Steelers remain unbeaten without Big Ben after beating Titans

The Steelers (safety Troy Polamalu pictured) continued to show that they are not a one-man gang as they outworked the Titans in a 19-11 win to stay unbeaten

When the NFL announced that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was going to suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season, there were a ton of people that immediately predicted demise for the league’s cornerstone franchise.  Well everyone that hit the panic button, you better re-think your thoughts on the Steelers.  With Big Ben only 2 games away, the Steelers have re-emerged as the surprise leader of the AFC North at a perfect 2-0, after a solid thumping of the Tennessee Titans 19-11.

Despite losing backup starter QB Dennis Dixon (left knee injury) in the second quarter, the Steelers stayed the course and played tough blue collar football all-day (ran the ball and played tough D).  Right from the start, the Steelers established themselves against the Titans.  Rookie receiver Antonio Brown scored on an 89-yard kickoff return to open the game, and that play proved to be a catalyst as the Steelers forced seven turnovers (3 INTs and 4 fumble recoveries) on their way to victory.

The seven turnovers were the most allowed by the Titans since 2000 and the Steelers also added four sacks as quarterback Vince Young (7-for-10 for 66 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs and a one fumble lost) was under duress during his time on the field.  After a strong Week 1, V.Y was befuddled and never got in rhythm before Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said he had seen enough and sent in veteran Kerry Collins after Young had his 3rd turnover.

The Steelers defense – ranked in the Top 5 against the run every year since 2004 –also shutdown Tennessee running back Chris Johnson.  Pittsburgh stopped CJ2K’s 100-yard rushing streak at 12 games and the 2009 NFL’s rushing champ finished with just 16 carries for 34 yards — longest carry of the day was 11 yards.  It was the third time the Steelers have held Johnson to less than 100 yards.  In CJ’s defense, he did have an electrifying 75-yard + touchdown run called back on a weak holding penalty.

For most of the game the Steelers were content to protect backup quarterback Charlie Batch – expect the team to bring back QB Byron Leftwich who was cut earlier — by running last week’s hero RB Rashard Mendenhall (69 yards on 23 carries) and letting the Titans turn the ball over.  The player of the game for the Steelers had to be former Defensive MVP LB James Harrison, who had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one too.  Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of the win, “You come into a hostile environment versus good people it’s going to require a lot. We were far from perfect today but the guys really hung together and gave an outstanding effort”. 

The charismatic head coach added, “We made enough plays in enough areas to get out of there. I like what the team is doing in terms of working together, fighting the adversity and uplifting each other.”  Tennessee did try to make it interesting at the end of the game by scoring a late touchdown — 58 seconds left in game – and a two-point conversion plus recovering an onside kick.  But in the end, the Steelers stayed tough and finished the job.

Next up the Big Ben-less Steelers are the surprisingly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) in a game where someone’s “0” has got to go.  Other 2-0 teams after two weeks of play are the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, and Miami Dolphins.

  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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Con-Vince-ing Performance

With Sunday’s thrilling comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals, the “new” team-first version of QB Vince Young continues to open more eyes around the NFL

After Vince Young’s breakout career-high 387-yard passing performance in the Tennessee Titans last-second 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals including throwing the game-winner with no time left on the clock.  Everyone needs to a look back in time to a crucial moment earlier this season.  Let’s go back to Week 7 of the 2009 NFL Season, the Titans were on their bye week after enduring probably the most humiliating loss in the NFL this season in Week 6, a 59-0 pummeling by the New England Patriots.  In the disastrous loss that took the former 2008 AFC South champs (13-3) to the depths of being called, “The Most Disappointing Team in the NFL” – sixth straight loss to open the season — a possible light switch clicked in the head of Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.

After former Titans’ starting quarterback Kerry Collins had one of the worst performances of any starting quarterback in NFL history (finishing with passing numbers 2 -12  for -7 yards, 1 INT, and a QB rating of 4.9 – probably the lowest ever).  Late in the game, Fisher decided to insert former 2006 NFL Rookie of the Year, QB Vince Young, into the game.  Young had not played much before that game in the snow, because he had lost his “swagger” in 2008 due to some well documented problems during and after the Titans’ season opener and quickly became a footnote as the Titans rose to the playoffs under Collins.  All during the 2008 season, Young had endured arrows that he was too sullen and selfish to be the leader of the Titans again.  But in the cold, ice, and snow of New England that day (October 18th), Young clearly started to heat-up.  He became a team-first player as he swallowed his ego and pride to enter a no-win situation in a blowout game gone awry  — finished with pedestrian numbers 0-2 for 0 yards and 1 INT plus 2 rushes for -1 yards.

