The Titans’ signing of journeyman signal caller Kerry Collins should solidify a QB rotation that will eventually exclude ex Fresno State star, Billy Volek. As mentioned in these pages several weeks ago, Jeff Fisher’s intention was to have Volek in ‘showcase mode’ during this preseason, and was reflected in fact that he took the majority of snaps during the Titan’s 3 recent losses. Volek was successful on 24 of 38 passes for 266 yards with 1 interception while Vince Young also threw a pick in completing 21 of 40 for 277. Neither QB tossed a TD pass. In fact, the Titans have managed to get to the end zone but twice the entire preseason with one of those being a garbage score with 3 and a half minutes to go in a 35-10 drubbing by the Broncos.
In Collins, the Titans obtain a much traveled veteran who has seen his share of controversy during his 11 years in the league. His battle with alcoholism became public prior to the 1997 season, his last year in Carolina, and came on the heels of a racial incident in which he used the ‘n word’ in referring to then Panther teammate Mushin Muhammad. Carolina released Collins midway through the 98 season, and after a brief stint with the Saints, the Penn State grad signed on with the Giants with whom he spent the next 5 years, highlighted by an unsuccessful trip to Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, after leading NY to a 12-4 record in 2000 and a 41-0 demolition of the Vikings in the NFC Championship game.
Collins downfall in NY proved to be a 4-12 record in 2003, which paved the way for a the Giant’s selection of Eli Manning as the number one overall pick in the 2004 draft. Collins became very much expendable at that point, and signed on with the Raiders prior to the 2004 season to back up then QB Rich Gannon. A neck injury to Gannon put Collins in the spotlight as the starter, and while his numbers were fairly impressive over the last 2 seasons, his won loss record of 7-21 was not. The Raiders cut Collins in March, thus clearing the way for his 1 year, 2 million dollar contract signing with the Titans.
Look for Collins to learn the offense quickly, and serve as a mentor to Vince Young. With guaranteed money of almost 30 million dollars, Young is the obvious heir apparent to the starting position, but for now, Young will be an observer while Collins assumes the reigns, temporarily I can assure you.
That leaves Volek, who has completed in excess of 60% of his passes over the last 3 seasons with a 2 to 1 (26 to 13) TD to interception ratio, as odd man out.. Potential suitors include Indianapolis, where back up QB Jim Sorgi is hurting, Kansas City, who is woefully thin at QB behind the aging Trent Green, and San Diego who released Jay Feeley on Monday thus leaving the Chargers with only 2 signal callers in the inexperienced Phillip Rivers, and his sore shoulder, backed up by 3rd round draft pick Charlie Whitehurst. If the Chargers do not pursue Volek, it is likely Schottenheimer will wait until the regular season begins to land a veteran so he will not have to guarantee the contract. With ex Buffalo Bill QB Rob Johnson having been cut by the Giants on Tuesday, look for Marty to make a play for the ex USC star, who currently makes his home in Laguna Beach, just a short distance from San Diego.
On a more insane note, Raider coach Art Shell dug into his own version of a black hole, and pulled out perennial underachiever and crybaby, Jeff George, who has not thrown a pass in this NFL since 2001. In his next to last game played in the league , George and then Redskin coach Marty Schottenheimer became embroiled in a highly energized conversation after the coach benched the his starting QB en route to a season opening 30-3 loss to the Chargers. George started and managed to somehow finish the next game, completing 15 of 24 passes with 1 interception for 102 yards in a 37-0 embarrassment to the Packers. George was released shortly thereafter. His final numbers with the Redskins saw him complete 23of 42 passes for 168 with 3 INTs, worthy of a 34.6 QB rating
Since his release, George has signed contracts with Seattle (2002) and Chicago (2004), but never took a snap for either club, serving only as an emergency back up.
With the exception of the 1999 season, in which he led the Vikings to a 10-6 record after taking over for Randall Cunningham while the team was struggling with a 2-4 record, and in the process compiling a 94.1 rating, George’s tenures have been marked by tumultuous relationships and controversial endings.
While playing for Indianapolis, he feuded with then coach Ted Marchibroda and made obscene gestures to the hometown fans, thus securing his departure after the 1993 season from the team that drafted him out of Illinois.
A sideline confrontation with then coach June Jones all but officially ended his 3 year stay in Atlanta, with the result being a one game suspension and George being benched for the remainder of the season.
On to Oakland where George enjoyed success as a vertical passer, but became disenchanted with Jon Gruden’s west coast offense, and effectively ended his days as a Raider by telling a local radio station that he was finished for the year while nursing a groin injury, which came as a shock to the team. He then signed with the Vikings.
In this, his second stint as a Raider, one must wonder what coach Art Shell is thinking, especially considering Oakland’s trio of quarterbacks in starter and free agent signee Aaron Brooks, as well back ups Marques Tuiasosopo, and Andrew Walter. The bet here is that Tuiasosopo will be released or traded for a later round draft choice, though George’s presence does presentan interesting theory, particularly if the Raiders plan on keeping 4 quarterbacks on the roster.
In the 1995-96 NBA season, center Jack Haley played a very unusual role in the Bulls record breaking 72 win season. The towel waving journeyman center out of UCLA played in only one regular season game, and did not make any playoff appearances, in spite of the many blowout victories by Jordan and company. Haley took on the unofficial role of baby sitter for reputed bad boy Dennis Rodman, with whom he shared a close relationship. Such a distraction was Rodman, that then Bulls coach Phil Jackson was willing to dedicate one of twelve roster slots to Haley, who scored 5 points in his lone appearance that season.
Cut to the Raiders who carry baggage in the form of a 9th year receiver out of Marshall in Randy Moss, who typifies the attitude problems that plague many NFL supers stars.
Moss’ on and off the field issues are well documented in having worn out his welcome in Minnesota before signing with Raiders prior to least season. As if not running out his patterns were bad enough, Moss once ran over a city worker in downtown Minneapolis who stood in front of his car in an attempt to prevent the star receiver from making an illegal u-turn.
To this point, Moss has kept his composure as a Raider, though his 60 catches for 1005 yards during last years’ inaugural campaign could be considered a disappointment in comparison to what he achieved as a Viking. Feigning injuries are often a sign of discontent, and Moss could often be heard grumbling about his hurtin hammy.
Could Jeff George, former weekend fishing buddy, and labeled by Moss as the ‘best quarterback he ever played with’, be the stabilizing force that leads to a resurgance of Moss’s numbers, or will he be released in time to join Boy George in performing community service on the streets of Manhattan, which began 2 weeks ago?
It should be interesting how this plays out, but for Raider fans, my money says that the silver lining fades to black.