There's only room for one in Nashville.
By Ralph Vacchiano
It was a marriage that was doomed to fail, right from the very beginning. And Bud Adams probably should’ve known better. Saddling a coach with a player he doesn’t want is never a good idea.
And when that player is a quarterback, it can only be a disaster.
That’s what the relationship between Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and his quarterback, Vince Young, has become after they reportedly had a confrontation after the Titans’ overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Fisher was incensed that his moody quarterback tossed his shoulder pads into the stands after the game and then stormed out of the team’s locker room.
He responded by immediately and publicly stripping Young of his starting job.
Young ended up on season-ending injured reserve with an injured thumb that didn’t really seem to concern Fisher much. The coach’s frustration with his erratic team leader was painfully obvious. He wasn’t trying to hide it at all.
And why, at this point, would anyone be surprised? The icon coach and the petulant quarterback have been headed in that direction since 2006, when Titans owner Adams — and his then-general manager Floyd Reese — made Young the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft, apparently over Fisher’s objection.
It’s been mostly rocky sailing ever since.
“They are going to have to work together,” Adams told the Tennessean on Monday. “I haven’t given up on Vince, and I am sure Fisher hasn’t either. Vince was upset and said some things he regretted after doing it, but you have to get to the bottom of it, straighten it out and move on.
“It is one of those things that happened. It has happened, it is all over with and we want to get Vince back and playing again for us.”
Adams may feel that way for obvious reasons, especially since Young is scheduled to make $8.5 million next season. The fifth-year pro is also loaded with tantalizing talent and potential. Through eight starts this season he had completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 1,255 yards with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He had also run 25 times for 125 yards.
The feeling among many was that, starting with a strong finish to the 2009 season, he was just beginning to tap into that potential. And for that, he has Adams to thank, at least in part. A year ago the Titans were 0-6 and coming off a horrible, 59-0, loss to the New England Patriots. Adams stepped in then and reportedly ordered Fisher to bench quarterback Kerry Collins and replace him with Young.
Young thrived, and the Titans made an unlikely playoff push, and Fisher even seemed to get behind his revived leader. But his faith seems to be continually tested. On Sunday it was challenged again when Fisher declined to put Young back in the game after he injured his thumb.
That sent Young reeling over the edge, but it also put the spotlight on the festering issue: What good is a promising franchise quarterback if the coach doesn’t believe in him?
And why, in hind sight, would an owner ever think that forcing a coach to live with a quarterback he didn’t want would be a good idea?
“I just want them to get over it,” Adams said after this latest blow-up. “It is like you made the wrong turn and went down the wrong highway and you were upset because someone caused you to do it, but when it is all over with you didn’t have a wreck. You just have to sleep on it and do better the next day.’’
Oh, if only it were that easy.
For the short term, Fisher doesn’t have to deal with the issue. With Young now on IR, the coach can deflect all questions about their fraying relationship by saying, “We can deal with all that when the season is over.”
When the season is over, though, both Fisher and Young will only have one season left on their respective contracts, which Adams will clearly have to address. If Fisher doesn’t want Young, he’ll likely want a quarterback in the April NFL Draft. But if Adams wants Young, will he let his coach choose his own man?
It sure seems like the 87-year-old Adams is more in the Young camp than the Fisher camp, which could lead to a messy ending for the longest-tenured coach in the NFL (16 seasons).
“(Young) is a young guy and he is learning and he has done a good job with us,” Adams said. “I talked to all of them and told them to get this thing settled down and get back to work.”
That sounds like such a simple solution to a messy situation that’s been simmering for four years. But Adams may have to come to grip with the reality that it just might not be possible anymore.