NASHVILLE — The old Vince Young reappeared on the Tennessee Titans sideline Sunday afternoon. The sulking Vince Young. The immature Vince Young. The fragile Vince Young.
Yanked at the close of the third quarter of the Titans’ 19-11 loss to Pittsburgh, the fifth-year quarterback made sure to stand or kneel as far from his teammates as possible from that point forward.
Didn’t matter where the Titans’ offense began. Wherever it was, Young was always at least 35 yards away, his helmet on, and always alone.
No cheering or clapping came from Vanishing Vince when the Titans finally scored with just over a minute to play on a pass from 37-year-old reserve quarterback Kerry Collins to Nate Washington.
No pumped fists when the ensuing two-point conversion from Collins to Kenny Britt pulled Young’s teammates within one more touchdown and two-point conversion of overtime.
And when the Titans recovered their onside kick with 56 seconds to play to give them a thin final shot at victory?
Young might as well have been back home in Texas. A statue would have shown more emotion. It was as if he was sizing up the possibilities and muttering under his breath, “Oh, please don’t score … please don’t score,” because if the Titans had somehow won this thing Young might have lost his starting job.
Not that anyone inside the Titans locker room wanted to say anything that could possibly encourage the utterance of the two most divisive words in the NFL — quarterback controversy.
“That’s not my business, that’s Coach [Jeff] Fisher’s call,” said fullback Ahmard Hall, looking ahead to the 1-1 Titans’ road trip to the New York Giants this Sunday. “We’re going to rally around whoever’s out there.”
“You just play,” added linebacker Will Witherspoon, the former Georgia Bulldog who played through his mother’s death a week ago. “We’ve all got faith in whoever is on the field. Just because Vince got pulled and Kerry went in, no big deal.”
It became a huge deal two years ago when Young left the season-opener against Jacksonville at roughly the same time he left this game. Collins came on to rally the Titans to victory and then became the starter for the rest of a 13-3 regular season campaign.
Then again, the Titans won that Jacksonville game. They lost this one, and as good as Collins was late against the Steelers’ prevent defense, he was arguably no better than Young until that point.
While Young threw two interceptions and lost one fumble over three periods, Collins threw one interception and lost a fumble during the first eight minutes he was in the game.
“They create turnovers,” said Collins of the Steelers defense. “But at the end of the day we’ve got to be better than that. Seven turnovers are way too many, and we are all accountable for that.”
But a quarterback is typically accountable for much more than mere stats. He is almost always the team’s most public face. He is often its most visible leader, the best of the bunch — current QBs such as Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Tom Brady; past greats such as Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas — often willing their teams to victory by sheer force of will.
Not one time can I remember any of those quarterbacks sulking alone on the sideline because a coaching move didn’t go their way. Of course, I also can’t remember a coach ever pulling those players in an important game unless there was a question of injury, and both Fisher and Young denied that scenario.
Titans tight end Bo Scaife — an old Texas teammate of Young’s — said people shouldn’t make too much of Young’s isolation on the sideline.
“He just needed some time to gather his thoughts,” Scaife said. “People can make too much of this.”
Said Young: “I’m definitely disappointed for being benched. But at the same time, he’s the head coach. Back in the day, you all [media] probably wouldn’t even see me talking to you if we lost. But right now, I’m more mature about the situation.”
Said Fisher, “I just needed to make the change, OK? [Vince] will have a great week and play well against the Giants.”
So Collins isn’t going to start, Coach?
“Vince is still our starter,” said Fisher. “There is no quarterback controversy.”
At least not yet.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...