Tennessee's Titanic Turnaround Goes Beyond Vince Young

Dave StanleyCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 29:  Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans waits to go back onto the field during their game against the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field on November 29, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Let me clear the air, get it out of the way and say this: I am not a Vince Young hater and never have been.  

Even during the season and a half where he was the backup quarterback after a dramatic benching, I knew that it would not, indeed, be the strange and bitter denouement to his career.  

It was too early for him to be a bust; his talent would prove useful somewhere, if not in Tennessee.

However, as most of us who don't live under rocks or in caves know, his career has been revitalized since he was thrown back into the starting lineup.  He's older—but not too much so—and wiser, displaying a maturity that many thought would never surface.

He's beating teams with his legs and arm, as evidenced by his late game heroics and southern-fried version of "The Drive" last Sunday.

And now, the Tennessee Titans, pure laughingstocks who looked up to the Cleveland Browns a mere six weeks ago, are on the fringes of the playoff hunt.

However, before the Vince Young bandwagon gets too full, I think that a point should be made—his resurgence, while a key component—is not the sole reason for the Titans' turnaround.  

It was merely the spark.  An important spark, yes, but not the be all end all.  

Hear me out on this.

Remember the first six weeks of the season, how mystifying and baffling Tennessee's winless start was?  With 20 of 22 starters returning, they theoretically should have picked up where they left off, especially with the same solid proven coach.

So, the talent was there.  As mentioned, the "better than their record" quotes were beginning to sound like, well, a broken record.  This was not a team that lacked key personnel; there wasn't any snarky "one receiver away from the Super Bowl" badinage.

But the game still has to be played and the Titans weren't playing it well. After the week three loss to the New York Jets, it became increasingly obvious that a change of some sort was needed.  

Of course, that change wouldn't come for three more games. There was a fine line that coach Jeff Fisher was treading, one that still might come to haunt the Titans as they make their surprising playoff push.

Instead of shaking things up, he opted to stay the course.  At the time, he deemed a quarterback change to be a move of desperation. Truth be told, you can't really blame the guy, he had a 50/50 chance and did the best he could. 

Of course, in hindsight, it's obvious what he should have—and ultimately did—do, which brings us full circle in my argument.   

While happy days are here again in Titan Nation, the fact remains that Young's insertion in the lineup and subsequent stellar play,is not the sole reason the Titans rediscovered their winning ways.

He was simply the right guy with the right style of play to help the offense play to its potential.  

And that's not to belittle his accomplishments either.  Please hold off on those "how can you say that?" emails.  His athleticism, maturity, and improved pocket presence have payed great dividends.  

Yet, this is obviously not a team that relies on him the way the Indianapolis Colts rely on Peyton Manning or the New Orleans Saints rely on Drew Brees.  

The offense runs through running back Chris Johnson.  He simply needed a speedy quarterback to take the burden off of him, even though he still did well with said burden.

And it's a funny thing, winning; it has a ripple effect. In addition to the aforementioned offensive improvement that Young sparked, the defense has begun to play better as well.  

Granted, the Titans probably won't produce as many Pro Bowlers as they did last year on that side of the ball, but judging by their renewed gusto, confidence has proven to be contagious.

Bottom line?  Young, who should be the runaway winner of the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award, was the catalyst for change in Tennessee, not the sole reason.

Of course, that could change if the Titans increasingly find themselves in positions where he has to use his talents alone and he succeeds.  

But at this point, their good fortunes should be more so attributed to everyone playing as well as they are capable.  

Giving Young all the credit makes for a good headline, yes.

But his story is still being written.