In his season-ending press conference, Coach Jeff Fisher confirmed what had already been assumed for weeks, that Vince Young will be the Tennessee Titans starting quarterback when the 2010 season begins.
Young finished 8-2 as a starting quarterback after owner Bud Adams urged a switch from veteran Kerry Collins after an 0-6 start.
“Vince will return as our starter next year. I won’t go into contract terms, but he’s going to return as our starter,” Fisher said.
Young is owed a $4.25 million roster bonus in March and has a salary cap number of $14.2 million scheduled for next year, the final year of his rookie contract.
Still, his renewed dedication to his craft and study time, along with his ability to win games and improved maturity has Young once again in line to be the team’s quarterback of not only the present but the future as well.
“I think the 8-2 speaks for itself. He’s 26-13 as a starter now,” Fisher pointed out. “I think he came back this year after the bye and got under center as a different quarterback, different person. For the most part his play was consistent. His preparation was excellent and it carried over.”
Young finished the season 152 completions in 259 attempts with 10 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. His 82.8 passer rating was a career high for the fourth-year pro.
“He’s got a lot of room for improvement too. We all know that, all of our players do. He stands to improve and he’s committed to improve, that’s an important thing,” Fisher said.
After Sunday’s 17-13 win in Seattle, Young said he is already looking forward to next year and getting to work on what he predicted as a Super Bowl season.
“The fact is, I’m going to work so hard in the offseason, so I can lead my teammates better. That’s what I want to leave with right there,” Young said. “…I’m pretty pleased with how I finished the season. It could be better, but at the same time, starting off in the middle of the season how things progressed, that we could have made it to the playoffs and things like that, I’m pretty happy with how I finished the season. But at the same time, next year I’m planning on having an even better year.”
As for Collins, whom he replaced as the starter, the veteran said last week he would be open to returning as a backup, but that a $6 million salary might not be palatable for the Titans to pay for a second-team quarterback.
Asked about that on Monday, Fisher indicated he wants Collins back next year.
“I would like to see Kerry finish his career here,” Fisher said.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck spoke about his own impending free agency and dealing with entering free agency on a surgically repaired ACL in his left knee.
“I’m a free agent. Unfortunately I’m limping into free agency, but one think I do know is I’ll be prepared to play next year,” said Bulluck, who used crutches to get into the locker room, but should begin wearing a brace soon.
Bulluck had made 127 consecutive starts as a Titan, but that abruptly came to an end when he suffered the knee injury against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 20.
“The surgery went great. Dr. [Burton] Elrod did a great job. It hasn’t even been a week yet, and I can already walk with a brace. I think he did a great job,” Bulluck said.
Though no contract talks have yet taken place between Bulluck’s agent Gary Wichard and the Titans on an extension, both Bulluck and Coach Jeff Fisher say they would like to work something out.
“I’ve said all along that it is my wish and hope that Keith Bulluck could retire as a Titan. Obviously, the injury complicates things, but there is a solution out there, and we’re going to work toward that,” Fisher said.
Bulluck, 32, looks at situations like the one Albert Haynesworth found himself in in Washington and wondered if staying put might not be the best thing to do.
“I would want to be here, just because of what we did as a team this year, to start off 0-6 and show up 8-8 and finish off 8-2. I feel we can definitely build off that,” Bulluck said. “There’s a lot of key components coming back that could make for a great run in 2010. A change of scenery, you never know what you have until you leave and get a different view of the league. … Whatever happens, I plan to be the same player that I was. That’s my main concern.”
Bulluck indicated he will need about eight to 10 months to rehab the injury and get the knee ready to play again.
“I’m going to take my time with this,” Bulluck said. “They say it’s about an eight to 10 month process, so I’m just trying to squeeze 10 to 12 months into nine months, and I have no doubts I can do that. I already know my work ethic when I’m not hurt. It’s just a matter of training and working hard this off-season.”
Cortland Finnegan had five interceptions this season to lead the Titans, but the former All Pro cornerback was far from satisfied with his performance this season.
Finnegan wants to become a shutdown corner, who can play either side of the field and be matched up on an opponent’s top receiver in man-to-man coverage all game, if need be. He points to New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who week in and week out draws the opponents’ best receiver usually with limited help over the top.
“A guy like [Darrelle] Revis is paired up with a team’s best receiver, and my off-season is dedicated to becoming 100 percent better in every avenue of being a defensive back,” Finnegan said.
“Whatever that is, I’m gonna follow him. I think if I can do that, we become a better football team.”
The Titans will pick either 16th or 17th in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, depending up on a coin flip with the San Francisco 49ers. The pick in question, however, actually belonged to the Panthers, and it is Carolina’s strength of victory that forced the coin flip. The Panthers traded that choice to the Niners.
Meeting his hero
As if Chris Johnson’s efforts on Sunday to reach 2,000 yards hasn’t gotten him enough notice, one special fan in attendance at the game made it a point to talk to Johnson afterwards – baseball great Ken Griffey, Jr.
Griffey, who is back with the Seattle Mariners, was in attendance at Sunday’s game to raise the Seahawks 12th man flag, and made it a point to come up to Johnson after the milestone performance.
“I actually talked to Ken Griffey, Jr. last night after the game, and he stays in Orlando, too now, and he said he was real proud of me. He was telling me to keep working hard and there is a lot more to come,” Johnson said of Griffey, who knows a thing or two about milestones with 630 career home runs. “I grew up a big fan of Ken Griffey. He actually called me over to him, and I was very surprised by that. I was a fan growing up. It was a cool thing.”
Fisher was asked if he planned for certain to stay in Tennessee and continue his streak as the NFL's longest tenured head coach.
"Yeah, you guys are stuck with me for a couple more years at least," said Fisher, whose current contract runs through 2011.