, he has. I've loved his leadership. ... He had some bad games last year, and certainly the last game of the season wasn't a good game. He knows that."

"We haven't had any discussions with any other teams about any other quarterbacks."

What I heard: You see Tannehill's dead cap number? A cost of more than $50 million? Yeah. Next question.

On re-signing (or tagging) Harold Landry

What Robinson said: "We'll continue to have those discussions. We've got a meeting later this week, continue to work through that situation. We've got a little bit of time on the (franchise) tag decision and then a little bit more time on hopefully a long-term solution.

"(Landry) has done a lot of good things for us, but there's a lot of factors that go into that. He's certainly worked hard, and he's been about what we're about. We're going to do our best to try to keep him."

What I heard: We haven't moved on and would rather not lose him, but salary cap space doesn't grow on trees, people. He wants a lot of money for a guy who averaged about six sacks his first three seasons.

On Julio Jones

What Robinson said: "He was passionate about getting on the field, helping his teammates. His approach to the team, I thought he treated the team really, really well in how he was trying to get out there. Unfortunately, he wasn't out there enough to really make an impact week after week after week. When he was out there, I think he certainly helped our football team."

"As players, as their careers start to get a little longer and you see some things and you're wondering, 'All right, was that an isolated instance or is this going to be a repetitive thing?' is something that we're talking about internally."

What I heard: Julio is great, but you see how much he makes and how little he was out there last season? You bet we're thinking about cutting our losses.

On potential changes on the o-line

What Robinson said: "We're working through that. That group has been together for a long time, and they know each other. There's something to be said when you've got that type of continuity with your front. ... But those are some of the decisions we're having to work through, with Ben (Jones) and trying to keep him and looking at really all the positions on our football team with decisions that we're going to have to make to get under the cap."

What I heard: Hey, I love continuity on the o-line, but I loved it just as much when I didn't re-sign Jack Conklin and cut Dennis Kelly.

On maybe drafting a quarterback?

What Robinson said: "That's a great question. We do our due diligence on all those (quarterbacks). There's some in certain drafts where they are way out of our reach because you're picking at the back of the draft. ... You're trying to find those guys that may be within striking distance that may not come in and unseat (the starter) but you see a future for those guys. We're doing that with this group here. Not saying we'll take one, but that's part of what our job is."

What I heard: "That's a great question." ... But someone is gonna have to fall to us. We're not moving up to get one real high in the first round.

On contract talks with A.J. Brown

What Robinson said: "It's very, very preliminary. There's been nothing really exchanged, but A.J. knows how we feel about him, and we know how A.J. feels about the football team. We'll get to work on that when we can."

What I heard: A.J. isn't going anywhere and will soon be very, very wealthy.

Ben Arthur contributed to this article. Reach Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes. 

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