Tennessee Titans  

 

Young may be gone, but Fisher's still on shaky ground

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With the rift between coach Jeff Fisher and quarterback Vince Young settled when owner Bud Adams opted to part ways with Young, the path to normalcy seems back in order in Nashville.

Seems to be -- but not quite.

Adams threw a wrinkle into things by saying the coaching staff remains under evaluation. We'll find out soon if that means just some of Fisher's assistants or if Fisher is included. The Titans aren't breaking out the wrecking ball, but through the process of elimination -- that being Young -- Tennessee has put itself in a process of reclamation.

In January and February, NFL.com took a look at the five pressing questions facing each team as it heads into the offseason.

AFC East:
» Buffalo Bills: Must remedy draft failures
» Miami Dolphins: Need to overcome awkwardness
» New England Patriots: Issues start on defense
» New York Jets: Rocky road to reach Super Bowl
AFC North:
» Baltimore Ravens: Immense pressure on Flacco
» Cincinnati Bengals: Distractions cloud team's future
» Cleveland Browns: New coach faces no easy fix
» Pittsburgh Steelers: Father Time is biggest hurdle
AFC South:
» Houston Texans: Big issues on defense
» Indianapolis Colts: Big decisions on key players
» Jacksonville Jaguars: Same issues haunt team
» Tennessee Titans: Big void at QB with Young gone
AFC West:
» Denver Broncos: Defense will dictate offseason
» Kansas City Chiefs: Sustaining is next challenge
» Oakland Raiders: Team has hope, questions
» San Diego Chargers: Bolts aim to bounce back
NFC East:
» Dallas Cowboys: More holes to fill than coach
» New York Giants: Many lingering questions
» Philadelphia Eagles: More drama on horizon
» Washington Redskins: Huge problems to tackle
NFC North:
» Chicago Bears: Cutler opens deep bag of issues
» Detroit Lions: Closing in on respectability
» Green Bay Packers: Champs face tricky offseason
» Minnesota Vikings: Uncertainty surrounds team
NFC South:
» Atlanta Falcons: Need help to take next step
» Carolina Panthers: Plenty of room to improve
» New Orleans Saints: Time to tackle backfield, D
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Next step won't be easy
NFC West:
» Arizona Cardinals: QB quandary still an issue
» San Francisco 49ers: Must settle QB situation
» Seattle Seahawks: Playoff run can't hide issues
» St. Louis Rams: Reason for optimism

What's next? Let's examine:

1. What does Young's departure mean for Fisher?

All indications are that Fisher will remain but more than ever, he will be under the microscope. There are a lot of people who think Fisher has gotten a pass for 16 seasons because he is a great guy and good coach in a small market. He's only been to one Super Bowl and that wouldn't fly in New York or Philly. He only has one year left on his contract and he could be a lame duck like John Fox was in Carolina. He could either fatten his appeal by bouncing back strong next season or suffer the same type of demise as Fox did -- especially if he can't find a quarterback.

Either way, Fisher could be a valued free-agent coach this time next year.

2. What do the Titans do at quarterback?

Rusty Smith and Kerry Collins don't look like the answers -- Adams already told GM Mike Reinfeldt to go find a QB, so Reinfeldt seems to also have been put on notice. It would be hard not to think Tennessee won't be in on trade talks for Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb. Detroit's Shaun Hill seems attractive as well. You would think Donovan McNabb and Kyle Orton would be discussed. Wouldn't it be ironic if they acquired Young's draft-class mate Matt Leinart? Tennessee (eight overall) should be in position to draft Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, Auburn's Cam Newton or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert (if they opt to forgo their senior seasons and declare their intentions to enter the 2011 NFL Draft).

3. What happens to Young?

Tennessee will try to trade him, but it likely will cut him because teams know he is due a roster bonus more than $4 million in March. Young should have some options -- it's hard not to think Al Davis and the Raiders won't explore things -- but he might not get more than a two-year deal and no promises wherever he ends up. He is a gifted player and this fresh start is what he needs. It's up to him to capitalize.

4. What coaching changes could be in store?

At least one could depend on offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's health. He is being treated for cancer. If he bounces back, he will be back. It's hard to tell where else on the staff change could come. Defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil had things working fairly well. The Titans got thrown a late curve ball when running backs coach Kennedy Pola bolted for USC during the summer, forcing QB coach Craig Johnson to take over at running backs. Dowell Loggains was thrust into being the quarterback coach after serving two seasons as an offensive quality control assistant.

5. What needs to happen for them to regain their mojo?

We have to see if the Young-Fisher divide in the locker room can be bridged with Young gone. At some point, some of Young's friends will have to let it go. A lot of players sided with Fisher anyway. With some key young players like Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, Michael Griffin, Alterraun Verner, Gerald McRath, and Jared Cook, among others, the cupboard is hardly bare. If DE Derrick Morgan comes back healthy, talent is there. The offensive line remains good. So much hinges on the quarterback and some leaders emerging. The lack of the latter was an issue.

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