Tennessee love triangle won't work
At 87 years old, Bud Adams probably doesn’t follow celebrity gossip.
But the Tennessee Titans owner has lived long enough to know the age-old lesson being learned by Tiger Woods, Jesse James and Tony Parker.
You can’t have a mistress and expect to keep a happy marriage.
From a football sense, that’s what Adams is trying to accomplish with his handling of the Jeff Fisher-Vince Young situation.
Adams has ordered Fisher — his faithful head coach for 16-plus seasons — and Young — his favorite player on the roster — to find a way to coexist after their latest spat. Injury and immaturity prompted Fisher to bench Young after Sunday’s 19-16 overtime loss to Washington. But even after Young’s locker-room outburst and postgame histrionics, Adams refuses to side with Fisher on how the quarterback should be handled going forward now that he was placed on injured reserve (thumb).
“They are going to have to work together,” the reclusive Adams told The Tennessean of Nasvhille. “I haven’t given up on Vince and I am sure Fisher hasn't, either. Vince was upset and said some things he regretted after doing it. But you have to get to the bottom of it, straighten it out and move on.
"We want to get Vince back and playing again for us ... I have been at this thing for a long time, about 51 years now. I have seen a lot of things happen and I don't want to go jumping off the building over something happening one time.”
Ahh, the joys of being a sugar daddy with selective short-term memory.
Adams chose not to recall the last time Young went off the deep end when booed at home during the 2008 season opener. Young became so distraught he contemplated leaving football.
Concern about Young’s mental health weren’t the only reason he rode the bench for the rest of the year. Young hadn’t fully committed to learning new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger’s system during the offseason, instead trying to cram studying between college classes at the University of Texas. Completing his education is commendable, but the Titans didn’t give Young a $58 million rookie contract with $26 million guaranteed to use a degree in applied learning and development/youth and community studies.
Fisher wanted the all-in leadership and commitment needed for success at the quarterback position. Instead, he got Internet photos of a shirtless Young chugging Patron and partying with buddies at a nightclub.
Young didn’t immediately get the message sent by his demotion. He brooded through the entire 2008 campaign. Young also squandered the chance to learn some life lessons from new starter Kerry Collins, who went through his own personal hell before salvaging his NFL career.
To the credit of Young and Adams, something finally clicked after last season’s 0-6 start. Adams ordered Fisher to start Young and bench Collins. Young responded with his best all-around football. The Titans won eight of their final 10 games. It seemed Fisher and Young could at least coexist, if not sing Kumbaya together.
But that tenuous relationship quickly began showing cracks. How is Fisher supposed to place all his trust in Young when the latter is getting cited by Dallas police for a late-night fight at a strip club during the offseason? Young entered the season on such a short leash that Fisher benched him during a Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh. Some would call it tough love, but that’s not how you treat a fifth-year NFL veteran if you truly think he’s a franchise quarterback.
The latest blowup was weeks in the making. As first reported by FOXSports.com NFL insider Jay Glazer, Young blew off treatment on his sprained ankle at team headquarters during Tennessee’s Nov. 7 bye week. He instead went back to Texas, which probably left new wide receiver Randy Moss wondering what type of mess he’d gotten himself into now.
The Redskins game was the final straw. Even with Collins out because of a calf strain, Fisher turned to untested rookie Rusty Smith after determining that Young’s thumb injury was adversely affecting his test throws on the sideline.
The 27-year-old Young handled the decision with the grace one would expect from a man-child. After the game ended, Young threw his shoulder pads into the LP Field stands. According to The Tennessean, Young began swearing as Fisher delivered his postgame speech. Young then started to leave the locker room when Fisher told him “not to run out on your teammates.” Young reportedly responded by saying, “I’m not running out on my teammates. I’m running out on you.”
On many teams, this would get a player released or suspended for insubordination no matter their star standing. Not in Bud’s world. In fact, Adams has actually guaranteed Young will remain on the 2011 roster and collect a $12.75 million salary.
“We are going to pay him a lot of money,” Adams said.
Adams also said Fisher will return.
“He is under contract, too,” Adams said. “They can't change that. That is why you have contracts."
That’s also why you pay head coaches — to handle knuckleheads like Young. But what Adams said completely eviscerates Fisher. Young can continue to behave how he chooses and remain well compensated because he knows the owner is enamored with his personality and playing style.
Living in Houston, Adams doesn’t have to see the fallout of his statements firsthand. Adams is shielded from the day-to-day workings of his team.
There are far more examples of head coach-quarterback relationships permanently falling apart than reconciliations after incidents like the latest between Young and Fisher. Minnesota’s Brett Favre didn’t give one of his tear-filled news conferences Monday after Brad Childress was fired. Denver’s Josh McDaniels won the 2009 power struggle against Jay Cutler. Former Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart could never win Ken Whisenhunt’s support and was released at the end of the preseason.
No position must be more in lockstep with the head coach than the quarterback. So barring an unforeseen reconciliation and development of a strong professional relationship between Fisher and Young, Adams must choose sides for the good of his franchise — provided that winning a Super Bowl truly matters.
Adams can go with the guy who has made Tennessee a consistent playoff contender while providing almost two decades of loyal service through thick and thin. Or he can go with a player who has the physical potential to be great but has let down the franchise time and time again.
It should be a no-brainer. Then again, just ask the schmoes who walked away from beauties like Elin Nordegren, Sandra Bullock and Eva Longoria.