With each day that passes, it is becoming more and more likely that Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams will have to get rid of either coach Jeff Fisher or quarterback Vince Young at the season's end, and it seems as if Adams is going to make the wrong decision and support Young.
Young's post-game meltdown was a complete embarrassment to the team and to himself, and there is no way anyone in the Tennessee Titans' locker room can respect coach Fisher if Young ever takes a snap for the Titans again. After the Titans lost to the Washington Redskins in overtime, Young threw his shoulder pads and jersey at the crowd in frustration. According to the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt, Young then sat in the locker room muttering expletives under his breath while Fisher was preparing to speak to the team. Wyatt's sources claim that when told he needed to remain quiet, Young started to leave and Fisher told him not to "run out on his teammates". It was at this point that, according to Wyatt, Young told Fisher "I'm not running out on my teammates; I'm running out on you," and then left. Multiple media sources report that after this occurred, Titans safety and fellow Texas Longhorn Michael Griffin chased after Young and unsuccessfully tried to convince him not to leave. Young then drove away from LP Field without speaking to the media.
Young was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday, but Fisher had revealed at his post-game press conference that Young had lost his starting job regardless of his injury's status. With backup quarterback Kerry Collins still rehabilitating a calf injury, rookie Rusty Smith, a sixth-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic University, is the Titans' starting quarterback. This means that Fisher is so fed up with Young that he would rather place the 5-5 Titans' playoff hopes in the hands of a lowly-drafted rookie instead of allowing Young to remain the starter. Without a doubt, Fisher seems more than justified in being tired of Young's act.
Even in Young's rookie season, there was evidence of the attitude problems that would eventually undermine his chances of ever becoming a successful NFL quarterback. Young revealed after the season in an interview with 60 Minutes that after he missed the team's flight to Philadelphia for a game against the Eagles, he initially refused to schedule another flight and make it to Philadelphia; Fisher had to cajole him into coming to Philadelphia and playing. In his second season, Young was hampered by a quad injury suffered early in the season; without his trademark running ability Young posted a 9-to-17 touchdown to interception ratio. The next offseason, Young was excused from newly hired offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's offseason workouts in order to finish his degree at the University of Texas. However, it became apparent that Young was hitting the bars harder than he was hitting the books, when photos of him partying shirtless in Austin hit TMZ.
In the Titans' first regular-season game that fall, Young had a two-interception game that saw him getting booed by the home crowd. Young later told E:60 that at this point he wanted to quit playing football for the rest of the 2008 season. Young missed an MRI the next day and went missing that night, prompting Fisher to bench him for the rest of the season. When 2009 started with the Titans at 0-6, Adams, a Houston native who had been a Young fan since Young was in high school, ordered that Young be given the starting job back. The Titans finished with an 8-2 record the rest of the way, but Young proved to be unable to stabilize the quarterback position in 2010: he was benched in Week 2 for poor performance and a lack of preparation, and had multiple injury issues throughout the season.
Young missed the team's game against the Eagles with a leg injury suffered against the Jaguars, and when he returned against the Chargers, he hurt his ankle and left the game. The injury was minor enough that he never even went to the locker room; trainers simply put ice on his ankle. Late in the fourth quarter and down by eight, the Titans were on the Chargers' side of the field, and it was third down with three yards to go. The CBS cameras tellingly cut to Young standing on the sidelines, cleats back on and ice removed, watching the game and not making any effort to get back on the field as backup quarterback Kerry Collins ended up throwing an incomplete pass on 4th down to end the Titans' comeback hopes. The Titans' next game came after a bye week against the Miami Dolphins, and Young's toughness came into question again when he declared himself not healthy enough to start, yet he ran around at full speed when called into action in the second half when Collins, who started the game, left with an injured calf muscle. By all appearances, Young was healthy enough to have started.
