The figurative arm wrestling match between Jeff Fisher and Vince Young for the support of Tennessee Titans’ owner Bud Adams and the long-term direction of Young’s playing career will have to wait.
Young has a thumb injury – literally – that delays any drama because it eliminates the possibility that he can be the team’s starting quarterback for the final six games of this season.
That, Fisher figures, makes Young currently irrelevant and, consequently, unworthy of his attention until sometime in the offseason.
“My concern is this week,” Fisher said Monday during his regular weekly press briefing. “And I don’t ever go into my contract situation, but I do have another year left on my contract. My hope is that I finish my career here. I did not speak with Mr. Adams regarding those issues; we talked with him regarding Vince’s thumb and the injury.”
There’s the rub.
Young also has one year remaining on the contract he signed after being drafted third overall in 2006. His selection was strongly endorsed and effectively mandated by Adams, who lives and maintains businesses in Houston, where Young first rose to prominence in Texas as a high school football star and not to far from Austin, where Young led the University of Texas to the BCS championship in his final college season.
Following Sunday’s 19-16 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins it is unclear whether Fisher and Young can coexist on the same team.
Young openly displayed frustration on the sideline when he was not reinserted after being injured in the third quarter, threw his shoulder pads into the crowd as he left the field at game’s end and then promptly stormed out of the locker room. In his postgame press conference shortly thereafter Fisher declared Young no longer was the team’s starting quarterback.
“Had there not been an injury … still (due to) his actions after the game, he wouldn’t be the starter,” Fisher said. “But we have an injury that is going to require surgery so we’re going to move on.”
The injury, according to Fisher, is a torn flexor tendon in the thumb on Young’s right (throwing) hand, which requires season-ending surgery. When that surgery takes place or whether Young agrees with the diagnosis is unknown at this time.
“He may want to get a second opinion, he may want to get two dozen opinions but our doctors said that for his position, it needs to get fixed,” Fisher said. “So we’re going to do that based on their recommendation.”
They’re also going to re-sign veteran Chris Simms, who was released at the end of training camp and prepare for this Sunday’s game at Houston with rookie Rusty Smith as their starting quarterback.
Kerry Collins, who played in each of the four games prior to Washington (with two starts), remains sidelined by a severe calf strain.
“It makes sense,” Fisher said. “I mean (Simms) knows our system, he was here throughout the offseason and he knows what we’re doing and he knows the players so it makes sense to get him in there until (Collins) comes back.
“It’s been a little unsettling, yeah. We’ve had changes in three of the last four games with (Young) and (Collins). Now we’ve got another one. I’m excited for (Smith) because Rusty knows what to do. Rusty understands the offense. There is going to be some growing pains with him a little bit, but … I think Rusty will be successful.”
Throughout his four-plus season in the NFL, Young has been successful in that he has nearly twice as many wins as a starter (30) as he does losses (17). Not only that, but his yards per attempt have improved every year except one to a career-best 8.04 this season. Similarly, his touchdown percentage this season was an all-time high (6.4) while his interception percentage was an all-time low (1.9).
Injuries have been a concern, though. He has missed time with three different issues this season and never has played all 16 games in a single year. Plus, his antics during and after the game against the Redskins were not the first.
He was benched after the 2008 season-opener amid questions about his maturity as he dealt with a knee injury.
Through it all, Fisher contended, he stood firmly behind his quarterback.
“All I’ve done here since Vince walked in the door is try and help him to be the best player he could be,” Fisher said. “I’ve stood behind him and defended him from the get go.
Now he’s ready to move forward. Obviously he’ll do so without Young for the final six games of this season.
After that, it just might be time for one of them to move on to somewhere else.
“He’s not going to play any more games this year because of the injury,” Fisher said. “We can deal with all that after the season’s over.”