AFC South: Mailbag
Paul Kuharsky: Not just the highest-paid defensive end in league history, but the highest-paid defender in league history.
It isn’t about being the best defender in league history. It will be the product of several things: He’d be the most impactful defensive free agent coming available. Such commodities can rarely be had for just money. Prices go up each year and the best guy in each, more expensive year, has a chance to get near the top. Williams' physical skill set and body are ridiculous. Pass-rushers may be at an all-time high in value -- it’s such a quarterback league that flustering the quarterback is the next most important thing to having a quality QB.
It’s also not about what he’s done, it’s about what he will be expected to do.
And the next time a top pass-rusher comes available, Williams will become the highest-paid in history. A lot of it is dumb luck on the timing and coming free.
Kevin in Richmond writes: Will the Titans still be eligible for a compensatory draft pick if Randy Moss is signed by another team or does his retirement negate that?
Paul Kuharsky: While the compensatory draft pick formula is complicated and secret, it’s intended for a team to be compensated if the free agent losses it suffered outweigh the free agent gains it made.
What loss did the Titans suffer with Randy Moss? They let a guy they didn’t play reach free agency, and he wasn’t signed elsewhere. I can’t imagine he factors into the compensatory draft pick formula on their behalf.
Ryan in Omaha writes: I read up on that article about Josh Scobee possible on the franchise candidacy for Jax and I can't see that as making any sense at all! Can you explain the logic of throwing 2 million dollars to an upper echelon kicker for a year when we could tag Jeremy Mincey or more likely Dwight Lowery for a year and get a lot more bang for that buck, am I right?
Paul Kuharsky: Two million isn’t a lot in relative terms. I don’t see how you can complain about spending $2 million on Scobee and say you’d rather spend $10.6 million on Mincey. Mincey is not worth close to that. Lowery is good and needs to be re-signed. But $6.2 million seems pretty high for him too.
Tony in Austin, Texas, writes: I agree with your assessment that Titans Safety Griffin has been inconsistent and underperforming. But to upgrade, they need someone better to replace him. Do you see any F.A. candidates? Their draft position doesn't lend itself to picking up either of the top 2 safeties without reaching. I think they need to Tag Griffin, no?
Paul Kuharsky: Well two upgrade candidates have disappeared. SF’s Dashon Goldson and Oakland's Tyvon Branch have been tagged. Washington’s LaRon Landry and Jacksonville’s Lowery may still hit the market.
Even if you don’t get one of them: Do you pay Griffin $6 million out of some sort of fear? You don’t think they can find a safety who can play as poorly for say, $3 million?
Kyle in Kihei, Hawaii, writes: Are there NFL rules prohibiting teams from loaning players to other teams? If Peyton is healthy, why not keep him for a couple more years and loan Luck to the Redskins for cash considerations. I can't get Schefter or @JimIrsay to pay attention to me (although the Rams and Eagles scouts said this was a creative idea) so forward this to the Colts brass so they can at least get it rejected by the competition committee themselves.
Paul Kuharsky: What would the Redskins gain by borrowing Luck? They could develop him to hand him back to the Colts only to have a gaping hole at the spot, again?
What would the Colts gain by lending Luck (beside borrowed time for Manning)? A team isn’t going to hand a guy of such value over to a rival to train in different methods, to get hurt in a different stadium, etc.
Can you imagine the Colts playing the Redskins and setting their own pass-rushers free on their loaned-away franchise quarterback?
It works for some international soccer clubs, not for the NFL.
Mr. Marsh in Dallas writes: Wow, I originally thought this was a comparison article. The column started out discussing RG3 and Luck and their interview performances. But somehow it ended up being an propaganda piece for Luck. One more example of why more diversity is needed within the media.
Paul Kuharsky: I presume you are talking about this piece, though you did not specify.
I don’t really get how diversity is at question when I am writing from my point of view and what I believe will be the Colts’ point of view. Luck is better. I believe so. Every scout and coach I have talked to believes so. The Colts are going to draft him, which more than suggests they believe so.
I don’t know why I would pretend otherwise. Writing well of the best guy is now propaganda, huh?
Joe in Louisiana writes: I seen one story about a month ago about Titans fans trying to advertise for Peyton to come back to Tennessee.... is this talk a dead trend or is there still a chance he could come and be a Titan in the state where he had so much success?
Paul Kuharsky: I don’t really understand the state part of it. Surely he could have success in Washington or Florida as easily as in Tennessee, no? I don’t see geography playing any role in linking the previous and future success.
Some fans have pushed for it. The Titans have made it clear it’s not going to happen.
Paul Kuharsky: Given this alternative, why would Manning want the Colts to weaken the team he goes to by getting compensation from it? His concern as he leaves will be for where he’s going, not for where he’s been. And I’m perfectly fine with that. That is as it should be.
Manning didn’t force the contract on Irsay. Both sides signed it.
It’s odd to me that you’d be upset with Manning for getting the deal rather than with Irsay for giving it.
A popular player will always have the fans on his side more than ownership will. Fact of life.
If by “compensation pick” you mean a compensatory pick, you only get a compensatory pick for free agents that leave, and not until a year later and not higher than a third-rounder. You wanted them to let him reach free agency without having any control of the situation just to create that? That would have made zero sense.
Ted from San Francisco writes: Could the Texans be better off if they spend their money not on Foster but instead on Vincent Jackson?
Paul Kuharsky: People are talking like Foster can leave. He’s going to be restricted. There are no conditions under which they wouldn’t be able to match an offer to him. If they let Mario Williams walk and juggle some other stuff, they could conceivably sign Foster long term and get a free agent of significance. Jackson’s going to get a lot, though. I wouldn’t count on too much outside spending.
They work with Foster as a key piece. I’d be wary of anything that put them in a spot where he could disappear after one more season.
Clint from Richmond Hill, Ga., writes: Paul, you couldn't be more incorrect about the jags. This team has lots of young talent, and you certainly can't say for sure how good players like Gabbert and Rackley are going to be yet because they're rookies!! As far as Alualu is concerned, you don't become the 6th overall defense in the league unless you have good interior defensive tackles. Gene Smith has done a good job so far, and this team will get better, I can promise you that.
Paul Kuharsky: Please take a more careful look at what you are complaining about. That's not my take -- that's Football Outsiders’ take.
I like Gene Smith. But this team needs to be fixed and clearly on the upswing next year. The clock is ticking.
It will get better? I should hope so. It would take quite an effort to be worse.
Paul Roden writes from Pittsburgh via Nashville: Peyton the Titan? Am I crazy, or does this make sense? Or How crazy am I that I think this makes sense? 1. Very stable, always above average, often great offensive line 2. New CBA means they didn’t spend too much on Locker, plus sitting behind Peyton is a no-brainer (kindly ignore how bad his backups have been). 8 million dollars for Hasselbeck is hardly the worst 8 million the titans have ever spent. 3. Tennessee (college) roots. For what it's worth, being closer to home might matter? 4. Crazy Jim Irsay--bringing Andrew Luck up in a division with the last years of an all-time great to battle with will make him that much better. 5. Old Bud Adams--wants that ring! Faster, better way to get it? While hopefully leaving a legacy of hard work and film study for the backups on the roster. This seems to make a lot of sense. Or at least, I want it to make a lot of sense.
Paul Kuharsky: Peyton Manning isn’t from Tennessee; he went to Tenessee. He’s from New Orleans. I’d imagine the Titans would be a team he’d be intrigued by, and I don’t think it’s a crazy idea. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Other teams will run to him, woo him, and pay him. The Titans don’t generally operate that way. Even if this might be the time to break with their mold, I don’t suspect they will. I am not at all into that other side-effect stuff you refer to regarding Locker, legacy, etc. The question is, would he help them win? If he's healthy, he certainly would. But the same can be said for teams far more desperate at quarterback that will be aggressive.