Young's predecessor in Tennessee, the late Steve McNair, would never have had his toughness question. McNair's career was filled with games where he played hurt and led the Titans to victory, and that toughness is what made him so great. McNair undoubtedly would have gone back in against the Chargers after such a minor injury, and there is no way on Earth that he wouldn't have started against the Dolphins after a full bye week to recover. For someone who referred to McNair as "Pops" when he was alive and viewed him as a father figure, Young needs to reflect on the qualities that made McNair so great. On the field, Young's playing style sometimes evokes memories of McNair, but off the field Young couldn't be any less like McNair. Young sulks when things go poorly, deflects blame for his performance, and is easily baited by media criticism. McNair had none of this oversensitivity, and it allowed him to focus on what mattered most: helping his team win. Young lacks the warrior mentality that made McNair great, and unless he finds that mentality within himself, he will never be great.
Despite the mounting evidence that suggests Young will never lead the Titans to a Super Bowl, Adams still stands by his draft-day declaration that "VY is my guy". On Monday he told the Tennessean that Young and Fisher would have to resolve their differences, and that Young would be the Titans' starter again in 2011. This completely undermines Fisher's authority in the locker room - one has to look no further than Brad Childress and the Vikings for proof of what happens to a coach when team rules don't apply to a certain player. Players aren't going to respect Fisher, and there will likely be resentment towards Young, because everybody in the locker room knows that had any of the other 52 members of the roster acted in the way that Young did, they would have been on waiver wires as soon as possible. This double-standard is not going to endear Young to his teammates, and players (especially on offense) aren't going to want to give their all for him. By supporting Young over Fisher, Adams is flirting with the possibility of completely destroying team chemistry and killing the Titans' playoff hopes.
If that wasn't bad enough, it seems as if Fisher is quietly launching a campaign to get himself fired as quickly as possible. On Monday, Young was sent home after arriving at the team's facilities. The Titans issued a statement that Young was not banned from team facilities, but that he was simply told he was not required to be at the meeting because he was on injured reserve. Fisher then told ESPN's Chris Mortenson and reiterated on his own weekly radio show that he told the team that Young was not welcome at the meeting because he had "quit on the team". Without a doubt, Fisher has drawn a line in the sand, and one way or another, he will not have Vince Young forced on him as a starter ever again. With Adams' blindly unfaltering loyalty to Young, it seems as if Fisher won't have to worry about Young, because Fisher will be coaching another team.
In all fairness to Adams, it's easy to see how the allure of Young's potential can fool Adams into thinking that he'd be better off with Young than with Fisher. First and foremost, at 6'5" and 235 pounds, Young has the frame of a traditional quarterback. Unlike Michael Vick, who is built like a thin running back, Young has the build of a traditional pocket passer. Even though his passing skills could definitely use some work, he's definitely made some huge strides this year and last in his mechanics. The results were impressive on the field: Young threw 10 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions this year, finally evening out his career touchdown-to-interception ratio at 42-42. His record as a starter is 30-17, and in the three seasons where he started a significant amount of games, the Titans went to the playoffs once and fell just one game short of the playoffs twice. It's easy to be blinded by the promise he has shown; I'll admit I was fooled for far too long. The fact of the matter is, Young has the talent to be a superstar in the right offensive system, but his poor attitude and work ethic will prevent him from reaching his full potential.
Young further showed that he just doesn't get it by texting an apology to Fisher instead of meeting him in person or even calling him, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Fisher didn't back down and make like everything was OK because of the apology via text. When asked if he would have preferred if the apology had taken place in person, Fisher told reporters:
"You guys draw that conclusion. I'm not a real big text guy. I'm not really into this new-age stuff. I don't Twitter or tweet. But I think face to face is a man thing, OK?" Fisher reinforced the meaninglessness of the text message when asked if a text was better than no apology, saying "Someone could have grabbed his phone."
Like his flashes of brilliance on the football field, it appears as if Young's apology was too little, too late. - Hank Koebler, IV
Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.
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