No one has to try to read Kerry Collins’ mind. Unlike the case of Brett Favre the past couple summers, all it takes to know what this veteran quarterback thinks in regard to playing this fall is to listen.
He wants to play one more season — preferably for the Tennessee Titans, the team for which he has been the on-again, off-again starter for the past five seasons. And he does not simply want to collect a paycheck.
“First and foremost, if I came back I’d come back to be a starter and win ball games,” Collins said. “That would be my priority.”
There isn’t necessarily an overwhelming interest in a 38-year-old who has thrown 20 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions over the past two seasons. That’s in contrast to Favre, who antagonized the entire league and the Minnesota Vikings with his waffling. Compounding matters is the owners’ imposed lockout, which has been in place since March and prohibits Collins from talking to teams and gauging their interest.
“Kerry Collins is a free agent, and until the lockout is lifted we really don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said when asked about Collins during a recent conference call with the team’s season ticket holders.
There are reasonable comparisons between Favre and Collins, beginning with the gray hair on their heads and faces. Each has put up big numbers over long careers. Each also has battled demons along the way — treatment for painkillers in Favre’s case, alcoholism in Collins’.
Collins, of course, lacks the records, most valuable player trophies and a Super Bowl victory that make Favre a cut above virtually anyone else who ever has played the position. He also is absent the drama that tainted Favre’s final two seasons.
There is no “will he or won’t he” for Collins. He has a clear understanding of his place in the game and extending his career. (See related story below.)
“I think as you get to the stage of your career that I’m in, you realize that the window is getting small,” Collins said. “Yeah, I know I’m going to have to stop soon. If it’s not this year, then it’s going to be next year for sure.”
If he does continue with the Titans, Collins will have to start over in a sense. He was signed as a free agent in 2006 after the team drafted Vince Young third overall. The idea was that Collins would play for a time (he started the first three games), mentor Young and eventually turn over the position.
But things never went that smoothly. Collins started at least one game each of the last five years, took firm control of the job in his third season and gave it back the next, after an 0-6 start.
Now the Titans have Jake Locker, drafted eighth overall in April, and no idea whether he is ready to do the job or could use some veteran influence.
“You learn by asking questions,” Locker said. “That’s the way I’ve done it before. You pick [veterans’] brains and learn from the guys who have done it before.”
Collins ranks 12th in NFL career passing yards, has played in two Pro Bowls and directed four teams to the playoffs, including one — the 2000 New York Giants — to the Super Bowl.
“[Locker] is a kid who could learn from a guy like me,” Collins said. “From everything I’ve heard, he’s a good guy who wants to work hard and wants to do well. Hopefully, he’d watch what I do and take lessons from me.” Of course, he wants the rookie to watch him play, not simply practice.
Collins knows the end of his career is in sight. He’s just looking for one more opportunity.
“I realize that I’m not going to play forever,” Collins said, “and if this is the end, then this is the end.”
His mind is clear, even if his prospects are not.
A look at notable quarterbacks who will be available when the NFL lockout ends.
Of note: Has started all 16 games just once in the past five seasons but has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in seven of the past nine.
Hasselbeck has ties to Titans’ general manager Mike Reinfeldt (the two were together in Seattle) and is not far removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Interceptions have risen in recent years. Probably the best of the free agents, he likely will command a decent salary and a multiyear deal.
Of note: Has twice as many career touchdown passes (230) as interceptions (115), and he is 9-7 all-time as a playoff starter.
McNabb is one of the most puzzling quarterbacks in recent NFL history. He has obvious flaws in his delivery, and questions about his leadership ability have dogged him. Still, he routinely puts up big numbers and gets his team to the playoffs.
Of note: Has played just 19 games with seven starts in a four-year career.
Drafted by Philadelphia in the second round in 2007 as McNabb’s heir apparent, he has become expendable thanks to Michael Vick’s resurgence. Chances are there will be multiple teams looking to make a trade, which could drive his value beyond where the Titans want to go, given that Jake Locker is their long-term option.
Of note: Has started in 95 of his 96 career appearances, but has just five wins as a starter in his past three seasons.
There are plenty of questions about Bulger, given that he did not play in 2010 and he did not play particularly well in the two or three preceding seasons. Still, he has been in numerous offenses and knows how to read defenses. He could be the most affordable short-term option.
Of note: Has thrown 40 touchdown passes and 40 interceptions and has completed just 54.2 percent of his passes for his career.
Grossman is a guy who always has tantalized with his potential and occasional productivity. He never has established himself as a long-term answer, though, and does not fit the role of a mentor.
— David Boclair