Citing “competitive advantage,” Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher delayed until Thursday the announcement of whether Vince Young would replace Kerry Collins as the starting quarterback Sunday against Jacksonville.
Earlier this week, quarterback decisions by San Francisco, Carolina and Tampa Bay were all publicly announced. But for an 0-6 Titans team that has become increasingly less competitive in the passing weeks, Fisher was looking for any advantage he might get.
“I’m going to assume that as long as we can keep this thing a mystery the better chances we have. There’s clearly a difference in skill-sets between the two quarterbacks,” Fisher said.
Fisher would not say who his starter would be, only fueling further speculation that a change might be forthcoming. In previous weeks, Fisher had steadfastly stood behind Collins as the starter. But that changed on Monday after the bye after reports of owner Bud Adams wanting Young to be the starter.
The Titans did not make Collins or Young available to the media on Wednesday, and both spent time working with the offense in practice. Also, requests by at least three reporters to speak to offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger were postponed until Thursday by Titans officials.
They did make one decision at quarterback on Wednesday, signing former Southern Cal standout John David Booty to their practice squad. Booty, who had been with the Minnesota Vikings practice squad earlier this season, handled most of the scout team duties in practice.
Young had handled those chores for the past three weeks since Patrick Ramsey was released on Oct. 3.
While Titans players did not definitively say they knew a quarterback switch was in the works, some said there was an inkling of it.
“I shouldn’t say I sense it, but it’s in the air right now,” receiver Justin Gage said. “I’m not sure how they’re gonna play it out or what’s gonna go on, but as far as receivers we’ve just got to prepare for either quarterback to be out there.”
Tight end Bo Scaife, one of Young’s closest friends on the team, said if his old Texas teammate gets the call he is sure to be excited.
“I know he’s excited to play. Anyone who hasn’t been in the game for a while, if he gets an opportunity to get in the game, is going to be excited to play,” Scaife said. “I know he’s been waiting patiently and I know he’s excited, and if the chance comes, I know he’s going to make the most of it.”
As for whether Young, who lost the starting job last year after a knee injury and a whole saga in which he had to be coaxed back into the game after an interception, is ready to go, Titans players said only he can answer.
“I hope he’s ready. Only Vince knows if he’s ready,” Scaife said. “He’s looked good in practice. Like I said, only Vince knows if he’s ready, because practice is different than the game.”
Linebacker Keith Bulluck had a similar sentiment in hoping Young is ready if or when the call comes.
“You see where his locker is. You have to ask him that. He’s got to be ready,” Bulluck said. “You can go out there and practice and many people out there look great in shorts, but when it’s time to go, they’re not ready to go. Like I said, I have confidence in both of our quarterbacks. Right now, Kerry is our starter, and I’m fine with that.”
Teammates say they believe Young learned from the saga on and off the field in 2008 that cost him his starting job in the first place, and that they have moved past that.
“If that’s what guys are worrying about, then they’re definitely not focused,” Bulluck said.
Players say that situation hopefully was a learning experience for Young.
“I think we’ve moved on from it, probably Vince more than anybody. But again, we’re all football players, and we’re all called to do a job on the field. He’s not an exception,” center Kevin Mawae said.
As for the thought of Adams’ potentially calling for lineup changes, the players say they have no control over such things.
“It’s the owner’s team. If a guy has an $800 million team, he does what he wants,” Mawae said. “Again, I think he’s gonna leave that up to Jeff.”
Added Bulluck, “I still have faith in Kerry Collins. So that’s our guy. No one in this locker room, no one on this team said anything about that. That call came from the head.”