In one of his books, John Madden wrote that for a time, the Raiders had the ideal quarterback situation. They had a league MVP (Daryle Lamonica) as their starter, a veteran backup (George Blanda) who could come into a game in any situation, and a young quarterback (Kenny Stabler) they were grooming for the future.
The Titans don’t have a league MVP as their starting quarterback but other than that, the situation is similar. When the season opens, their roster should include three quarterbacks — an established starter, a veteran backup and a young guy they are hoping to develop.
Vince Young showed remarkable, and largely unexpected, improvement after being named the starter by owner Bud “VY is my guy” Adams following the bye week (seven) last year. I’m hoping Vince continues to improve this season for two reasons.
First, there are uncertainties across the board on a defense which isn’t expected to show overall improvement. If the team is going to improve upon last season’s 8-8 record and return to postseason play, it will be up to the offense to shoulder the burden, as Tom wrote here.
Second, as has been noted multiple times here, it’s highly unlikely that Chris Johnson will be CJ2k again this season, so any improvement on offense will have to come from the passing game.
Vince has two years remaining on his contract and would undoubtedly like to have a season good enough to earn a hefty new deal in the next offseason. I hope so too.
Kerry Collins has a head coach who believes in him (“Kerry Collins gives us the best chance to win”), which is the next best thing to having the owner on his side, and is a solid #2 on the QB depth chart. The only problem is, he’s scheduled to earn money befitting the #1 quarterback. It’s a nice problem to have if you’re Collins, unless it also becomes a major problem for his employer, in which case it will then be problematic for him as well.
Will the Titans ask him to take a pay cut, putting him more in line with what other teams are paying their backup signal callers? Will Collins take a cut in pay if requested to do so as a condition of continued employment?
This will be the second season of Collins’ current two-year contract and he’ll turn 38 in December. Not a particularly good combination, but he’s still probably in a better situation than he imagined he would be two years ago.
Chris Simms was already in a tough spot before his arrest for allegedly smoking marijuana, a charge he denies. He’s behind Collins on the depth chart and it’s highly unlikely the Titans will keep two veteran backups on the roster this year, so the incident, even though it’s technically only a misdemeanor, doesn’t help him at all.
Three things are in his favor though, the first being Collins’ $5.5M contract. Simms would certainly be a cheaper option for the Titans. Also working in Simms’ favor is the reported improvement he’s made in his arm strength, which was weakened following his spleen injury. Not that it was that strong to begin with. Thirdly, we do hear that Simms has had a positive influence on Vince. They were teammates and reportedly friends at Texas, where Simms was the starter when Vince arrived. Unfortunately for Simms, just being a positive influence on Vince isn’t reason enough to keep him around.
Rusty Smith, the first of two Titans’ sixth-round draft picks this year, seems to be a lock as the #3 QB. If Vince is Adams’ guy and Collins is Fisher’s guy, then Smith is Mike Heimerdinger’s guy.
“I fell in love with him when I watched his technique. His feet are always underneath him. He can get rid of it from any place he needs to. He makes all the throws, deep and short.”
Smith is also a Howard Schnellenberger guy, as I wrote here, which puts him in pretty good company. Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinnie Testaverde were also Schnellenberger guys.
It seems like Simms is the only quarterback who isn’t someone’s guy, at least not someone who counts in the Titans’ organization. Barring an injury to one of the other three, or perhaps Collins’ contract situation, Simms should be the odd man out.
As a footnote, although it doesn’t concern the Titans, football fans may find this of interest. The Raider teams I mentioned earlier, with their QB situation, had a remarkable run of MVP QBs. Lamonica won league MVP awards for the 1967 and 1969 seasons, Blanda for the 1970 season, and Stabler for the 1974 and 1976 seasons, a total of five MVP seasons in a ten-year stretch.
P.S. – Congratulations to Chris Johnson and the Titans for agreeing on a compromise deal! I think it’s great the two sides were able to work this out amicably.