Nope, that's not a photoshopped image. Vince Young and Jeff Fisher really did hug it out on the sidelines, at least this one time.
Hard to believe, I know, but it's true. All it is now though, is a distant, almost ironic memory of a time seemingly long gone (or more accurately, a time that never really was).
Now, it's time to pick up the pieces and decide where the Tennessee Titans go from here. Vince Young is out. But Jeff Fisher's still there—for now.
What does this new development mean for Fisher's future in the Music City? And how will Young move forward? Keep reading...
The simple fact is that Jeff Fisher kept his job while Vince Young is now looking for a new one.
Wherever he ends up, whether he's released or traded (count on Young being gone either way by March 10th, when he's due a $4.25 million roster bonus), he's going to have to convince his new team not just to give him a roster spot, but to really give him the job. And at this point, that may just be a hard sell.
Fisher, on the other hand, keeps his status and his legacy intact. He's still got Chris Johnson, one of the best running backs in the league, to build around. Yeah, he needs a new quarterback now (sorry, all you fans of 38-year-old, over-the-hill signal callers), but all that means is that he's in the same boat as a lot of other teams around the league.
Yeah, he has to win a job in a new city. But hey, he gets to win a job in a new city!
That's right. No more mind games on the sidelines with a power hungry coach. No more having to live up to the crushing pressure of having been the number three overall draft pick. No more knowing that he was the owner's pick, not the coach's.
Vince Young now truly gets to start his career. He gets to just be a quarterback. And if we've learned nothing else from his saga over the last five years, it's that he does things best when he gets to keep things simple. Go out and play. Be who you are.
If he's able to do that and forget about all the baggage, he may finally start to prove his doubters wrong. It won't be the first time that a change of scenery was the best thing to happen to an athlete.
Jeff Fisher's been the head coach of the Tennessee Titans for so long, he predates the team.
That's right, he's actually been around since the franchise was still the Houston Oilers. How many of you reading this article even remember them as the Oilers?
Over that time, he's built up a lot of clout within the organization and a great deal of trust with owner Bud Adams (hmm... building trust...a novel idea). That clout and that trust has earned him the win in this battle.
He's put in the years, he's done his time. Young always seemed to feel like he was entitled to something just because of who he was. Not in this league, Vince. If he's learned one thing out of this whole mess, let it have been this: In the NFL, you have to earn it.
Sure, VY has an uncertain future.
But he doesn't walk away from this chapter in his career without having accomplished something. He showed that there's disharmony and division in the Titans' locker room that goes beyond him.
And to those who choose to take his side (and there are many who already have), he emerges as an admired whistle blower, like a government informant blowing the lid on deep-seated corruption that has infiltrated the ranks.
Things won't be the same at LP Field in 2011, and Vince Young at least gets partial credit for that. Hey, you gotta take the wins where you can get them.
With all the aforementioned tenure and trust that Jeff Fisher has built up over his 17 years with the franchise, he currently finds himself with just one year left on his contract.
As he's owed $6.5 million for that one year, he can theoretically rest easy that he's not going anywhere yet. But what about after that?
There are plenty, in Nashville and elsewhere, who see what happened here this week and interpret it as a sign that owner Bud Adams must still see Fisher in his plans for the future, otherwise, why side with him over a 27-year-old QB?
Adams is one of the league's old guard, and he likes what he knows. He knows Fisher. And that means good things for the coach.
For all the talk and the turmoil in Nashville since Vince Young's arrival back in 2006, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the simple facts: Vince Young has been a winner in the NFL.
That's right, not just in college at Texas, but in the pros with the Titans. His record as a starting quarterback stands at 30-17. He won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in his first season after dramatically leading the team back from an 0-5 start to an 8-8 finish and the brink of a playoff berth.
This year, he finished his abbreviated season with a 98.6 quarterback rating, by far the best of his career. On the field, at least, he was starting to show real signs of growth, with 10 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions.
