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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Titan Tragedy: Young, Fisher Worked Against Each Other Very Well

Vince Young's maturity has often been questionable since entering the NFL. Jeff Fisher's professionalism has never been questioned. Both are equal parts of the same problem.

Fisher could be entering his 17th season with the same franchise, and while he's never won a Super Bowl, has taken the team to it's greatest heights under Bud Adams' ownership. Fisher has 142 wins under his belt, and six playoff appearances. In other markets that record would seem mediocre, but Fisher provided the stability for a team that moved from Houston to Memphis and then to Nashville, all while playing in arguably the toughest division in the AFC. (The old AFC Central and current AFC South provided 6 Super Bowl finalists, and 4 winners in the last twelve seasons.)

So why didn't this marriage work? Because both people were just too good at what they do.

When your efforts are met with success, it can be hard to find a reason to change your approach. Sixteen years ago, Fisher was the youngest head coach in the NFL. At 35, he was the same age Jay-Z was when he released "The Black Album". In Fisher's seminal work, he took a franchise that was under threat of relocation from 2-14 in 1994, to 7-9 in '95, and then 8-8 in '96, the final season in Houston. In five seasons, three cities (Houston, Memphis, and Nashville), and a name change (from "Oilers" to "Titans"), he had them one yard away from a Super Bowl victory.

You could have told Kanye West more than you would have been able to tell Fisher after that early success.

Were his tactics perfect? Who knows, and who cares? He won, and that's all that mattered. Never mind that he's coached only two playoff victories since 1999. Never mind that he once wore a Peyton Manning Colts jersey to a Nashville fundraiser last season because he "Wanted to feel like a winner..."

Never mind that he stood idly by while the Titans banned Steve McNair from the facilities back in '06.

Looking at Young, his habits too were formed by his own early success. In his first season as a full time starter at Texas, he led the Longhorns to an 11-1 record, losing only to Oklahoma (eventual BCS runner-up) and winning the Rose Bowl. He never lost another college game, and eventually led his Longhorns to the classic BCS Championship victory over USC, earning his second Rose Bowl MVP.

(Again, cue the Kanye West.)

Never mind his awkward throwing motion, or the fact that before his final year at Texas, he'd only thrown the same amount of TDs as INTs (18). Never mind that his low Wonderlic Test score (6) was leaked during the NFL combine.

Never mind that Fisher was a USC alum, and was rumored to want Heisman winner Matt Lienart in the same draft. Young was selected number three overall by the Titans.

As the story goes, Young became the Titans starter in October of his rookie season, led the team to three come-from-behind victories, set a rookie QB rushing record (552 yards), won Offensive Rookie of the Year from the Associated Press, and made two playoff appearances in his first two seasons..

Never mind that he threw more INTs (13) than TDs (12). Never mind that in his sophomore season, he threw 17 INTs to only 9 TDs. Never mind that he had to be benched for breaking team rules. Never mind that sources close to Young have been telling him to "Get his sh-- together" for some time now.

So we fast-forward to 2011, and two men (for lack of a better term) who are so ingrained in doing things their way have let their egos corrupt a situation so thoroughly that in Young's best season statistically of his career (60 percent completion, 10 TDs, 3 INTs through 9 games), and Fisher's team looking playoff worthy (5-5 through 9 games), they blow the whole thing up.

You can draw similarities from the Vince Young and Jeff Fisher dispute to the ancient Greek myth of Perseus (from "Clash of the Titans" box office fame), and have fun doing so.

Young would be cast as Perseus, the unwanted grandson of King Acrisius.

Fisher in a duel role, would play Acrisius (who tried to have his grandson killed at birth to prevent a prophecy that foretold his own death if his daughter had a son) and Calibos (the would-be king of Joppa and husband of Andromeda, cursed by Zeus, and dedicated to preventing Perseus from marrying Andromeda).

Zeus would be played by owner Bud Adams, the true father of Perseus, who did all he could to protect his bastard son.

The story changes once you focus on the details. In true Greek tragic form, there is no clear cut "bad guy". To cast Young as such is to say that a player with a 30-17 record as a starter, a Rookie of the Year award, and two Pro Bowls, was somehow working in nefarious ways.

Fisher was not anywhere near as corrupt as the antagonists in the Greek myth, but he did make the tragic mistake that is made in many failed marriages; he tried to change the other person.

In the end though, a tragedy is a tragedy. No one wins.

1 comment:

  1. A few years ago, as a youth basketball coach, my team was caught in a struggle in a playoff game against a team we had beaten badly during the season but were now giving us fits. At a key point in the game I had to decide whether my team remain committed to 'our way' of playing, or putting the ball in the hands of our best player and saying, "go win the game for us."
    Coaches must exploit the talent they have, and in the long run that makes them more experienced and respected, which allows them to 'stay in the game' longer. In the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, "..if you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with..."
    Epilogue: those young men's names are hanging from a banner that says, 'Champions.'