AFC South: Chris Chandler

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kathy on Facebook feels funny seeing the Tennessee Titans preparing to wear old Houston Oilers uniforms Sunday night in the Hall of Fame Game and three more times during the regular season.

 
  ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
  The Titans will don Oilers jerseys at the Hall of Fame Game to celebrate the franchise's 50th anniversary.

I tweeted early in practice that I found the light blue helmets "visually arresting." They'll be paired with blue jerseys and white pants for the game.

Responded Kathy: "The whole Oiler/Titan, Texas to Tennessee is just one huge bag of mixed feelings!"

A lot of people seem torn up over the concept, but the facts are the facts. The two franchises are one, and in a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the AFL, it's appropriate for the Titans to give a nod to their previous life as the Oilers.

Vince Young grew up in Houston rooting for the Oilers, and said he's excited about the chance to put on a uniform of the team that became the Tennessee Oilers in 1997, and became extinct two years later when the change-over to Titans became official.

"It doesn't make me feel uncomfortable, I'm pretty excited about it," Young said. "A lot of memories, a whole bunch of memories. It's the team's history. I'm looking forward to it. I've been talking to [fellow Houstonian and rookie cornerback Ryan] Mouton all day, I was like 'These guys don't know anything about this on their helmet right now.' So we've been having fun with it.

"Definitely they look sharp, I'm a big fan of it. It's a dream come true, growing up watching the Oilers, watching Chris Chandler, Warren Moon, Lamar Lathon ... I know a lot of the history of the Oilers. It's very cool to put the logo on."

Here's some further debate on teams carrying their history with them after they move.

Brad Meyers wrote on Facebook:

"Hey Paul, how do you think Raven's fans would like it if they wore "throwback" browns helmets, or the Chiefs fans if they had to wear Dallas Texan throwbacks? A lot of us without accents don't like it. I also don't like the fact that Warren Moon, George Blanda and Earl Campbell are on the Titan's ring of honor. Once the former city got a new team those type of ties should stick with the city. Not the franchise. All that said the helmets are sharp. Just not a big fan of the fact that we have to wear them."

I understand that thinking, and it's nice that the Browns' history stayed in Cleveland as part of their deal to relocate to Baltimore. But the fact is, an owner owns the team and the team comes with history.

 
  AP Photo
  Steve McNair saw limited time at quarterback in his rookie season in 1995, giving him time to hone his craft.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Steve McNair might be the last big quarterback drafted in the first round out of a historically black college, Len Pasquarelli wrote Monday.

The former Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens quarterback, who was shot and killed on Saturday, also might be one of the last quarterbacks drafted high to benefit from a team's plan to bring him along slowly.

As a rookie in 1995 with the then-Houston Oilers, he sat the first 12 games except for two series of mop-up action in one game. In the first 27 games of his career, McNair had one start. Then he took over as the lead guy.

Starting line
Steve McNair made just six starts in his first two seasons, fewer than any top-10 quarterback drafted since 1995 besides San Diego's Philip Rivers. Here's a list of starts in first two seasons for QBs who were top-10 picks since 1995.
Rookie Year Player Starts in first two seasons
2004 Philip Rivers 0
1995 Steve McNair 6
1998 Ryan Leaf 9*
2003 Carson Palmer 13
1999 Akili Smith 15
2001 Michael Vick 17
2006 Matt Leinart 16
2007 JaMarcus Russell 16
2008 Matt Ryan 16+
1999 Tim Couch 21
1999 Donovan McNabb 22
2004 Eli Manning 23
1995 Kerry Collins 25
2005 Alex Smith 25
2002 David Carr 27
2003 Byron Leftwich 27
2002 Joey Harrington 28
2006 Vince Young 28
1998 Peyton Manning 32
* Did not play in 1999
+One season
--David Bearman, ESPN Stats & Information
San Diego's Philip Rivers worked behind Drew Brees his first two years, appearing in four games and starting none. Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, the top pick in the 2003 draft, didn't play a snap as a rookie before taking over as the starter in Year 2.

But more and more, giving a young quarterback time to observe early-on is a luxury teams simply can't afford.

A team that spends a top-10 pick on a quarterback has made a huge financial investment. He's a guy expected to turn the team around. He's probably lined up as the franchise's top marketing tool. And the possibility of having a quality veteran willing to take on a short-term job ahead of him is lower now, as there are typically plenty of teams offering better opportunity.

And, of course, if a team waits on the kid, it could wind up developing a guy who will move on as a free agent and play his best football somewhere else. Or the team puts itself in a position to have to make a decision on a second contract before it knows exactly what it has.

The Titans intended to bring Vince Young along in a fashion similar to the one they utilized with McNair. An 0-5 start in 2006 and a nudge from the team's owner changed that, but ultimately the job proved too much for Young and the Titans turned to Kerry Collins.

"I think times have changed and you'd want to see him play sooner," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of the likelihood a high pick ever gets the sort of developmental plan McNair got. "We clearly had a plan and that was to bring him along slowly. But it's hard to say, they are all different. ...