V.Y’s numbers in New England that day didn’t even matter, after he showed some long-awaited maturity.  With questions swirling around the Titans’ sinking ship at the time and Collins underperforming, before the cameras in the lockerroom after the humiliating loss, Young basically said “I will do anything that the coaching staff and team asks of me”.  Those words sounded very cliché at the time, but Young was very serious that he just wanted the opportunity to show that he was still the same player who led the University of Texas to the 2005 National Championship.  The former 3rd overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft just wanted a chance to show, that he was still a playmaker in the NFL and not the perceived malcontent potential bust that many were painting him out to be.  While many pointed to his 2008 struggles and poor performance against the Patriots as signs that Young would soon be on another team in 2010.  A small contingent, including yours truly, said give the former college football legend a “legitimate” shot to prove he could still lead the Titans once again.

During the Titans time away to heal during their Week 7 bye, many were wondering when Fisher would give V.Y a chance to give the team a much-needed spark.  And to be honest with you…Why Not…considering that many NFL talking heads had already predicted that the Titans’ 2009 campaign was already over.  However Fisher continued to be coy and still talked about Collins (completed 54.8 % of passes with 5 TDs and 8 INTs) as the Titans man under center.  Then stepped in the one man whose opinion matters more than Fisher’s when it comes to the Tennessee Titans.  Owner Bud Adams made it clear he wanted Vince Young to replace Kerry Collins.  “I have been wanting (Fisher) to play Vince Young more because Collins has been having his problems out there,” Adams said. “I just think we need to find out how well (Young) can do.

Fisher finally relented when he saw that the new and improved Young was looking like his former mentor and hero, the late Steve McNair, in practices and in the lockerroom.  Young had his head in the playbook and his feet firmly on the ground as he embraced possibly his last chance to be the Titans starting quarterback.  Some doubted Young, but I knew the player that I had interviewed way back during the 2005 Heisman presentation – competitive fire burning in his eyes — had the gumption to show the world that he was still a “winner”. Young had won at every level he has ever played in from high school to college to the NFL (18-11 in 29 starts at the time) and now it was time to remind everyone.  Even after the Houston, Texas native had led the Titans to a 30-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8 for Tennessee’s first victory of the 2009 season, there were no “I told you so” moments from the now humble quarterback.  Young stayed grounded and kept marching on from there and it didn’t matter that he had just endured 22 games without starting. 

Fast forward to Week 12 in Tennessee, the Titans are down by a score of 17-13 late in the fourth quarter to the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals and have 99 yards to cover with only 2 minutes, 37 seconds left on the clock.  Sure Young had led the Titans to 4-straight wins over the past four weeks including a Monday Night thriller over the Houston Texans in Week 11, but this was too much of a daunting task for V.Y…right.  In final moments, Young answered his critics with not only his legs, but his arm and mind.  Young (27/43, 387 YDS, 1 TD, and 0 INTs) capped off an 18-play, 99-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to leaping rookie receiver Kenny Britt in the back of the end zone as time expired.  The impressive part of the game-winning drive was the determination of the Titans’ starter.  Young (23-11 as an NFL starter) completed 10 of 16 passes for 94 yards and ran for another five while converting three fourth-downs on the drive, including the winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Cardinals’ 10.

It must have been deja-vu all over again for Cardinals starter Matt Leinart, who had lost the 2006 Rose Bowl to Young when they were both college hotshots for USC and Texas respectively, as No. 10 left the field with another comeback victory in his hands.  Young had just won his 9th consecutive start going back to 2007 and he is now a perfect 5-0 as the Titans starter this season.  But as the Titans’ new unquestioned leader pointed out after the game, it was a huge “team” win.  “As the Tennessee Titans, I feel we fought to the finish,” Young said.  Indeed it was a miraculous win for a franchise that has seem some great finishes.  An almost stunned Fisher said in his post game press conference, “You guys don’t mind if I sit down and do this do you? OK. WOW! What a great finish!” We’ve had some finishes around here, but I can’t remember one like that. Just a tremendous finish.”

