When it came right down to it, Sunday’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins was a show of hands.
Some of the most prominent members of the Titans – players and coaches – provided unwitting commentary at critical junctures with their easy-to-understand gestures. Most notable were Jeff Fisher’s attempt to quiet the crowd as it chanted ‘Randy! Randy!’ and quarterback Vince Young’s mocking exhortation for more the first time he heard boos from the sellout crowd at LP Field.
When it was over and the Titans had barely started to come to grips with their third straight defeat – this one 19-16 in overtime – Fisher washed his hands of Young, who asked out of the action in the third quarter with an obvious injury – to his hand, no less – but then threw a just-as-obvious sideline tantrum a short time later when he was not reinserted.
“Right now he has (lost his starting position),” Fisher said. “There are some things that need to change, but … what went on there is between us.
“… (Young) tore a flexor tendon in his thumb. … He never came to me and said he was OK and wanted to go back in, and I was told that he obviously was a little upset after. I was also told that he threw half his uniform in the stands. I clearly think that is no way to respond, and so we have some things that we have to sort out with him.”
Fisher added that Young might require season-ending surgery for the thumb, which would make the question of starting irrelevant.
Questions about the quarterback’s maturity began anew, however, when Young walked out of the locker room minutes after Graham Gano’s 48-yard field goal ended the contest with 8:17 to play in the extra period. He headed straight to his car and did not speak to reporters. It was unclear at that point if he even knew Fisher’s stance given that the head coach did not face the cameras and microphones until roughly 10 minutes later.
The sometimes petulant 27-year-old was dressed in his Sunday best after what was – statistically speaking – a pretty natty performance.
The fact that he had a 107.6 passer rating (12-for-16, 165 yards passing) was completely undermined by his actions and his reactions to his injury, among other things.
Before he exited the playing surface, for example, Young stripped out of his helmet and shoulder pads and tossed the latter into the crowd. It was after he threw incomplete to Nate Washington on third-and-1 in the final minute of the first half that the boos started, and Young extended his arms and wiggled his fingers in a clear "bring it on" motion.
“We work very hard for the fans, and to hear that … ,” Washington said. “They have a right to, I guess you could say. They paid their money to come watch us play, but at the same time, boos aren’t going to help us pick our heads up.”
The fans’ frustration first manifested itself on the preceding series when, on first-and-goal from the 13, the "Randy!" chant was raised by a significant enough number that Fisher waived them down in an attempt to create quiet in which his team could work.
At that time, with just over four minutes to play in the first half, Young had not thrown one pass in the direction of recently acquired wide receiver Randy Moss. That finally changed three plays later, on third-and-goal from the 7, but Young’s delivery was too high and Tennessee settled for the first of Rob Bironas’ three field goals.
Perhaps it was coincidence – perhaps not – but when rookie Rusty Smith replaced the injured Young, his first two throws went Moss’ way. The second would have been a 36-yard touchdown completion except that the future Hall of Fame receiver was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Smith, the sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic, did connect with Washington for 52 yards down the middle of the field on his next throw, which came on the next possession. That promoted Titans’ seventh-round pick, Marc Mariani, to strike a sideline pose with his hands extended toward the sky in a moment of true celebration.
“That’s a tough play to throw, and he made it look easy,” Mariani, who scored the game’s first points with an 87-yard punt return, said. “I’m sure he had a couple jitters and that cleared it up a little for him after he made that throw.”
Smith finished just 3-for-9 for 62 yards, though, and missed on his only two overtime attempts after the Titans won the coin toss and had the first chance to end the game.
The Redskins and their soon-to-be 34-year-old quarterback, Donovan McNabb, never gave Smith and the Titans another chance.
Gano’s game-winning kick was the culmination of a 10-play, 57-yard drive that was aided by a pair of personal foul penalties and a video review, which reversed an apparent interception by Alterraun Verner.
As it split the uprights in the north end zone the officials repeated the most commonly used signal of a contest in which the final seven scores were field goals. They put their hands straight up, indicated the kick was good and brought to an end what might be Young’s final start for some time.
“I don’t know what happened, but I’m behind V,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “We came in together. I respect the way he plays. I love the guy, the person. He has that ‘C’ on his chest for a reason – because he’s a captain of this team and we voted (for) him. I’ll ride with him any day.
“… Hopefully I’ll see him back out there.”
Of course, that decision is out of his hands.