"We may have been to the Super Bowl in [1998], who knows if Steve had played earlier. But you won't see that approach again in this day and age."

Jerry Rhome, the Oilers' offensive coordinator for McNair's first two years with the club, said the young quarterback handled the apprentice period well.

"He was not ready to play.... Jumping from Alcorn State to the NFL, that's a heck of a jump even though he had a lot of ability," Rhome said. "It was a really good situation, a luxury where you could let him bide his time and to get better and better. I don't think there is any doubt, if you've got the luxury, it's going to help the quarterback. That's not a bad thing at all. If you're in dire need, that may be a different ball game."

Rhome said that while Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Joe Flacco in Baltimore came out and did well as rookies last year, both had spent five years in college and had experience at major programs -- Ryan at BC, Flacco at Pittsburgh before he transferred to Delaware.

By design, the 1995-96 Oilers had a quarterback they were comfortable starting while McNair watched.

Chris Chandler played some good football for them those two seasons, but later admitted he didn't approach the mentoring aspect of his job as he should have. The unflappable McNair never seemed to let that bother him, and he went on to be especially kind to young quarterbacks who were on the roster during his career.

Brad Hopkins played left tackle for McNair's Oilers and Titans, protecting the quarterback's blindside. He thought the franchise's approach with McNair early on really helped set him on the right course.

"Have you seen these young quarterbacks falling by the wayside?" Hopkins asked. "Do you know why they are? Because the pressure is immense for young quarterbacks to get in and respond when they don't have the maturity level to do that. We expect Vince Young to come in here and perform at a Brett Favre-type level when he just put away his Texas Longhorns helmet.

"It's just not going to happen. Because not only is it a physical process, it's a mental process to be able to grasp the pressures of being an NFL quarterback. For [McNair] to have two years watching other quarterbacks grow and make mistakes, that definitely [helped] his career. It made him a better person. Because here he is, knowing he's not capable of leading this team and accepting that, waiting his time, waiting his turn and then taking advantage of it once it got there."

***

One extra: Doug Farrar crunched McNair's numbers for The Washington Post and concluded his body of work is most similar to those of Phil Simms, Steve Bartkowski and Jim Kelly.

Mailbag: Before the clock starts

April, 25, 2009
4/25/09
1:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Greg in Chicago writes: Been a while since I read the blog. In re: Young, Cutler, etc... congratulations. You join every generation before yours in believing that those younger than you feel entitled.

Paul Kuharsky: Point taken. I just turned 40 and find myself saying, "Kids today..." too often. Nevertheless, I stand by the opinion. Jay Cutler, Vince Young and Matt Leinart don't strike me as guys who came into the league hell-bent on earning their way and proving their worth with hard work.

I covered Jeff Hostetler and didn't think he felt entitled. Same for Chris Chandler and Steve McNair.


Garrison in Indianapolis writes: If Edge gets released in Arizona, any chance the Colts bring him back? Given Addai's ineffectiveness since halftime of the '07 Patriots game, Edge would probably feel like he could have the chance to start or heavily contribute in a backfield committee a la Rhodes and Addai in '06. He still maintains friendships with a lot of the players on the team and his relationship with management is nice enough that he has a Colts Super Bowl ring.

Paul Kuharsky: Possible if he'd do it for cheap. His friendships with other players on the team are irrelevant in this scenario. And if the Colts draft a back, I think they'll probably consider the position addressed. Bill Polian indicated Friday he likes the crop he already has.


Kobe in Newport writes: will the jaguars still pursue michael crabtree or jeremy maclin? or will they go after sanchez? I think that getting crabtree or maclin opens up all of the options for garrard and mo-jo. That would make the offense explosive and the defense has plenty of holes but it also has playmakers. Can you give me a prediction of the jags this coming year if they get maclin or crabtree?

Paul Kuharsky: The pick could be Crabtree or Maclin if they are there. I don't see them taking Sanchez, I see them trying to trade the spot to someone who wants Sanchez.

I still think they'd be the last-place team in the division. They have a lot of issues beyond receiver and it'll be hard to address them all with one draft.


Tobin in Denver writes: Reading through the blog mock draft, and I am shocked you would make the statement that Clay Matthews is a high-character athlete. This is the same Clay Matthews that created the group, "White Nation," which featured a graphic with the caption, "arrest black babies before they become criminals" on Facebook as a junior at USC. Whether a joke or not, this is not high-character and can not be brushed aside as being a stupid college kid not knowing the extent of his actions. I can't believe every sports media outlet disregards this fact. I hope some of his new non-white teammates give him a proper welcome to the NFL.

Paul Kuharsky: A fair point for sure and I should have been more careful with my wording there. I do believe, however, that Matthews is regarded by most scouts and teams as a good-character guy who did something very stupid, not as a guy with an incident in his past that suggests a future filled with more of them.