The Titans are now 5-6 and right in the middle of the AFC’s wildcard hunt — remaining games @IND, STL, MIA, SD, and @SEA — after almost no one, but themselves, thought they were still in the race.  Young, RB Chris Johnson (his performance during the Titans’ 5-game winning streak cannot also be forgotten – on a pace for over 2,000 yards rushing), and a rejuvenated defense has led the Titans back into contention and it will be an interesting finish in Nashville.  However you won’t hear Young pounding his chest over the last-second win over the Cardinals or any of the other Titans’ 4 wins during their current winning streak. I will for him… “Ha, Ha, Ha…Told you so”.  But you cannot deny the spark and energy that V.Y has provided a team that was formerly on life suppprt this season. 

“I thought Vince played great,” Leinart said after the game. “He made plays in that last series, so hats off to him. I thought our defense played phenomenally, he just made some plays.”

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Ravens WR Derrick Mason Retires

After a 12-year NFL career, Baltimore Ravens receiver Derrick Mason announced his retirement on the Web site JOCKlife.com, saying he’d “seen it all and done it all.” Maybe it was the news of his good friend Steve McNair passing away or Mason’s ailing shoulder — had shoulder surgery this offseason and was expected to miss a portion of training camp – that forced him to step away from the game.  But the former 4th round draft pick by the Tennessee Titans in 1997, who was entering the final year of his contract and was scheduled to make $3 million, has called it quits.

Mason was said to be seeking a long-term deal from the Ravens this offseason along with rumors of a possible holdout.  I guess once the contract talks never materialized, Mason decided to call it a day saying on. JOCKlife.com, “I have had a tremendous career and I played for two great teams”.  The former Michigan State star added, “Right now, I am content with the decision I am making. All good things come to an end and I am ready to see what else life has to offer.” His retirement will be another big blow to the Ravens, who already have lost several players and staff this year to the Rex Ryan (former Ravens assistant coach) led New York Jets.

The Ravens will now have to rely on receivers Demetrius Williams, Mark Clayton, and free agent signee Kelley Washington to replace Mason’s 80-catch, 1,037-yard, and 5 touchdown performance in 2008.  A tough smaller receiver, Mason went from being a punt returner earlier his career into a dependable over-the-middle target despite his size (5’10, 190).  Mason’s quarterbacks, especially McNair who he played with both in Tennessee and Baltimore, always seemed to find the diminutive receiver on crucial plays particularly on 3rd downs to move the chains. 

The 35-year old receiver had his best year in 2003 for the Titans where he caught a career high 95 passes for 1303 yards and 8 touchdowns, making the second of his two Pro Bowl appearances (‘00 and ‘03).  Mason leaves the NFL with career numbers 790 receptions (23rd all-time) for 10,061 yards and 79 TDs over 12 years (8 w/ Titans and 4 w/ Ravens).  Don’t be surprised if you hear the Ravens associated with free agent receivers Marvin Harrison, Plaxico Burress, Matt Jones, or Reggie Williams in the near future.

Former NFL Great Steve McNair found dead in Nashville

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Everyone around the NFL was shocked to learn of the shooting death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair

The Fourth of July around the United States is supposed to be a day of celebration, but this year the entire sports world has a heavy heart on this day as it was learned that former NFL great Steve McNair was found shot to death in Nashville, Tennessee.  The circumstances around McNair’s death  are still forthcoming, but Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron confirmed that authorities were called to a condominium and found McNair, 36,  and a woman shot to death inside.

It is hard to believe little over one year after his retirement that McNair a two-time Pro Bowl player (selected four times) has passed away.  The 13-year career veteran was the 2003 co-MVP and he always played courageously during his career that spanned from the HBCU ranks to the NFL.  Everyone will always talk about McNair and Eddie George leading the Tennessee Titans within 1 yard of winning Super Bowl XXXIV against the Rams, but to me one word ”Warrior” sums up the signal caller.  No matter the injury or opponent, you always knew number #9 was going to give you everything he had for sixty minutes. The hard part of being warrior was sometimes toughness led McNair onto the field of battle when maybe taking a rest was a better option.  Often times McNair was a one-man Mash unit as he played through injuries including a separated shoulder, bruised sternum, broken fingers, broken ribs, ankle sprains, and many others to lead his teammates unto the gridiron.

 At the time of his retirement in April 2008, McNair said of his resilient play, “Over 13 years, I had a lot of injuries because I played the game physical, because I gave 110 percent every game”.  In looking back, the nation first got a glimpse of McNair’s greatness at Alcorn State where he followed in his older brother Fred’s footsteps earning the nickname “Air McNair”.  He was a unanimous All-American while putting the small HBCU school on the map and causing such a national sensation that ESPN scrambled to show his games on television.  McNair finished his stellar college career gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated and finishing 3rd in 1994 Heisman Balloting – still is the highest finish in the competition by a 1-AA player.  Air McNair didn’t leave ASU empty handed as he established NCAA records with 16,823 yards in total offense (14,496 yards passing and 2,327 yards rushing) and averaged an incredible 400.55 yards in total offense per game. 

McNair then took his game to the NFL, where some doubters questioned his selection as the third overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft by the now defunct Houston Oilers.  Early in his career, Air McNair was stuck on the runway for his first couple years in the league as the Oilers wanted him to learn behind Chris Chandler – how crazy does that sound.  But McNair had his breakout season in 1998 leading the newly relocated Titans, starting 16 games and setting then career highs in attempts (492), completions (289), yards (3,228), and passing touchdowns (15). He went on to lead his team to the playoffs ten times finishing with a respectable 5-5 record and winning the aforementioned 2003 NFL Co-MVP award sharing the honor with Peyton Manning.  But it is McNair’s toughness that will be everlasting, highlighted by the season-ending stretch in 2002.  During that stretch McNair cemented his tougher than nails warrior image by starting five straight games to end the season and leading the Titans to the AFC championship game without practicing due to injury.

In the coming days people around the water cooler will spin yarns about the play of McNair and mourn him.  I am sure the uneasy and unnecessary debate over whether his career was Hall of Fame worthy will also come into play. To me the “Warrior” does deserve to get a look by the selection committee as he had the gumption and numbers including six 3,000 yards passing seasons on his outstanding resume. While bridging the gap between Randall Cunningham and today’s athletic quarterbacks, McNair’s career numbers were impressive with 161 games played, a regular season record of 91-62 as a starter, passing numbers of  2733 for 4544 (60.1 %), 31304 yards with 174 TDs and 119 INTs plus an additional 3590 yards rushing (5th all-time rushing for quarterbacks) and 37 touchdowns. 

I believe McNair’s greatest contribution to the game of football was showing how leadership can take many forms.  As a younger quarterback he was able to use his legs to get wins and then later in his career he matured into a winning pocket passer.  I know his legacy will live-on in his many beloved fans and teammates.  Former Ravens’ teammate Ray Lewis said it all about his comrade when he retired last year, “There is no greater warrior or player with a bigger heart than Steve McNair”.

Titans owner Bud Adams said in a statement of his former star player, “We are saddened and shocked to hear the news of Steve McNair’s passing today, he was one of the finest players to play for our organization and one of the most beloved players by our fans. He played with unquestioned heart and leadership and led us to places that we had never reached, including our only Super Bowl.”

Rest In Peace Warrior and we will never forget you.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2008 NFL Playoffs Divisional Round Preview: Ravens at Titans

Baltimore Ravens (12-5) at Tennessee Titans (13-3), Sat 4:30 p.m. (CBS)

Broadcast Team: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf

If you like defense and teams playing hardnosed football this is the game for you.  The Ravens nicknamed “Organized Chaos” finished the season ranked 2nd in the NFL with an average of 261.1 yards allowed and the Titans are not far behind with 293.6 yards allowed, which put them 3rd in the AFC. The last time these two teams met in week 5, the Titans came back to defeat the Ravens 13-10 in Baltimore.  There definitely is no love lost between these two former AFC Central rivals as their last meeting featured some chippy play between Titans CB Cortland Finnegan and Ravens WR Derrick Mason.

