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Patience key for Titans

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted June 16, 2010 @ 9:17 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Titans QB Vince Young has called getting into an altercation at a Dallas strip club Sunday morning "a mistake." His head coach, Jeff Fisher, called it a decision he had "no business making."

Many suspect NFL commissioner Roger Goodell won't suspend Young, who received a Class C assault citation by Dallas police after the incident at Club Onyx and has never run afoul of the league's personal-conduct policy. Young's citation is not regarded as serious and is punishable by a $500 fine. However, the league has said it is looking into the incident, videotape footage of which has made it to television and the Internet, and Young made it clear Monday he feared missing games.

"I pray to God that Roger Goodell doesn't come down hard on me, because I definitely want to be here for my teammates," Young told Nashville reporters Monday.

Even if Young missed a game or two, the Titans wouldn't fall apart; their opener is against struggling Oakland, and their second game is against Pittsburgh, which won't have QB Ben Roethlisberger, who will be serving a personal-conduct suspension handed down in April.

Certainly, you remember the chatter about Roethlisberger being on the trading block earlier this spring. Nothing came of it, and the Steelers, from a football perspective, are better for it, considering it would have been very, very difficult to replace Roethlisberger with a similarly talented passer.

I mention this because we're going to hear a lot of talk about Young's future in the next two years. He is signed through 2011, and he will be 29 at the beginning of the 2012 campaign. A lucrative contract extension, in Tennessee or elsewhere, is a possibility.

However, with two years still to run on his rookie deal and the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in March 2011, the Titans don't have to be in a hurry to strike any sort of new pact with Young. A wait-and-see approach may be most prudent. Young was benched in 2008 and played behind Kerry Collins in the first six games of '09. His passing, while improved, can still be erratic.

Questions linger about Young's maturity. He refused to go back into a game vs. Jacksonville in Week One of the '08 season before eventually re-entering the lineup. And the Dallas off-field incident showed poor judgment. 

Fisher, speaking to Nashville reporters on Monday, had this to say about Young's leadership: "Becoming a leader is a process. You don't just step up and take over a team. It is a process, and throughout the process on occasion you hope there are not setbacks, but this may be a setback."

However, Fisher also noted, "In the long run, I don't think it is going to affect him. This football team is very important to him. What he is doing on the field is very important to him, and winning games is of the (utmost) importance to him. He stood up and he is disappointed, as we all are, for the incident."

For his part, Young, speaking to Nashville reporters Monday, didn't see the incident as anything that would affect his ability to lead, and he cited the fact he was right back to work after the weekend incident. He publicly apologized for his actions, privately apologized to teammates and repeatedly took the blame.

He also expressed a wish to move on from the incident. Of course, given his stature, this will be part of his thumbnail biography going forward. However, Young was able to quickly and publicly address the issue, and if he plays well in the next two seasons and matures, this is a small part of his résumé glossed over.

The Titans, unhappy as they may be with him, have reason to be patient with Young. For one, there is no surefire 16-game replacement for him on the roster, unless you believe Kerry Collins, who disappointed in six games as the starter last season, can play like he did in 2008 or if Chris Simms recaptures his promising early-career form. Realistically, the Titans would need a strong season from their defense to have a chance to contend with Collins or Simms in the lineup.

Young is Tennessee's most talented quarterback; at his best, the Titans can play the Colts tough and can give the Texans and Jaguars fits. He is locked into two more years of a contract at a relatively reasonable rate of compensation. Young, who received a $4.25 million roster bonus earlier in the offseason, according to The (Nashville) Tennessean, is slated to make $7.5 million in salary in 2010 and $8.5 million in salary in 2011. He is also due a $4.25 million roster bonus next year.

That's a lot of money, certainly, but it's not terribly out of line given what other quarterbacks make. For instance, the Eagles reportedly gave Kevin Kolb a $10.7 million signing bonus this offseason, and he has a 1-1 record as a starter. Also, the Browns will reportedly pay Jake Delhomme $7 million this season, and he threw 18 interceptions in 2009.

Young is 26-13 as a starter. He has won. It has not always been pretty, or easy, but the Titans have been better off with him than without him the previous four seasons. Replacing him easily and cost-efficiently would not be easy, and he is quite gifted, which suggests further improvement is possible.

The Titans should be annoyed and angry with Young after the Dallas incident. He owes them more than this. And Young should be mad at himself, too. On top of creating a distraction for his team, he made his own life more needlessly difficult. He's made his head coach unhappy. His contract is up in two years. This doesn't help him in any way. But time, circumstance and opportunity are working in his favor as he tries to leap this self-placed hurdle.


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