Kerry Collins’ 14-year NFL odyssey has taken him to five different stops, and through eight different offensive coordinators.
But with the Tennessee Titans in 2008, could Collins have finally found the perfect match for his skill set in Mike Heimerdinger?
Imagine if Heimerdinger had advertised the quarterback position seeking his ideal candidate — WANTED: Quarterback with strong, accurate arm; patience to rely on running game, strong line and play-action; ability to read defenses and make quick, smart decisions a must.
Could he have found a much better match than the one who came off the bench in week one to take control of the offense after Vince Young’s knee injury?
Collins, now 35, can hardly be called a late bloomer with more than 36,000 career passing yards and a Super Bowl appearance on his resumé. But now in his re-emergence as a starter with the 9-0 Titans, the veteran quarterback appears to have found his perfect football match with Heimerdinger.
“What we’re doing fits him good, and the line is doing a nice job of protecting him right now,” Heimerdinger said. “And I think it fits him because he has a chance to go downfield with the ball. But if it’s not there, and we don’t get open, he has a chance to find the underneath coverage or the other guys that are open.”
Collins agrees that perhaps he has found the exact system for what fits his skills best in Tennessee with Heimerdinger and that the communication between the two, not only on game day, but during the week of preparation has fortified their working relationship.
“I think I fit in real well with ‘Dinger’s offense and what we’re trying to do,” Collins said. “I think I’ve got a good relationship with him. We work well during the week preparing. We talk a lot. He’s constantly giving me information, and a lot of times I’m asking a lot of questions. I think our goal for both of us is to be as prepared as we can be on Sunday.”
Veteran center Kevin Mawae sees how well Collins and Heimerdinger have fit together, and it is reflected in the Titans’ success.
“When you put a smart offensive coordinator together with a very smart quarterback, then you have the success we’ve been having,” Mawae said. “Kerry is doing what he’s asked to do, and he’s showing us that he can be a winner.”
Under Heimerdinger’s first regime in Tennessee, both Steve McNair and Billy Volek enjoyed the best years of their NFL careers.
And while Collins’ individual numbers haven’t reached the eye-popping proportions that those two did as Titans starters, the fact is that most weeks, he doesn’t need to.
Collins is 147 for 248 for 1,525 yards thus far, and has had the luxury most of the time of relying on the ground game fueled by Chris Johnson and LenDale White behind a strong offensive line. He has five touchdown passes, but more importantly, he has only three interceptions, which puts him on track for a career-low in that regard.
“I’ve probably always thrived a little bit more in offenses that run the ball, play action and then take our shots,” Collins said. “At the same time, like the other day, I’ve been able to be effective throwing when we need to throw it.”
Like Sunday’s game in Chicago, where Collins proved he was more than up to the task when the game was placed in his hands. He completed 30 of 41 passes for 289 yards and hit on his first two touchdown passes in a month in helping the Titans to a 21-14 victory.
“I think Kerry, for the things we have tried to do, the run game takes some of the pressure off him,” Heimerdinger said. “But the good part is, like last week when we couldn’t run it, he can go out and make plays, which he did a good job of.”
In describing himself Wednesday, Collins also thanked his offensive line for protecting “an old guy.” But with Heimerdinger’s system, Collins is one “old guy” who looks to have found a fountain of youth this season. And he believes it can only get better from an offensive standpoint.
“I think our passing game is getting better and better, and by no means, do I think we’ve played our best game yet,” Collins said.
INJURIES: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) and linebacker Keith Bulluck (ribs) both sat out practice on Wednesday because of their injuries.
Bulluck is likely not to practice this week, but will probably play again Sunday in Jacksonville, while Vanden Bosch said he is getting closer to returning, even though he will proceed with caution.
“There’s really no way of telling [if I can play],” Vanden Bosch said. “It’s getting to the point where I feel like I can be close to full speed this week. It’s too early to tell what’s going to happen on Sunday. I just have to take it one day at a time and do what’s best for this team, and make sure I can play out the rest of the season and not have any setbacks.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher indicated that Vanden Bosch might have a chance to practice before the week is up.
In addition to Vanden Bosch and Bulluck, several other Titans missed practice Wednesday, including defensive tackle Jason Jones (foot), guard Eugene Amano (knee), safety Michael Griffin (flu), receiver Justin McCareins (concussion) and cornerback Nick Harper (ankle). Fullback Ahmard Hall (concussion) was limited in Wednesday’s practice.
HONORED: Punter Craig Hentrich was honored as AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his work in helping keep Chicago’s Devin Hester at bay. Hentrich punted eight times for a 37.8-yard average with a 36.1 net, including five punts downed inside the 20.
GIANT TITANS: In the Bible, Goliath was a giant. Apparently, according to Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, Goliath is now a Titan. Del Rio said as much to the gathered media on Wednesday.
“The best team in the league … tough to score on … a veteran quarterback playing like an MVP candidate,” Del Rio said on the team’s web site. “Goliath is coming in. I think (TV) moved it to four o’clock so they could see the Titans go to 10-0.”
Something else for the Titans to think about perhaps is that the Jaguars quarterback is named David, as in Garrard.
READY TO GO: The Titans and Jaguars, as division rivals, play twice a year each year and are familiar foes.
White said there won’t be any secrets when the two teams face off in Jacksonville on Sunday.
“We’re going to line up the same way. We’re not going to throw no wrinkles in. We’re not going to run the Wildcat formation or nothing,” White said.
So wouldn’t he relish the chance to take a direct snap from such a formation?
“They told me that they might want to shuffle it to Joe Namath [White] back there at quarterback. If they want to hand the reins over, I’ll definitely take it,” he said.