|Judi Bottoni / Associated Press|
|This much seems crystal clear: Either Jeff Fisher or Vince Young is leaving Tennessee. The question is, which one?|
NASHVILLE -- Bud Adams has made this bed for Jeff Fisher, Mike Reinfeldt and the rest of an organization hitting a crossroads.
Now, Adams has the unique opportunity to pull all those Titans out from under the rancid covers. All he has to do is end his love affair with fellow Houstonian Vince Young, keep Fisher in command and, in turn, restore order to a club that seems to be teetering on the edge of losing its way.
Let's make this crystal clear: Adams can't just allow the Titans' football folks to pursue other quarterbacks, or allow Fisher to swing the gates open on a training camp competition. A slap on the wrist won't suffice after what's happened over the last few months.
No, this time, someone needs to be fired, and that someone isn't Fisher. It's Young, the third overall pick in the 2006 draft and a player who's been coddled and spoiled since the seventh grade, to the point where it's ruined all legitimate chances the 27-year-old has had at making good on the potential the Titans saw in him as a Texas Longhorn.
What happened Monday isn't the reason why, because if it was isolated, it'd be workable, since Young isn't some guard on the practice squad. But it's most certainly an example of why he needs to go.
All players were required to be at the Titans facility for exit physicals and a final team meeting. Young didn't show. Fisher was asked why, and he responded, "You'd have to ask him."
The coach is clearly sick and tired of making excuses for a quarterback who's always had an ample supply of enablers, a group that includes (incredibly) Adams. And the coach is finally done with him for the same reason some of his teammates are now done with him, after that stunt Monday, and the reason why the club should be done with him. That reason is remarkably simple.
"He's quit on his teammates twice now," said one team source. "Enough said."
The first time was the famous incident from the 2008 opener, when Young refused to return to the game, and refused consoling from Albert Haynesworth (imagine that: Haynesworth was the voice of reason), after fans booed him from a pair of inexcusable picks. He lost his job from there, and the team went 13-3 with Kerry Collins. Fisher stuck up for Young, saying he hurt his hamstring, but the quarterback wouldn't get his job back until after the team's horrific 0-6 start in 2009.
The second time was in November, when Young childishly threw his pads in the stands after tearing a tendon in his thumb and told Fisher he was quitting on the coach, after the coach asked him not to quit on his teammates.
There's a reason why the locker room sided with Fisher this week, and why senior executive vice president Steve Underwood and general manager Reinfeldt implored Adams to keep Fisher at their summit on Monday, and that reason isn't because Young is destined to be the player he already thinks he is, or that Adams has always envisioned him being to carry out his revenge on Houston.
It's because he's so far in the wrong that right isn't even in sight. And that's because for so long he's been told he was right, regardless of what actually was right.
Now, what's right for everyone -- including Young -- is for this fractured relationship to be severed for good. Maybe then, the player will finally understand that being The Man in Houston or Austin doesn't make him a success as a man.
Remember, Fisher is a coach who's long created an environment friendly to players, a man who kept an early-20s Adam "Pacman" Jones in relative check (while he was at the facility, anyway) and got the best out of the petulant Haynesworth. Guys, almost uniformly, like playing for Fisher, and that's a reason why he's lasted the 16 years he has.
That's why it's really clear how far off Young is, and why the decision here is a simple one.
It also speaks to the loyalty Adams has to No. 10, since he's given Fisher, Reinfeldt and all the previous powers-that-be carte blanche over just about every other player that's passed through Nashville.
It won't be easy to say goodbye for Adams. It never is, when so much time has been invested in a quarterback. But we're far past the point of hearing Young "finally gets it," a refrain that's been repeated over and over.
The time is now.
Young is due a $4.25 million roster bonus on March 10, or shortly after whenever the 2011 league year begins, and is set to make $8.5 million in salary thereafter. Presuming this situation is unfixable, if Young were to stay and collect that money, Fisher would be fired and cost the team another $6 million. That adds up to $18.75 million for a player who's about as reliable as the National Enquirer, and that's without factoring the cost of a new coach.
So to keep Young, it'll cost Adams more than $20 million.
But the bigger cost will be the soul of a team that Fisher has set and maintained for a decade-and-a-half.
The coach, of course, doesn't need to put up with this. If Fisher's gone, he'll quickly be snapped up, and the team will be left with a very bad piece of precedent-setting in place and a leading man with regard only for himself.
It doesn't have to be that way, of course. And if Adams has his marbles when he's making this decision, it won't be.
Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer