Quietly, the question has arisen over the last several weeks. It first came on Nov. 21, when Vince Young stormed out of the Tennessee Titans’ locker room following an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.
Over time it has been repeated with increasing frequency every time someone else played quarterback for coach Jeff Fisher’s team. Even so, it was still just a question to toss around because there was no pressing need for an answer.
Now that the season is over, it’s the one thing everyone wants to know. It’s the issue likely to drown out all others over the coming weeks and months.
Who is going to be the Titans’ quarterback in 2011?
How different things are from a year ago, when Young’s 8-2 run as Kerry Collins’ replacement seemed to cement the place that was all but guaranteed him when he was selected third overall in the 2006 draft. Then, he appeared to have turned a corner in his professional development and maturity. All indications were that Young trended further upward through the early part of this season.
Then came the Washington game, his meltdown on the sideline, abrupt locker room exit and Fisher’s very public campaign against his quarterback.
Young remains the odds-on favorite to reclaim the job. After all, team owner Bud Adams is a fan. Young has one year remaining on his contract. He also retains the support of at least some of his teammates and has a good record as a starting quarterback.
It’s clear, though, that not everyone is convinced he can do the job. If Adams can be convinced of the same, things get interesting.
Collins’ contract expires at the end of the work year. He’s 38, which is older than most but not beyond the realm of productivity. What’s worse is that he presided over the 0-6 start in 2009 and a 0-3 opening in 2006 (in fairness, he was signed days before the 2006 opener), and he did not display the type of consistent performance most expect from a veteran as Young’s replacement this season.
Rusty Smith was drafted in April after having played a pro-style offense at Florida Atlantic, and there was every reason to believe he had the stuff to develop quickly. Given a chance to make a strong impression, his first career start (Nov. 28 at Houston) ended with zero points on the board and a noticeable dip in effusiveness from the coaches when they discussed him.
Chris Simms has been on and off the Tennessee roster a few times in recent years. He has a brief history as a starting quarterback in the league but more recently has settled firmly into the role of a journeyman.
None of them — Young, Collins, Smith or Simms — sparks the kind of offseason optimism that is the January norm for the 20 teams that fail to make the postseason. If they so choose, the Titans probably can dip back into the draft in April and hope that this time they find a Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez or Sam Bradford in the first round. The odds of that happening, of course, are only slightly better than winning the lottery.
They could go after a veteran free agent — someone a little younger than Collins, hopefully — to serve as a stopgap. If they’re going to do that, why not talk Brett Favre out of retirement? At least he’d be more entertaining than most of the guys teams find that way.
Seriously, though: There is no more important position in all of professional sports than the quarterback. His persona, ability and charisma set the tone for the entire organization.
As they begin the offseason, the Titans have no idea who their guy is. That means they have no idea what kind of team they have, which means they have no idea what they need to become the type of team they’d like to be.
That’s not good.