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Paul Kuharsky: I think so. A terrible finish could change that. But if they play as they have, even with the inconsistency, it looks as if they will finish well beyond expectations. I think they’ve squeezed more out of a deficient roster than could have been reasonably expected. They have a lot of reasons to feel good about their direction, but a lot of work to do.
Chris Mohammadi in Indy writes: Paul, I’m getting upset of the continuing talk of the Colts secondary. Every time they are mentioned it is said that three-fourths of our starting secondary is out/injured. I would like to argue (or just vent) that Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, Antoine Bethea, and Melvin Bullitt are the starting secondary. They have been getting it done all year. Bob Sanders has done nothing for this team all year. Marlin Jackson didn't start a single game (played nickel). Kelvin Hayden has appeared in only four and has exited early in a couple of those. The guys playing are our starting secondary and think it's time they were allowed out of the shadow of players we have barely seen this year. Thanks for the release Paul. Paul Kuharsky: I know how healthy venting can be, so I hope that helped.
I see your point and almost agree. I think the “loss” of Sanders has been overblown and Bullitt’s a largely unknown commodity for most people but an excellent player. I’d agree about rating Bullitt and Powers as starters. I think Lacey’s done well, but think they’ll be in better shape with Hayden back as least as the nickel or maybe eventually ahead of Lacey. That would bump Jennings back to dime.
And you have to be talking about five defensive backs, not four, because nickel is so important.
Matt in Dallas, TX: Fine, fine, fine, I'll be your Texans respondent. Texans thoughts/questions for you to blog: percent chance you think Dunta Robinson collects a Houston paycheck next season. What running backs do you think Houston might/should target for the draft? Chris Brown's just not cutting it and I don't know what to do with Steve Slaton. Bernard Pollard's been great in the secondary. Can you talk about what's going on at the other safety spot -- besides, ya know, musical chairs? Thanks for all you do. I generally don't like much about ESPN, but I think you do a fantastic job. Paul Kuharsky: Thanks for the compliments and stepping up with some questions.
I’ll go only 20 percent on Robinson being back, though that’s my gut not from anything I’ve been told. It just seems to me he’s not lived up to the financial demands this year. He hasn’t been an elite corner, has he?
I don’t know about college backs. I wonder what it would be like if they had a backfield of LenDale White and Slaton splitting duties. I also wonder about taking Antoine Bethea away as a free agent and pairing him with Pollard.
Barring big free agent moves, I think the Texans should focus on running back, cornerback and free safety in the draft and show a willingness to move on at those two spots in the secondary.
Will from Franklin, TN writes: Do the Titans have a chance at making the playoffs if they beat the Indianapolis Colts? Paul Kuharsky: Sure they do. More certain, they don’t have a chance if they don’t beat the Colts.
Chris Kirk in Indianapolis, IN writes: Could you look into how many touchbacks on kickoffs the Colts have been getting since inserting Pat McAfee as a kickoff specialist? It seems like he's really pounding the ball. I almost expect a touchback every time. Do you think this drop in the number of returns against our special teams and improved field position have played into our resurgence on kickoff coverage (relatively speaking) and stiffened defense, if at all?
Paul Kuharsky: McAfee has 14 touchbacks already. Adam Vinatieri had eight all of last season. It’s definitely a factor in improved coverage.
Cliff Butner from parts unknown writes: Well, you seem to have taken your time, listened to your beloved talking heads, and decided it might be possible that VY is a good quarterback. Way to go, Chief! You know, you could step out on a limb once in your life, and pick the improbable to happen, and not wait for others. Be a leader for once in your life. You can do it! You're smarter than us hicks from TN, heck, you're Columbia educated. Now, go show us some leadership. Paul Kuharsky: I’ll take that under advisement, Cliff.
Peter in Nashville writes: Hey Paul, two questions regarding your "Primary Complaint." To be honest, neither are football related. Paul, I couldn't help but notice that the main framed poster behind you has been different every time. What is up with that? Second, I noticed a reflection in the aforementioned frame. What were you watching on TV? Paul Kuharsky: In my office, I’ve got a collection of framed Hatch Show Prints from concerts at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
Yes, I’ve been switching them up. Pete Yorn is usually in that spot and will return, but in recent weeks I’ve put Bruce Springsteen there (when he played Nashville), Kings of Leon and this week it was Mark Knopfler. Just messing around.
The TV should be off during video production. Pretty sure my background noise, muted for that, was SportsNation.
The Texans, Colts, Jaguars and Titans are all off today, as is the AFC South Blog. I hope you are too, and that you have a very Merry Christmas or at least an excellent day off...
Here's a Christmas Day mailbag in case you're desperate for football talk, in need of a few minutes away from your crazy aunt or visiting the page on a new laptop or Blackberry...
Bill from Nashville writes: Before the season started you had something on why you thought the AFC South was the best division. After a few weeks into the season, you did a follow up and said you were wrong. What are your thoughts now?
Paul Kuharsky: Good of you to remember both, the second one said the NFC East was better!
I'd stick with my amended opinion and say NFC East -- everybody's going to win at least eight games and they all had to face Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Granted a full slate against the NFC West was cushy.
The NFC South also won't have a team under .500 and has been very impressive. I say it's second. Those records were built partly in thanks to a weak draw from the other conference -- the AFC West is pretty bad -- and a four-pack against the mediocre NFC North.
I think the AFC South is out of the conversation because Jacksonville did so poorly and Houston wasn't very good when the games meant the most.
Luke from South Bend, IN writes: Sorry I missed the chat, but it looked like it was fun. My question actually involves two AFC South teams. I know the Colts typically don't go out and get free agents, but what would you think about them throwing some money at Haynesworth next year? A team with few weaknesses, and they'll have some money freed up if Marvin is gone.
Paul Kuharsky: "Some" money won't cut it. I figure Haynesworth's 2009 cap number will likely be around $6 million. The Colts stand at $2.9 over the cap right now. So we're talking about clearing $9 million just for him, before dealing with any other personnel or contracts. That's not going to happen. They generally aren't a player in free agency, and they really don't get involved with huge money guys.
I could see the Texans chasing Haynesworth if he makes ot to free agency.
Ed from parts unknown writes: Mr. Paul, you sir are a clown. You think the Titans have been playing the 'underdog card' all year by their own choosing? They have the best record in all of football and were home underdogs by 3 pts. Your coworkers on Sunday Coutdown all picked the Steelers except for Berman, everyone on Fox and CBS picked the Steelers...thats 1 out of 14 so called 'experts' who picked the Steelers to win in Nashville. They dont play the underdog card, you people in the media have labeled them as underdogs due to the lack of respect. If the Giants, Cowboys, Patriots, Colts, or any of the other ESPN darlings had the defense the Titans have, we would never hear the end of how they are one of the best of all time. You rip on the Titans offense, and lack of a deep threat, yet they are the only team to get amass 300 yds on the Steelers D. Somehow Pittsburg offense gets a pass for how awful they are and not only that, Big Ben is mentioned in MVP talk. Its ridiculous. They dismantle Pittsburg and the major story after the game is stomping on a towel, and how 'disrespectful' that is. Your backhanded compliments and cheap shots are nothing short of irresponsible journalism and its disgraceful that ESPN would employee such a clown as yourself.
Paul Kuharsky: Point spreads are set in Vegas to split betting money, not to speak to respect.
I can't talk to what everyone on Countdown said. I can talk to what I say. I thought they might lose, I thought they might win. Even if I said they would lose, how is that automatically disrespectful? Am I not entitled to an opinion counter to the one they'd prefer without it being akin to insulting their moms?
