Now that Vince Young is on his way out the door, there are no excuses left for Jeff Fisher.
Operating under the reasonably safe assumption that it was Young or Fisher and not both that were going to depart this off-season, Fisher's task is now clear. Either he remakes the Titans yet again his own image and produces a winner or else.
Fisher has had 16 full seasons as coach of the franchise, far longer than any other man who has ever worked for Bud Adams. He has produced six winning seasons in those 16 years, and given that Adams just jettisoned one of his all-time favorites in Young to accommodate his head coach, then it is clear that the types of seasons Fisher has produced of late are no longer acceptable. And that he no longer has the convenient excuse of having to play an immature and entitled quarterback he never wanted in the first place.
Fisher, of course, benefits from the fact that Adams is 800 miles away in Houston and is not on-site in Nashville on a daily basis. But the coach is operating currently without a safety net. He has one year left on his current contract, and barring a surprise extension as a “reward” for a 6-10 finish, he's going to have to earn his next contract with the Titans or elsewhere.
Throughout the Titans losing eight of nine to close the year, Fisher's point of emphasis was that the Titans needed stability and continuity at the quarterback position. True. Fisher was tired of waiting for Young to grow up and tired of him being undependable and less than dedicated.
But the fact of the matter is that, for all his faults, Young probably represented the Titans' best chance to be competitive in the short term. His 30-17 record is somewhat tainted by the fact that most of those wins came against teams with losing records or with the Titans effectively eliminated from playoff consideration. But with a potential lockout looming and preventing trades or free agent signings until it is resolved, going into the off-season with the quarterback position in limbo is a big-time gamble on Fisher's and the Titans' part.
Kerry Collins is 38 and a free agent, and even if he returns, he has admitted that his days as a full-time starter over 16 (or 18?) games may be over. Chris Simms is a free agent as well and has hardly seen any game action in the past four years. And Rusty Smith was a raw rookie with a lot left to learn before he is ready to start.
Fisher could spend the No. 8 pick in the draft on a quarterback and solve the problem long-term. But if he does that, Fisher had better get some sort of assurance that he will still be around to reap the fruits of that labor, because the excuses and time are running out.
On Monday, Fisher said the seat in his office chair wasn't hot, but stay tuned, because things could be heating up.