The Titans and the Malik Willis Debacle Should Never Have Happened

Organized Team Activities (OTA) are underway in the NFL and the Tennessee Titans backup quarterback Malik Willis, a 2022 third-round pick, sits on the hot seat.

  • Published on 12 months ago
Malik-Willis
Tennessee Titans QB Malik Willis

Organized Team Activities (OTA) are underway in the NFL. Obviously, Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis is on the hot seat this season. Despite being the third quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL Draft and living a childhood dream, I feel for Tennessee Titans QB Malik Willis. Many believe that Will Levis’s drafting with the 33rd overall pick and 2.2 pick is the writing on the wall. That Willis will eventually get cut.

FALLING FOR THE MALIK WILLIS HYPE

Initially, the Titans took Willis 3.22 (86 overall) with expectations to sit behind Ryan Tannehill for a season or two. I was online with our founder, Big John, when the pick went down. The problem I saw was a player who was so raw that he would need 3-4 years before he could even think of being a starting NFL quarterback. This wasn’t the first time I saw general managers and scouts ignore their scouting reports as they fell for the hype. Maybe some didn’t because sometimes you must reach for a player you believe in for fear someone else takes him. However, that wasn’t the case with Willis.

DRAFTING NFL QUARTERBACKS

Early on, scouts weren’t talking about Willis in the first half of the draft. Yet, the hype became over-the-top; eventually, some said he was a potential first-rounder. Seeing such wrong information spoken on by respected NFL Draft analysts was stunning. Some even said he was a potential top-10 pick! It’d be easy to ask, “What are they smoking?” To make that statement is beyond ludicrous.

It’s a double-edged sword, being a top draft pick. Does anyone think going No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans did any favors for QB David Carr? Did it help his career? NO! He ran for his life behind a sieve for an offensive line on an expansion team. That destroyed his psyche permanently and thus any potential for NFL success. He’s not the only quarterback to have that happen, as the NFL is littered with busts.

  • Another easy example is Steve Young with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, running for his life, yet winning a Super Bowl, being an MVP, and making the hall of fame on a team, the San Francisco 49ers, with structure and a plan, specifically toward the quarterback position.

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Okay, to those raising an eyebrow, while he wasn’t an overall No. 1 pick, Willis ran for his life at times as well, behind a questionable offensive line. He was not ready for prime time as a project, and it exposed the hype as hype. 

  • We at Sports Grumblings said even the third round would be too high as he’s a project.

NFL Draft scouting reports got lost somewhere! Watching the NFL since the mid-1970s as a kid, I became a self-taught analyst in the 1990s and then paid to analyze in some form or fashion beginning in the late 1990s. In all that time, it was apparent how raw Willis was. Even NFL scouts knew this. The hype the last month before the draft elevated him to the point a third-round QB. That player should compete and, at the very least, win a backup job.

MALIK WILLIS’ ISSUES

  • He was simply too raw for the NFL’s speed from his college opponents.
    • Liberty University is not a powerhouse program.
  • He wasn’t ready for the responsibility that comes with a third-round pick.
    • Once starting QB Ryan Tannehill got injured, expectations from the front office and pressure from fans meant putting him on the field.
  • He was wrongly elevated to backup, which cost the team and Malik’s confidence.
    • We expect a player taken in the third round to win the backup job.
  • By starting him well before he was ready, they set Malik up to fail and stunted his growth as a player.

DEL PILAR PROVED RIGHT… AGAIN!

Malik looked horrific during his rookie season. His first action came in mop-up duty, in Week 2, versus the Buffalo Bills.

  • Completed 1-of-4 passes for 6 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, and one lost fumble.

For the season:

  • He completed 31-of-61 passes for 276 yards, two interceptions, no touchdowns, and two fumbles (one recovered, one lost). He was horrific.
    • His only saving grace was his legs: 27 attempts for 123 yards and one touchdown, breaking down to a solid 4.56 yards per carry.

Based on this data and watching him play, the belief is that the Titans want to move on. In defense of Willis, he was never worthy of a top or mid-round pick.

  • Again, like a broken record, he’s a project, but you don’t give up on projects as talented as Willis.

IS THERE HOPE FOR MALIK WILLIS?

If the team does move on from Malik, hopefully, he will go to a team with a QB guru for 2-3 years. That is, if his psyche as a football player is still intact. The Titans’ offensive line was a joke at times.

  • History shows many young QBs who struggle and run for their lives early on lose enough confidence and never regain it.

I say the 2-3 years to sit and learn because he’s easily that far away. Maybe even 3-4 years. Who knows, but the team will look hard at that battle with him and Levis and have to decide.

  • You can’t keep Malik on the team as a No. 3 quarterback, with Levis as the backup. The mental anguish and lack of reps during practices will doom him.

WHAT’S NEEDED FOR SUCCESS?

Thrust into a role he wasn’t ready for, some now view him as a bust, but the Titans haven’t given him a fair shot. Look, anybody who saw his film and read the initial scouting reports months before the draft in 2022 took place knew Malik Willis was extremely raw. Yet, we all saw glimpses of outstanding talent and traits. He should’ve been a late-round pick, but as is always the case, even NFL teams and GMs are susceptible to the hype.

This move could be the premature ending of Willis’s once potentially promising career. However, we believe leaving Tennessee and going to a club with a history of successful quarterback teachers will help him in the long term. We wish him luck in whatever happens.

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