Both teams like to talk and it will be the squad that maintains their emotions that will win this game.  The key players to me on both squads are their quarterbacks (Ravens rookie Joe Flacco and Titans 14-year veteran Kerry Collins).  Sure both teams are built to run the ball first with their two-headed monsters (Ravens LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee — Ravens led the AFC with an average of 148.5 yards a game; Titans are led by NFL leading rookie rusher Chris Johnson (1,228 yards w/ a 4.9 average) and LenDale White), but the quarterbacks need to step it up in this game for this team to win.  Flacco surprisingly didn’t receive one Rookie of the Year vote after finishing with numbers 257-428, 2971 yards, 14 TDs, and 12 INTs, but efficiency is what matters most to the Ravens “protect the ball” offense.  The rookie from D1-AA Delaware will need to improve on his pedestrian wildcard numbers (9-23, 135 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT and 1 rushing TD) in order for the Ravens to have a chance in hostile Nashville, Tennessee.  The Titans feature opportunistic ballhawks in Michael Griffin and Cortland Finnegan in their secondary, so Flacco will have to be good with his reads.

Collins, who did a commendable job of leading his team to the NFL’s best record is attempting to become the first quarterback in NFL history with at least one playoff win for three different teams, will need to prove he is ready for the playoffs.  He has a lot to prove as way back in week 5, the 1-time Pro Bowl player threw for just 163 yards and had a pair of interceptions.  His old nemesis from Super Bowl XXXV, Ray Lewis, will be waiting with the rest of Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s attacking defense will be coming for the graybeard quarterback.  Though the former Penn State signal caller has avoided making bad throws for most of the season, you never know how pressure is going to affect him (finished with 7 INTs in 2008 and he has 10 INTs in only 6 playoff games for his career). You know if Ravens LB’s and D-line can get pressure opportunistic Ravens S Ed Reed (2 INTs vs. Dolphins and an NFL leading 9 INTs in the regular season) will be looking to make a game-changing play.   

An important piece of this game will be both teams ability to stop the run and injuries may cause the Titans to alter their plan of action.  Two key defenders, DT Albert Haynesworth (knee) and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin), are back from injury but neither is expected to be 100%.  The Titans will need Haynesworth to control the middle or it could be a long day for them.  Also the Titans’ offense may be in trouble as veteran leader and center Kevin Mawae (elbow) probably will not play.

LV‘s Pick:  This is a tough game to predict, because these two teams will offer no suprises in their attack (run the ball and play stifling defense). This game is a black and blue special, where if they played 10 times, I guarantee you that there would 5 wins on each side. The teams both have good coaches, strong offensive and defensive lines, run the ball consistently, and play good special teams.  Collins last time led the Titans on scoring drives of 80 and 81 yards, but I just don’t see that happening this time.  Fueled by a timely Ed Reed interception, the Ravens continue to win ugly on their way to the AFC Championship game.  Ravens 23, Titans 20

On the Brink of the Playoffs, the Titans should think about benching Collins

On the eve of the Tennessee Titans biggest game of the year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, I have a word of advice for Titans head coach Jeff Fisher— put in Vince Young now.  I know it may sound crazy for a 12-2 team to be looking to make a quarterback change on the brink of the playoffs.

But V.Y brings everything to the table (grit, running ability, ability to avoid the rush, and rallying his teams) that veteran Kerry Collins cannot.  Sure Collins (only 11 TDs to 7 INTs so far in ’08) was the glamour story of the beginning part of the 2008 NFL season as the Titans went undefeated for the season’s first 11 weeks.  But recently in losses to the New York Jets and Houston Texans, the one-time Pro Bowl quarterback in 14 season has looked like the same player that flamed out for the Panthers, Saints, Giants and Raiders when the pressure was on.

The Texans loaded the box with eight and sometimes nine defenders as they dared the graybeard Collins to beat them.  The former NFL bad-boy responded with a 15/33, 181 yards, 0 touchdown and 1  interception performance that made everyone remember why four other franchises gave up on the error prone Collins (179 INTs in his career).

My advice for Fisher and the Titans is to follow the lead of the Minnesota Vikings, who are ascending back into the playoff race after replace journeyman veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte with playmaker Tarvaris Jackson.  T-Jack has been the catalyst for the Vikings leading them to two straight wins and on the brink of clinching the NFC North while not throwing any interceptions.

Wake-up because the blitz happy Steelers are coming to town and Young’s legs would be essential in escaping the NFL’s most feared pass rush – 47 sacks for an NFL ranking of #2 in the category.  The playoffs are approaching too fast and Collins numbers in the postseason — 6 games, 115-199, 1275 yards, 12 TD, 10 INTs and a rating of 76.1 — show a guy waiting for a fall.

It has a good season for the Titans and Collins, but in the end V.Y’s playmaking skills are the only thing that will keep teams from focusing on running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White, especially in the playoffs where teams work overtime to take away an opponent’s strengths.

Young and Jackson Learning to Play Backup Roles

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Former starters Vince Young (pictured) and Tarvaris Jackson have had to learn how to play backup roles for successful teams

(Philadelphia, Pa) — For the most part of the 2008 NFL season, I have been asked by emailers and callers to the radio shows that I have appeared on, “When will the Titans and Vikings give Vince Young and Tarvaris Jackson a chance to crack the starting line-up again?”  Both of these young quarterbacks entered the 2008 season as starters, but early on – Young injured his knee in a week one win and never regained his job back from veteran Kerry Collins as the Titans have gone 9-0; Jackson was benched after a week two loss to the Colts with an abysmal completion percentage of 50% and an alarming quarterback rating of 64.8 – their coaches subscribed to the “win-now” philosophy, benching their former designated Number #1’s for perceived lesser veteran backups.

To me simple and plan the moves by Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Titans head coach Jeff Fisher were not motivated by the “race” of their now backups – both were replaced by over 35-year old white veteran quarterbacks in Kerry Collins (Titans) and Gus Frerotte (Vikings).  Unfortunately for Jackson and especially Young, they have not lived up to their draft hype and both are now in jeopardy of not getting another look until 2009, barring injury.  The news has to be devastating for the two young developing quarterbacks as they were both admittedly experiencing growing pains, but there is no denying that they have a world of potential.  Young was the 2006 Rookie of the Year – (8-3) as a starter in ’06 with 51.5 Completion %, 2199 yards passing with 12 TD’s and 552 yards rushing w/ 7 TD’s – while silencing many who thought he was not worth the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL and Jackson, a high 2nd round pick in 2007, led the Vikings to the brink of the playoffs in 2007 (team was 8-8 just missing a wildcard) as a first time full-time starter.

But the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league where coaches like Childress — was widely rumored around the league that he was on a very hot seat entering the ’08 season, which was his 3rd year with no playoffs in the past — can no longer afford to wait as losses pile up and ownership expectations are not met causing “job security” problems. In today’s NFL, you can forget the bygone days when coaches idly sat around and waited for their young franchise quarterback to develop while taking their bumps on the long road to future glory — think of former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman in the early 90’s before his Super Bowl glory years and the slow maturation process of Steve McNair with the then Houston Oilers. 

Fisher and Childress both quickly understood that running the football first (Vikings have NFL leading rusher Adrian Peterson and the Titans have leading rookie runner Chris Johnson), minimalizing exposure to errors in the passing game by their veteran quarterbacks, and playing good attacking defense was the recipe for turning around their respective teams.  In both cases, you would have to say that the moves by the head coaches to go to a “game-manager” rather than a developing talent has worked – Vikings are 5-4 and tied for first in the NFC North plus everyone knows the Titans are the last NFL’s only unbeaten team at 9-0 entering week 11.  The reason why these quarterback changes have worked quite simply is that the NFL currently has a dearth of talented quarterbacks and it is easier for teams to produce wins by taking their chances with a game-manager (i.e. No Turnovers). 

I still believe that both former franchise quarterbacks need to stay ready and involved their team’s game plans — both Collins and Frerotte have inconsistency and injuries in their past – as they are only a snap away.  There has even been some talk from Titans sources that Young might be featured in some packages, but that seems remote as inserting the former Madden cover player might rock the Titans undefeated ship.  To his credit Young — starting record of (18-12) — has taken the news in stride by continuing to support his teammates and staying ready.

Of his backup experience Young said, “It’s a learning process for me, but I am over that”. He added, “It has made me a stronger black man … and made me a stronger competitor. When I do get a chance to be back out there it is going to be a whole other Vince Young.”  When asked if he could return as the starter of the Titans in the future, Young said, “I haven’t the slightest idea. You’ll have to ask coach Fisher that. I am just sitting back and playing my part in the position he has me in right now. … If my number is called, I just have to be ready.”

  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)