|Titans' best move? Subbing veteran for Young at QB|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 30 September 2008 10:06|
Losing a franchise quarterback is a blow from which most NFL teams can't recover.
It's only made these Tennessee Titans better.
They are one of only three undefeated NFL teams, off to their best start ever at 4-0 in a season that could have been derailed by Young's injury and bruised ego. Coach Jeff Fisher used that as his excuse to turn the offense over to veteran Kerry Collins, filling the biggest hole this team had.
And the rest of the Titans? Call it the Pacman effect. They became experts at focusing on football and ignoring soap opera while playing with cornerback Adam Jones before his trade to Dallas in April. So having help from SWAT officers and crisis negotiators to check on the quarterback's emotional well-being is nothing.
``We've been able to keep our focus despite the distractions,'' Pro Bowl end Kyle Vanden Bosch said.
much of a surprise. This team has won seven straight regular-season games going back to the end of last season, and a victory Sunday at Baltimore (2-1) would match their longest winning streak since 2000 when they had the NFL's best record.
``We've been prepared for the unexpected,'' Fisher said. ``I think that gives you a chance to win.''
Under Fisher, the Titans' winning formula involves stingy defense, a strong run game and a good kicker. Those pieces came together last season as they went 10-6 and won the AFC's last wild-card berth.
But needing to fix an offense intercepted 17 times and ranked 27th in passing, Fisher fired Norm Chow and brought back Mike Heimerdinger. The Titans also drafted running back Chris Johnson, and his 4.24-second speed in the 40-yard dash provides a breakaway threat this team has never had.
Despite lots of salary cap space, the Titans didn't waste money in free agency. They signed Jake Scott away from AFC South rival Indianapolis to replace retired right guard Benji Olson and took a chance on defensive end Jevon Kearse.
Most of their money was spent quietly on leading receiver Justin Gage and ensuring key pieces drafted over the past three years will stick around with extensions for left tackle Michael Roos, right tackle David Stewart and cornerback Cortland Finnegan - Jones' replacement and now the NFL's interception leader.
might be able to go is the quarterback, and Young looked lost even before hometown fans started booing him in the opener. The Titans had talked all offseason of how hard Young worked to improve his footwork and his ability to read defenses and find the open receiver.
Then came the full meltdown as Young refused to go back into the opener after his second interception. He went back out and hurt his knee. But he skipped an MRI exam the next day even after Fisher went to his home to talk to his quarterback.
That was all the opening Fisher needed.
If Fisher had his way in 2006, Collins would have been signed before training camp to let Young study under an NFL veteran. Instead, Collins was brought in just before the opener and wound up yielding to Young after an 0-3 start.
Now the only question is whether Young is watching and learning. Collins is the perfect mentor if he is.
In his 14th season, Collins has taken two different teams to NFC championship games, survived a battle with alcoholism and seen everything a defense can show. He's the manager Fisher wants, a guy who knows when to throw away a pass instead of forcing something.
Collins has been intercepted just once and sacked once in three starts. He also makes a group of receivers criticized for their play with Young look very serviceable.
knowing when not to take your shots. ... I know that I have been in every situation possible. Hopefully I make more good decisions in those kinds of situations than bad,'' Collins said.
He's also having fun because Fisher announced he's sticking with Collins as long as the Titans are winning. No pressure there.
``Bottom line, I'm on a good football team,'' Collins said. ``Are we a great football team yet? No, I don't think so, but finding ways to win and winning ballgames just keeps adding to the confidence, keeps adding to the makeup of your team.''
On defense, these Titans are scary with each player afraid to be the weak link in a unit that leads the NFL in scoring defense and takeaways (12). Fisher made a rare in-season starting change last week at middle linebacker, choosing Stephen Tulloch's speed over the hard-hitting Ryan Fowler.
The time is now for these Titans because All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth got them to agree to let him become a free agent if he meets several incentives, and he already has five sacks - one off his career best.
But nobody, not even Haynesworth, is looking ahead yet. Players have bought into Fisher's one-week, one-game mantra and are eager to see how much better they can become.
so far it's working.''