In the last few weeks the Titans have actually started to get the national attention and respect one would expect an undefeated team to receive (about 10% of the coverage that last year’s Patriots got). Whispers of Kerry Collins as a potential MVP have circulated in the last month, and his performance in the Titans’ last two victories have done nothing to stop that. Whether or not you think Collins’ name has any business in a MVP conversation, for a myriad of reasons his play this season has easily been one of the most surprising stories this year. Some of the nation’s best sports writers have begun, and will probably continue, to weigh in on Kerry Collins, not only in terms of his play, but also his “personal redemption” story. The juxtaposition of Collins’ pre-Titans career (and the likely “what could have been?” stories) next to his steady hand in guiding the Titans to a 10-0 record (and the potential lessons for Vince Young) is apparently interesting to a number of people outside of Tennessee. Here are some excerpts from a couple of our favorites:
Pondering a potential Titans-Giants Super Bowl, ESPN‘s Bill Simmons has this to say about Collins:
What I don’t understand is why people don’t trust Collins; he has been the league’s most consistent QB this season. It’s not even close. I think he’s legit for this reason: He has the right pedigree, only his career was derailed for whatever reason — immature, drank too much, partied too much, didn’t want it badly enough, wasn’t tough enough, lost his confidence, maybe even all of those reasons — and now he’s settled into a better place in life, which you can see in the way he carries himself, leads his team and gets better in big moments. It’s a little like Robert Downey Jr. during the “Iron Man” and “Tropic Thunder” portion of his career, actually. Did you ever think Downey would headline a $1 billion movie? Of course not. Now he’s one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The point is, you never know what will happen to talented/troubled/immature people when they get older and things calm down for them. If you don’t like Tennessee’s Super Bowl chances because of Collins, you need to find a better reason. You really do.
ESPN’s Rick Reilly (it’s still weird to me that he’s no longer with Sports Illustrated) also looks into Kerry’s past. Reilly points out that while Collins’ has had his share of rough patches in the road, he’s never made excuses (unlike: Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Pete Rose, etc., etc., etc.):
This is why I like Kerry Collins. Whether he plays like Fran Tarkenton or Fran Drescher, he never makes excuses.
After he performed like a Xanaxed ferret in the 2001 Super Bowl, lobbing four picks to the Ravens in the Giants’ blowout loss, he stood at the podium postgame and said, “I sucked today. I was prepared. I was ready. I just played terrible.”
No matter how he screws up his life—and the young Collins found more ways than MapQuest—he always faces the music. Hell, he sticks his face in the tuba.
When he was a drunk—ol’ Vodka Collins—he went to rehab and admitted his alcoholism to the world. When he used racial insults to “bond” with teammates—and got a black eye for it—he admitted that he was trying to be funny and just wasn’t. When it came out back in 1998 that he’d told his 0–4 Panthers he didn’t have the heart to bring them back, he didn’t lie. He really believed it. “One of the 12 steps is being honest with yourself,” Collins says today, “and, in a sense, being honest with others. Making amends, you know? It’s necessary.”
While Reilly obviously points to Collins’ growth (even though the journey was often far from pretty) he also notes that Vince Young might not realize or accept how Collins’ example could help his own maturation on and off the field:
Here’s the irony: Collins is the Titans’ starter—and an unlikely MVP candidate, at 35—because the kid he replaced doesn’t know how to handle it yet. Vince Young melted down in the second week of the season. There was talk of guns, confusion and suicide. Even his mother said her boy was “hurting inside and out.”
And yet sitting at the next locker was a man who once made Britney Spears look Amish. Still, Young has never asked Collins to help him.
Somebody should. Because Collins found out the hard way.
Well, regardless of how Tennessee’s season turns out, it’s hard not to feel good about where Collins is these days. The truth, though, is that the majority of the battles that Collins has faced in his career/life were already in the rear view mirror by the time he was a Super Bowl quarterback with the Giants almost a decade ago. I think that the real “human element” story here isn’t Kerry’s past (however well documented it still is), but the potential he has in imparting some wisdom from that past to certain high-profile teammate, as alluded to by Reilly (I’ll give you one guess who). As Titan Sized friend FatAlbertPainsworth observed, Vince Young has become more of a sideline presence over the last week or two, and might be coming to terms with the situation as it is. Just because the Titans have done this well this season without him doesn’t mean that the Titans don’t need VY for many seasons to come. Not to sound like a broken record, but with Young’s limitless potential and numerous years ahead of him, Collins’ presence and influence (if Young can really “get it”) could prove to be a better short and long term fix than anyone would have imagined.
Kerry Collins probably won’t show Vince Young how to make the throws or read the defenses an NFL quarterback needs to (and as a player that’s far from his job description). Collins does though, as a teammate with some unique experiences, have the opportunity to help Young cope with how to handle some of those throws that won’t always go exactly where they’re expected. Both on and off the field.