Kyle Vanden Bosch is gone. So is Alge Crumpler. Keith Bulluck might not be back, and Kevin Mawae’s return isn’t certain either.
That would be a lot of NFL experience and leadership vacating the Tennessee Titans locker room in one off-season. But it also begs the question: Who will step up to replace them?
Sure, someone will man those positions on the field. But just as importantly, and perhaps more so, who will dictate the direction of the 2010 Tennessee Titans?
Over the past few seasons, many pointed to Vanden Bosch as the glue that held a big part of the locker room together. His practice-field work ethic and commitment to the off-season program was the example that everyone else followed.
Certainly, the cerebral center Mawae was another who was good at policing the locker room and setting that bedrock example. And in their own ways, Crumpler and Bulluck were standard setters, too, mostly in terms of team chemistry.
While Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Mike Reinfeldt have rightly pointed out that guys like Cortland Finnegan, Michael Roos and Stephen Tulloch are now poised to assume leadership roles, there is one name that stands above all the others as a player who must set the example for the Titans to follow.
Entering his fifth NFL season and again the entrenched starting quarterback, it is time for Young to make the Titans his team, like Steve McNair did several years ago or Kerry Collins did in assuming command in 2008, when Young faltered.
In an interview Friday posted on NFL.com and several other sites, including the team’s home page, Young spoke about leadership during a break from off-season workouts.
“The biggest thing is that my leadership role has to play a major, major part this year because we’ve had a lot of guys who are leaving the team,” Young said. “[It's up to me], as a leader, to say some more, to talk a little bit more, and get the guys motivated. I’m willing to take that job on.”
If you’re a Titans fan, or anyone in the organization, those are encouraging words.
Young’s leadership was clearly evident at the University of Texas, and as former Longhorn teammates who knew Young from his days in Austin could attest, Young had that “it” factor that sometimes superseded his on-field talent and led to team success.
That sort of presence was on display during Young’s rookie year, when he put the Titans on his back and helped them recover from an 0-5 start to finish 8-8.
After regressing in 2007, and his well-publicized meltdown the following year, many wrote Young off. But, to his credit, he dug deeper, and when his chance came to return as the starting quarterback in the wake of a 0-6 start, he made the most of it.
Now, as Young knows fully from the transformation (i.e. youth movement) inside the locker room, it is time for him to build upon that this season, not take a step backward as he did after his rookie year. His commitment now for a second straight year to the off-season program, his improved film study and other areas where he has matured have helped Young ready himself to take the next step.
If the Titans are to return to contender status, Young has to establish himself as a leader. It’s what winning quarterbacks do, and at least from early indications this off-season, it’s a responsibility Young appears ready to assume.