The Tennessee Titans officially hit the restart button on the Vince Young Era on Thursday, elevating the 2006 first-round pick back to the starting lineup for likely the remainder of the season.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher made the announcement of Young’s reinsertion into the lineup after Young took all the first-team reps Thursday, a day after splitting them with Kerry Collins, who was demoted in the wake of the team’s 0-6 start.
Both Young and Collins were informed of the decision, apparently heavily influenced by owner Bud Adams, before Thursday’s practice.
“Coach Fisher told me. I don’t know where the decision came from,” Young said.
“All I know is Coach Fisher called me into the office and told me I had the job. Now I’m just getting myself prepared to play.”
Collins, who helped the Titans to a 13-3 mark this season, had completed 108 of 197 passes for 1,071 yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The wheels began to be set in motion for the change, however, after the Titans lost two weeks ago in New England, getting hammered by a record-tying 59-0 score.
“I certainly know I could have played better,” Collins said of his season. “But just like last year, I didn’t take all the credit when we were winning, and I don’t think it’s all my fault this year either. But having said that, I could have played better. We’re 0-6, and heads are gonna roll, and more times than not, it’s the quarterback.”
Not surprisingly, Collins was unhappy with the move.
“I’m not happy about it. Don’t get me wrong. By any stretch of the imagination,” said Collins, who re-signed in Tennessee for two years and $15 million in the off-season. “But it is what it is. I’ll do everything I can to help this team win. That, to me, is what it’s all about anyway is the Tennessee Titans winning. I’ll support Vince. I don’t like it, but I’ll deal with it and move on.”
Young lost the starting role after last year’s season opener against Jacksonville in which he was booed after his second interception of the game. He had to be coaxed back onto the field before the Titans next possession, and four plays later suffered a mild knee injury.
The following day, Young skipped a schedule MRI and after he was unaccounted for for several hours, Metro Police were dispatched to find him. In the aftermath of all that, Collins was elevated to the starting role.
Fisher, who painted the switch as a “collective decision,” said he believes Young is better equipped now to handle himself as the starter than before.
“I believe his experience over time has helped him to deal with anything that’s happened. He’s handled this season in a backup role behind Kerry very professionally,” Fisher said. “He’s never said anything that would be contradictory the team. He’s handled it well. We’re gonna find out. This is his opportunity, and we’re gonna find out.”\
For his part, Young sounded Thursday as if he has learned from his previous struggles.
“I’m definitely more mature and especially more comfortable in the offense and things like that,” Young said. “I’m gonna go out and take my time. It’s not gonna be easy. I’m six games off, I’ve not played in games or anything like that. I just don’t want to go out there and be antsy. I just want to try to let the game come to me.
“If something happens bad, I just need to put that in the past and be ready for the next series.”
The Titans were in a similar situation in Young’s rookie year of 2006, in which Young replaced Collins three games into that season at Adams’ urging.
Young went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year as the Titans, who lost their first five games, finished the season 8-8.
Young is 18-11 in his career as a starter, but has not started a meaningful game since that fateful game against the Jaguars, whom he will face again in his return.
Young insists he is ready for whatever challenge will come his way, beginning this week.
“Whatever happens happens. If we win, it’s going to be good, and if we lose, it’s going to be all Vince Young’s fault,” Young said. “I just want to go out there and play and have a good time, get in a rhythm and put smiles on my coaches’ faces.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said some changes to the offense will be forthcoming to best utilize Young’s strong suits, such as his mobility.
“There’ll be changes. We’ll put things in that Vince does well, as opposed to Kerry,” Heimerdinger said.
Fisher said he remains a supporter of Collins, as he steadfastly did during his time as the starter, but now says he is fully behind Young as his quarterback.
“Anybody that steps on that field is, as you say, ‘my guy.’ I’m in their corner. I hope that they do well, and it’s my job to help them do as best they can,” Fisher said.
As for the Titans players, they, too, sounded ready to get on board with Young, no matter how the decision was reached to reinstall him as the starter.
“It’s just like Kerry was the starting pitcher for six games. Sometimes the offense didn’t hit, and sometimes the defense didn’t field, and he’s sitting there at 0-6,” linebacker Keith Bulluck explained. “It might not reflect his ERA, but he’s sitting there at 0-6.
"We’re going with VY, and I’m happy for him in the sense that he lost his spot, and he’s someone who had to sit back and take a back seat and be humbled a little bit, but has learned a lot in that time and I’m kind of looking forward to seeing how he’s grown as a player.”
And, Bulluck said, the team can go forward in preparing for Sunday’s game, supporting the decision and Young.
“Jeff is a great coach. He does a lot of great things, but to me, outside looking in, it looks like Jeff’s hand were tied in this and I don’t know, we’re a team and we’re backing whoever goes out there and getting ready for Jacksonville,” Bulluck said.
Young said he knew eventually his turn would come again to start at quarterback.
“Here or wherever, I knew it would come again. That’s why I was standing back, being patient and humble and taking care of my responsibilities as a businessman and a player,” he said.