The Tennessee Titans gave Josh Dobbs an audition Thursday night, and the quarterback responded in the 27-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Dobbs completed 20 of 39 passes for 232 yards with one touchdown and an interception and a lost fumble. After signing with the club a week ago, the performance, coupled with rookie Malik Willis' lackluster starts, portends Dobbs making the Week 18 start in a winner-take-all AFC South bout versus the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Following the loss, however, head coach Mike Vrabel wasn't ready to declare a starter.
"It was a great opportunity to evaluate Josh, and then we'll make a decision going forward," Vrabel said. "I thought he did some good things, would certainly like to have a couple of throws back. We'll kind of see where things are here in a couple of days.
"We just beat ourselves too much. It is too hard to beat the Cowboys, or good football teams, when you beat yourself. But I thought we competed. I was extremely proud of the way that the 47 guys we had up tonight competed. We gave ourselves a chance but then again we did too many things that hurt us."
The Titans sat a host of their regular starters, including Derrick Henry and Jeffrey Simmons, in a game that had no bearing on their postseason hopes.
With Ryan Tannehill placed on injured reserve due to an ankle injury earlier on Thursday, most expected Willis to make his fourth start of the season. Instead, it was Dobbs under center, giving life to a listless passing game.
Dobbs' 232 yards passing Thursday ranked seventh for a Titans QB this season. The quarterback moved the ball well after a wobbly start, hitting several field-stretching shots that were missing with Willis under center. He did miss a few throws, looked skittish in the pocket early, tossed a pick and had another near-interception that Trevon Diggs dropped. But all in all, it was a better-than-expected performance given that Dobbs was making his first-career start with little time on the team, a struggling offensive line and no Henry to lean on.
Vrabel was asked if bringing Dobbs off the practice squad to start said anything about Willis' development at this stage of his career.
"We're excited about having Malik," the coach said. "We're excited about some of the things that he has done. We'll continue to digest this over the weekend and kind of make a decision. Malik has worked hard, but then we just have kind of to see where we are at with the quarterback position here going down to the last week of the season."
It's possible Vrabel could turn back to Willis, claiming the QB was sat Thursday along with other starters to keep him healthy. But given Dobbs' command of the offense and more capable passing acumen at this point (Willis threw for under 100 yards in each of his three starts), it would be a surprise if Dobbs' isn't named the starter for Week 18.
"That's up to the coaches," Dobbs said. "I think they're going to put whoever gives us the best opportunity to win out there, and I'll respect their decision. So we'll see when we regroup over the weekend and we'll go from there."