NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jeff Fisher keeps repeating it: There’s no quarterback controversy in Tennessee, and Vince Young will start Sunday against the New York Giants and for the rest of the season.
His conviction didn’t stop the questions Monday about his QB situation.
Quarterback continued to be the hot topic after Fisher benched Young for the final quarter of their 19-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While there’s plenty of blame to go around on offense — the Titans (1-1) committed seven turnovers — Young had two interceptions and a fumble and was the center of attention.
Fisher didn’t say if he’s talked with Young about his decision to yank him and play backup Kerry Collins. But Fisher made it clear what he expects.
“He shouldn’t like it,” Fisher said of the move. “No one you take out of the game should. Do you expect them to like it? No, they shouldn’t like it.
“I would expect any player who was replaced for any reason not to be happy with it, but what you do is you come back to work, you work harder and you improve. That’s the game. This is not an easy position to play. You saw what happened around the league” Sunday.
Young wasn’t the only quarterback benched Sunday after struggles on the field. But he is the quarterback who lost his job to Kerry Collins two seasons ago in the opener and didn’t get it back until the Titans started 0-6 last year. Tennessee had been 9-2 with Young back at quarterback until seemingly no one could hold onto the ball.
Fisher said the entire team — except the defense — had a bad day against Pittsburgh. The coaches probably had too much in the game plan, asking too much of the offense against the Steelers’ defense. Fisher defended even that, saying the extensive game plan reflected how far Young’s come in his fifth NFL season.
“I’m not disappointed in him or his development, his path or anything like that. It’s a decision I made to try to win the ballgame,” Fisher said.
Young talked to reporters after the loss, something even he admitted he wouldn’t have done after ugly losses early in his career. He took the blame for being intercepted in the end zone in the first quarter by Troy Polamalu, saying he had his eyes in the wrong spot.
He also shrugged off not getting a roughing call when Steelers linebacker James Harrison slammed him to the ground during a sack on his final play. Young was thrown down with his shoulder and neck slamming into the turf. He laid on the ground for a couple minutes before walking off and later said he might get those calls when he’s a top quarterback in the NFL.
Fisher said Monday he thought a flag should have been thrown for roughing the passer.
“Maybe it was the heat,” Fisher said.
Young tweeted Monday an apology to fans for his performance against Pittsburgh.
“I will continue to get better,” Young posted on Twitter.
On paper, he was 7 of 10 for 66 yards. But he was sacked twice with the three turnovers.
The Titans have plenty to fix. Ball security will be a focus this week in practice after rookie Marc Mariani had the ball knocked loose on Tennessee’s first kickoff return. Collins had a pass intercepted on his first series and a fumble as well.
Even Chris Johnson, the NFL’s rushing leader since 2008, fumbled for just the fifth time in his career when someone’s knee poked the ball out of his arms. It was his next carry after his 85-yard touchdown run was erased by a holding penalty.
“We have to do a much better job of protecting the football. At all costs,” Fisher said.
Despite all the turnovers, the quarterback change almost worked. Collins drove the Titans 85 yards for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion with 58 seconds left. They recovered an onside kick only to see a defender knock the ball out of Nate Washington’s hands in the final seconds.
Now they prepare for a trip to New York and their first road game this season trying to avoid a second straight loss.
Fisher said his team simply needs to rehydrate.
“We’re not in that must-win thing, but we’re in a situation where we have to play better in order to win,” Fisher said.
Notes: The one serious injury from the game happened to defensive line coach Jim Washburn. A player rolled into Washburn on the sideline in the first half, and Fisher said the assistant will be on crutches for up to six weeks.