I am around the Titans on a regular basis. Rare is a day when somebody doesn't find occasion to say something about being disrespected. They're allowed to think it. I'm allowed to say it's way overblown.
Please spell out for me by backhanded compliments and cheap shots. I wrote that they "routed" and "handled" the Steelers and have written just one short and straightforward blog entry out of 10 on the Titans since the game ended about Terrible Towels. (The office added a podcast from Trey Wingo.)
Also, Pittsburgh has an h at the end. Are you disrespecting the Steelers?
You replied to what I emailed you back by pointing to this paragraph as my slight of the Titans' passing game:
The Titans are hardly known as an effective downfield passing team. But Collins attempted 10 passes of 10 yards or more and completed 60 percent of them for 13 yards per attempt.
To which I say this: It's a fact that the Titans are not known as a downfield passing team. They say so themselves. Their passing attack is intended to supplement a good defense and run game. That's a philosophical bedrock of the franchise right now and most of the time. Even in that framework, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, to his credit, takes shots pretty regularly.
Collins, at times this season when they've needed him to, has been effective downfield (at Chicago, for example.) At least one on Sunday he was terrible trying to go downfield (at Houston). They don't have receivers who get much separation.
Am I a happy-on-the-outside, sad-on-the-inside kind of clown?
Unknown from Harrisburg writes: Rout? Manhandling? Tennesse played very well, but Pittsburgh led halfway through the 3rd quarter and outgained the Titans in total yardage. Just as easy to say that Pittsburgh shot themselves in the foot. The difference in the final score was a couple of 2nd half turnovers, the personal foul on the FG attempt, and a garbage pick-six at the end. You compromise your own credibility when you write like a homer. Why should I read anything else you write?
Paul Kuharsky: The Titans won by 17 and there was no question late in the game -- even before Michael Griffin's TD -- who was going to win. I call 31-17 a rout. If you're a fan of the losing team, the tendency is to say, "Yeah, but for this, that and this it was close." I'm not a fan, I am a reporter and blogger and to me if you lose 31-17 you generally got handled...
The turnovers and personal foul were part of the game. They happened. I could unwind every game and show you a handful of plays that if they went the other way, the result would have been different. I'm not generally concerned with how they might have gone. I'm concerned with how they did go.
Allison from Los Angeles writes: The blog you posted on Thursday with the Colts inactives and your take on how much Addai would play won the championship for me. Thanks!
Paul Kuharsky: Glad to be of service. Congrats from a guy who finished 12th in a 12-team lead, even after he managed to swing a deal for Philip Rivers to replace first-round pick Tom Brady.
Brent from Indy writes: Paul, Why do all the analysts not recongize that the COLTS gained 300 yards on the steelers, 302 to be exact. I am also worried about a Colts vs Chargers game. I would feel more comortable with the Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Broncos, Stee
lers or Titans. The Colts do not match up well with the Chargers! thanks, bp
Paul Kuharsky: You're calculating using gross passing yards, and that's not how NFL math works.
The Colts had 240 gross passing yards but only 228 net passing yards -- the 12 yards sacks comes off the gross total to create the net -- to go with 62 net yards rushing. Thus the 290 total yards and thus no damage to the Steelers' streak of holding opponents under 300 for their first 14 games.
I agree the Colts would match up better with the Broncos -- I think virtually anybody does -- and maybe all the AFC East contenders, too.
Nate from Reading, PA writes: I remember being furious about the Titans first day selections, but the team really proved me wrong. The pick that bothered me the most was at the time was Jones, because I was really hoping for Sweed, who went the pick before to Pittsburgh. I find it ironic that Jones had such a huge day against the team that played a likely role in his selection by the Titans.
