Boclair: Quarterbacking questions now front and center for Titans

Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 9:05pm

Quietly, the question has arisen over the last several weeks. It first came on Nov. 21, when Vince Young stormed out of the Tennessee Titans’ locker room following an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

Over time it has been repeated with increasing frequency every time someone else played quarterback for coach Jeff Fisher’s team. Even so, it was still just a question to toss around because there was no pressing need for an answer.

Now that the season is over, it’s the one thing everyone wants to know. It’s the issue likely to drown out all others over the coming weeks and months.

Who is going to be the Titans’ quarterback in 2011?

Good question.

How different things are from a year ago, when Young’s 8-2 run as Kerry Collins’ replacement seemed to cement the place that was all but guaranteed him when he was selected third overall in the 2006 draft. Then, he appeared to have turned a corner in his professional development and maturity. All indications were that Young trended further upward through the early part of this season.

Then came the Washington game, his meltdown on the sideline, abrupt locker room exit and Fisher’s very public campaign against his quarterback. 

Young remains the odds-on favorite to reclaim the job. After all, team owner Bud Adams is a fan. Young has one year remaining on his contract. He also retains the support of at least some of his teammates and has a good record as a starting quarterback.

It’s clear, though, that not everyone is convinced he can do the job. If Adams can be convinced of the same, things get interesting.

Collins’ contract expires at the end of the work year. He’s 38, which is older than most but not beyond the realm of productivity. What’s worse is that he presided over the 0-6 start in 2009 and a 0-3 opening in 2006 (in fairness, he was signed days before the 2006 opener), and he did not display the type of consistent performance most expect from a veteran as Young’s replacement this season.

Rusty Smith was drafted in April after having played a pro-style offense at Florida Atlantic, and there was every reason to believe he had the stuff to develop quickly. Given a chance to make a strong impression, his first career start (Nov. 28 at Houston) ended with zero points on the board and a noticeable dip in effusiveness from the coaches when they discussed him. 

Chris Simms has been on and off the Tennessee roster a few times in recent years. He has a brief history as a starting quarterback in the league but more recently has settled firmly into the role of a journeyman. 

None of them — Young, Collins, Smith or Simms — sparks the kind of offseason optimism that is the January norm for the 20 teams that fail to make the postseason. If they so choose, the Titans probably can dip back into the draft in April and hope that this time they find a Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez or Sam Bradford in the first round. The odds of that happening, of course, are only slightly better than winning the lottery.

They could go after a veteran free agent — someone a little younger than Collins, hopefully — to serve as a stopgap. If they’re going to do that, why not talk Brett Favre out of retirement? At least he’d be more entertaining than most of the guys teams find that way. 

Seriously, though: There is no more important position in all of professional sports than the quarterback. His persona, ability and charisma set the tone for the entire organization.

As they begin the offseason, the Titans have no idea who their guy is. That means they have no idea what kind of team they have, which means they have no idea what they need to become the type of team they’d like to be.

That’s not good.

Contact the writer at dboclair@nashvillecitypaper.com

4 Comments on this post:

By: fdanshep on 1/5/11 at 8:49

Rusty Smith seems to have had one chance and when that didn't go well he was thrown under the bus. If staff are missing that badly on evaluating him and training him, what does that say about our ability to find and coach an NFL caliber QB. Personally, I hope he goes somewhere else and develops into a really nice quarterback.

By: TITAN1 on 1/5/11 at 9:44

I think if Rusty was that good he would have been given another chance.

Positive people always look at the glass half full and make the best of it and are happy most of the time. Negative people always find it half empty and complain and are miserable most of the time.

By: wayneCaluger on 1/5/11 at 3:57

By: TITAN1 on 1/5/11 at 8:44

I think if Rusty was that good he would have been given another chance.

With the season and your job on the line as head coach the last thing you want to do is throw a first year NFL rookie back in the heat of battle if you have a 16 year seasoned pro available no matter if his a couple of bum fingers. It takes at least a half season for a rookie, regardless if your last name is Payton or Farbe to get your NFL legs under you. If you look at the rookie records of the hall of fame quarterback's, soon to be and no doubt will hall of fame quarterbacks there was no hint they would overtime under real game conditions become the stars they became.

By: fdanshep: I hope he goes somewhere else and develops into a really nice quarterback.

Potential NFL quarterbacks are hard to find and I for one think Rusty has the potential and only time under game conditions starting with more than a maybe a quarter in preseason working with starters will shed some light on what his real NFL potential is. If you let him go or goes elsewhere next season it's back to the draft with hopes whoever you draft has what it takes and you want know that until they practice with the starters, not on the scout team for the defense, start some preseason games and regular season games.

Rusty has a NFL arm making some very good throws, one into the end zone to Moss was a pro throw and would have been a TD if Randy had not been guilty of OPI pushing off the defender. He also made some bad throws and decisions a rookie will make that were on par to the same we have seen seasoned pro quarter backs make. One NFL game or season does not make a NFL quarter back.

It takes work, hard work, dedication and practice starting with showing up for team meetings to understand this weeks opponent defense. Without this knowledge and understanding you cannot expect a quarterback to change a play call or re-prioritize order of receiver based on coverage, blitz and so forth.

Dedication and practice can be learned from quarterback's like Manning who this year has unknown receivers like Jacob Tamme and Blair White working them to the point they can catch passes with a blindfold on. Last year with the departure of Marvin Harris he took another unknown by the name of Pierre Garcon turning him into an all pro receiver. In the NFL it's all about timing, both the receiver knowing route and which way you need to break/throw the ball.

As a quarterback you have to throw the ball to where the receiver is suppose to be and in the direction so your receiver and not the defender can make the catch. NFL quarterback's more often than not catch the heat when in fact the receiver blew the route.

Rusty in my book gave a seasoned media interview. He was very poised and understandable and took the heat like a man for the loss and that is a big step in my book compared to other so called "five-year rookie franchise quarterback" the Titans has had to endure.

Why his first game performance was good considering all the factors. Compared to 4 year Eagles Kevin Kolb first start this year Rusty first outing was outstanding, pretty much on par with the Rams rookie Sam Bradford.

Give Rusty a chance at least half the chance VY has had. I'm pretty sure he can learn the offensive plays, show leadership, show up including expected Titan PR events like this years Celebrity Softball game instead in the media for being in fight in a strip club, part of a police hunt to prevent a possible suicide or leading the team into a divided team.

If Rusty cannot cut the mustard after a fair chance or a third of the chances VY has gotten then cut him loose and go looking for another potential NFL candidate.

By: TITAN1 on 1/5/11 at 5:00

My point was (I guess I should have written a book) that Rusty was not ready to start again since Kerry could start at that time. I'm sure he will get another shot, but I don't think he will be a franchise QB. I wanted to see what he could do, too, but he was not ready and at that time we were still in the hunt.

Positive people always look at the glass half full and make the best of it and are happy most of the time. Negative people always find it half empty and complain and are miserable most of the time.