Brian in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Would love your opinion on the new threads. To me the home jeresey looks a lot like the Eagles and the limited teal in the away is a bit confusing as Teal is supposed to be the primary. The biggest point of contention is the lack of gold in the uniform yet the logo uses it for shadow effect. I do think they look sleeker but as someone who thinks the Colts have a timeless look it is hard to fully grasp the think stripes over the thick ones.

Paul Kuharsky: I think simpler is better so I like what they've done and I don't mind the disappearance of the gold. I like the predictable home and away setup for a team without a lot of history or identity. I agree with you about the absence of teal in the road uniforms.

The pictures I've seen of the helmets haven't given me a true sense, I don't think. I worry the sparkle may make them look like the hoods of some of those Camaros from the early 80s. Look forward to seeing them in person at some OTAs in June.


Tom from Tempe, Ariz., writes: Would the jaguars have any interest in trading for a veteran like boldin? his physical style of play would do well for their offensive mindset, and as alot of people question his ability to separate from top level corners and double coverage, wouldn't the huge focus on the running game open him up alot? ... or does this scenario seem really unlikely - if they could even convince arizona to give him up.

Paul Kuharsky: No. The Jaguars are looking to stockpile picks, not deal them. If they trade two for Boldin, they've addressed wide receiver and killed their chances to effectively address a bunch of other spots like offensive line, defensive tackle and defensive back.


Andrew from parts unknown writes: With the draft this Saturday everyone is trying to fill holes left in their lineup. Who are the free agents which might fill some holes in the AFC south (especially my Texans)if the draft doesn't play out they want? I don't think this in particular would necessarily be good, but something like adding Rodney Harrison to the team to teach the young guys how to play better, add depth at a weak point and teach the team how to win when it is expected to (like against Oakland last year).

Paul Kuharsky: There are no major answers out there -- more role players, pieces and projects. Now some guys can get released after teams draft their replacements. Harrison to Houston could be intriguing, but I think they want to be younger.

But I don't believe in bringing in veterans with the objective of having them mentor. Mentoring is a nice additional bonus if they can play, but they have to be able to play. There are coaches in place to coach.


Zach in Blacksburg, Va., writes: I cannot fathom why David "Deacon" Jones is not on the list. He is arguably one of the greatest defensive ends in football history. He was drafted in the 16th round in the 14th round. Like Jerry Rice, who tops the list, he went to Mississippi Valley State (for one year). Anyone that makes an NFL team from this school is of hidden and/or underrated value. Jones not only made the LA Rams team; he made the LA Rams into a team. He is one of their greatest players of all time. As an end, he redefined the position and even contributed to football vocabulary with the term: sack. All in all, the list is good and helps show that the draft isn't over after the first round, and in the case of guys like
Jeff Saturday
, the entire draft.

Paul Kuharsky: Zach is referring to this post about ESPN Stats & Information's list of the top draft values of all-time, and I chose his note to be representative of all the complaints I've gotten.

It's not a subjective list where we said "yes, yes, no, no" as we listed guys. It was the product of a specific formula created by ESPN Stats & Information -- which is thoroughly described in a box in the middle of the blog post. Based on thos criteria, the guys who didn't make the list didn't score higher than those who did.


Ben in Nashville writes: Paul, with the Falcons trading for Tony G. its beginning to look as if Brandon Pettigrew could possibly be around at 30. With Scaife being seemingly unhappy with his contract, would it not be smart to draft Pettigrew and possibly trade Scaife for a 2-4 round pick (not sure of his value)? The kid from Cal that they drafted last year seems to have limited upside and really is just another OL. Pettigrew seems to be a perfect fit for what the Titans do and is a top 15 talent in my opinion.

Paul Kuharsky: I don't think he's there at 30 -- and I agree with a recent post by NFC East mogul Matt Mosley that Philly should take him, not a running back.

If he is still on the board, it would not surprise me at all if the Titans took him.

They could carry Pettigrew, Scaife, Crumpler and Stevens this year without much issue, and be set for 2010 without Crumpler and Scaife. Or maybe they'd decide Crumpler is done in camp. Scaife is not under contract now, so he's untradeable. And once he signs the franchise deal, he's getting nearly $5 million, which people won't be anxious to trade for.


Harry in Nashville writes: Hey Paul, sorry I just missed you on the chat. Had a few questions for you though. Did VY seal his fate by making the comments about "just collecting his checks" earlier this week? Is it out of the realm of possibility that the Titans would draft a qb this year for the practice squad? Did Pacman end the chances of Percy Harvin becoming a Titan? If you were the GM would you take a CB, DE, or LB with the 1st pick?

Paul Kuharsky: Young's fate will be sealed by how he plays and acts, not by what he says in an interview.

You can't draft someone for the practice squad, anyone in the league could sign him away for his 53-man roster at any time.

If I'm the GM, I wait and see what's there. In the bloggers' mock I took Alphonso Smith.

If they don't fear Harvin -- and I believe they do -- they should.

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