By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vince Young says the year of watching Kerry Collins from the bench helped him grow and mature. One stat from his first start since the beginning of the 2008 season appears to back that up.
It was his first NFL game without being sacked or intercepted.
Young helped the Titans (1-6) win their first game of 2009, a 30-13 rout of Jacksonville on Sunday that snapped an eight-game skid dating back to Dec. 21.
Now the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year, the quarterback repeatedly called Tennessee’s future at the position, has the final nine games to show how much he’s really grown and whether he’s worth keeping past this season. Young currently is slated to count $14.2 million against Tennessee’s salary cap in 2010 with a $4.25 million roster bonus due in March.
Owner Bud Adams wanted Young starting so the Titans could see what the quarterback could do.
“We’ve got to find out how he’s developed over the last two years,” Adams said after the game. “He hasn’t played that much. We’ve got to get him in and find out what he can do. Otherwise we’re going to have a high draft choice, and we’re going to be looking for another quarterback.”
Adams liked what he saw as Young was 15 of 18 for 125 yards with 10 runs for 32 yards before two kneel downs to run out the clock. Young also threw a touchdown pass.
“I was really anxious to see him play at a 100 percent, and I think he did a great job. He handled himself very well and showed he can do it,” the owner said.
Coach Jeff Fisher isn’t looking past Sunday’s visit to San Francisco (3-4) when asked how much sway the rest of this season holds on Young’s future.
“That’s not an issue of his nor of ours. What’s important for us and for Vince is just to improve and play well this week. That’s all. We’re not looking at how many games we’ve got left or anything. Just improve and play well this week. Play with some consistency,” Fisher said Monday.
Young was helped greatly by the Titans running more than throwing. Tennessee ran 49 times for a season-high 305 yards, and Chris Johnson set a franchise-record with 228 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Receivers that had struggled holding onto the ball didn’t drop any this time around.
Fisher, who said last week he remained in Collins’ corner, complimented Young for managing the win over Jacksonville well, the same thing Collins did so well in helping Tennessee go 13-3 last season.
“He’s learned to just take what’s there, take the check-down, get rid of the ball or take off when it’s time to go take off,” Fisher said. “So, we said all along that he’s developing. Even though we were watching Kerry, Vince was developing. I’m hopeful that the work he’s put in will translate over to success in the game.”
Young did get lucky a couple times.
Jaguars rookie cornerback Derek Cox dropped an interception in the end zone on the opening series, and he avoided a sack by scrambling for a 1-yard gain late in the second quarter. He also missed what could have been a big gain when he bounced a pass to Johnson on third-and-1.
Questions still remain. How does Young react after a bad game or a couple interceptions? Or when fans boo?
Young wasn’t available with Fisher giving the Titans the day off — their first Victory Monday of 2009. Young said Sunday night he had thought through a variety of scenarios during his year spent on the bench. He hadn’t started since fans booed him for his second interception of the 2008 season opener, a game in which Fisher had to yell at him to join his teammates on the field.
But Young also had a full offseason to study with the coordinator who worked here when the late Steve McNair, Young’s mentor, was the league’s co-MVP in 2003. Young split time between college courses at Texas and cram sessions with Heimerdinger after the coordinator was re-hired in the 2008 offseason.
The two talked at the end of the game, and Young said Heimerdinger knows everything he has been through.
“He sees me making the right throws and the right reads, calling the plays in the huddle and getting the guys out of the huddle on time for the play clock and things like that. He basically has seen me grow up a little bit,” Young said.