He could just be starting to enter his prime. His best years could still be ahead of him. Can the same thing really be said at this point about Fisher, who has only had a winning record six times in 17 years, and who last led the Titans to a playoff victory seven years ago?
It's well known that on draft day in 2006, it was Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams who was the one that called the shot.
Adams was enamored with Vince Young's potential and athletic ability after his mesmerizing championship performance against USC. He felt a kinship with the fellow native Houstonian. He pushed his staff to call Young's name third overall.
Coach Fisher, meanwhile, is believed to have preferred USC's Matt Leinart. Leinart was a more polished passer and already would have been familiar with then offensive coordinator Norm Chow's system, as Chow had come to Tennessee directly from the Trojans.
That feeling of disparity between the way the owner and the coach viewed Young remained. It was Fisher's call to keep Young benched when Kerry Collins was leading the team to a 13-3 record in 2008. It was Adams' directive that led to Young being reinstated as the starter after an 0-6 start in 2009.
So, interpreting the significance of the owner finally forced to definitively choose one over the other, choosing Fisher is easy. Score one for the moustache.
Few stories in life are more inspiring and more cathartic than that of a fallen hero.
Down on his luck, misunderstood, underappreciated, rejected, exiled, only to rise from the ashes and prove to everyone, including himself, and especially his former tormentors, his true worth. American cinema has recycled that basic story so many times now that it's become ingrained in the very fabric of our society.
This is the opportunity Vince Young finds himself presented with. It doesn't really matter what actually happened behind closed doors anymore, who's telling 'the truth,' whatever that is. What matters for Young is that this is the chance of a lifetime to prove all of his doubters wrong and emerge that much stronger and more beloved in the end.
Let's face it, he'll get another chance somewhere. It's a matter of when, not if. Now he just needs to make the most of it.
For as romanticized as picking up the pieces and rising again is, in reality, it's damn hard.
You have to learn an entirely new system, get comfortable with an entirely new group of people. You have one strike against you because despite it being a 'new start,' people do have memories. You're older, your ego is bruised. You have to be pretty strong to shed all of that and rise again.
Of course, on the other side of that, we have someone who gets to stay in a familiar environment with familiar people and basically keep the status quo going. You also have someone who has shown they can run someone out of town if they step out of line, even someone who was supposed to be the face of the franchise.
So in many respects, Fisher has consolidated his power.
One of the twisted pleasures that anyone can get upon hearing that they've been ousted is knowing that if they're going down, they're taking a bunch of other people down with them.
That's exactly what Vince Young can take away from this messy divorce, as the understanding around Nashville is that while Jeff Fisher will survive with his post intact, the rest of the coaching staff won't be so lucky.
Owner Bud Adams realizes that the shortcomings on the field aren't 100% VY's fault, and he's looking to revitalize an assistant staff that could only muster enough fight to get the Titans to be the 27th ranked offense and the 26th ranked defense in the league (both in terms of yards per game).
That's not gonna get it done, with Vince Young or anyone else behind center.
Yeah. There's really no two ways about it. Fisher decidedly won this battle of wills, and for good reason.
For all of the immense Talent that Vince Young clearly still possesses, he also has never been able to shed the immaturity and instability that has plagued him throughout his pro career. Throwing tantrums after games, publicly demeaning your coach, missing team meetings for no reason; these are all things that speak to what's inside Young, regardless of his environment.
The best people (and players) are able to make the best of what's around them, even in difficult circumstances. Young has never been able to do that. He's also never really taken responsibility for his actions. Saying "that's just me" as a way of explaining his disruptive behavior simply doesn't make the grade. Until he shows that he's actually gained some perspective, he'll never truly emerge as a leader in this league.
While many of his soon-to-be ex-teammates have expressed sadness at his imminent departure, many throughout his career have also admitted that even they never really trusted him to hold the reins of their team. And when your own teammates are doubting you, you have problems that go beyond "my coach doesn't like me."