Paul Kuharsky: Yes, they look like they hit a couple of home runs. Imagine if they'd hit in the second amd third rounds in 2007, too?,hr>
Albert in Nashville writes: Paul, As a die hard Titans fan, could you please thank EVERYONE at ESPN (All of the countdown crew, all the "experts", and Skip Bayliss) for picking the Steelers and having no faith or belief in my Titans....and as you and I know, when no one believes in the Titans, thats when they step it up, and boy did they today. Also, tell all those guys in Bristol that I have a nice Channukah gift for them for the first night....a nice platter of crow....tell them to enjoy!!! Thanks!!
Paul Kuharsky: Why not revel in your team proving "everyone" wrong instead of getting all caught up in predictions? The thing that makes the league great it it's totally unpredictable, no matter what level of expert one is. It was a great win. Why does it matter what a bunch of people in Bristol thought would happen?
The whole sports world wouldn't know what to do with itself if it couldn't rant about disrespect, seems to me.
Marc in Indianapolis writes: Paul, the NFL should revisit the post-season seeding policy. It is absolutely a travesty that a .500 team (San Diego, if they win against Denver) would be able to HOST a playoff game. They should reserve playoff spots for division winners, but the seeding should be based on overall record. The Colts would be the #2 seed should that be the case (based on head-to-head victory over Pittsburgh). The fact of the matter is the AFC West Winner will have a terrible record coming out of one of the worst divisions in football and shouldn't be able to host a playoff game just because they sucked a little less than the other terrible teams in their division. It would also provide more meaning to these late season games.
Paul Kuharsky: I disagree. It's rarely happened. Owners want division titles to mean a home game. I don't think it's unreasonable considering how rare it is that a team wins a division with a poor record. If the Colts were 8-8, winning the AFC South and getting a home game would you have the same objection?
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
We've sorted through the mailbag and offer this entry in case you're poking around the Web on Thanksgiving morning.
I welcome questions, comments, suggestions, criticism and tasty desserts in the mailbag, which is like the sack Santa carries over his shoulder -- bottomless. I'm Titans-heavy because you're Titans-heavy.
Look for entries from Ford Field in a bit.
JB from TX writes: PK, missed the chat last week, assuming there's none this week on thanksgiving so... 1. You think there might be any thought while Harper is out of moving Griffin to corner and Fuller to safety, just to get the best 4 DBs on the field? I think Carr has done as well as he can but he's clearly not an every down DB, Vinnie plays a ton in the nickel anyway. Just a thought... 2. Read your entry on LenDale. I think w/the weather changing and CJ looking like he may have hit a rookie wall, they should reverse the structure. Keep in mind it was this time of year where LenDale really excelled last season.
Paul Kuharsky: It looks like Harper will be back. If he's out, I think they'll stick with Carr and I think they'd be best with Carr. Griffin doesn't play any corner anymore, and Fuller plays way more nickel than safety. So you'd be moving two guys out of position instead of just playing the backup.
They have some things to figure out in the run game right now. They seem to have lost their way a little, and now that it was a factor in a loss it all comes to the forefront.
Scott in Washington writes: Paul - I've been way too depressed to read about the Jags. That means I've basically missed all of your great blogging. Anyhow I feel like the loss last weekend confirmed that the Jags must focus on rebuilding. I'm going to work through your old postings but is there anything the Jags can/must do with what remains of the season to fix what ails them. Also I'm thankful that the economy is in the dumps because I feel like it would be tough for LA to find the means to buy the Jags. At least we should get a few more years.
Paul Kuharsky: I think they need to be sure they have a handle on everyone. That means being sure the young guys have been in every situation so the team knows what specifically to work on with them in the offseason. Get Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves and Brian Witherspoon all the experience possible. And it means being ready to make judgments on what the older guys -- the Fred Taylors and Rob Meiers -- have left.
The rebuilding has to start with the lines. It may not be a quick fix and they may be in a spot where they are waiting on hurt guys to recover. They have chemistry and leadership issues they need to try to address too. It's a big endeavor.
Ben in New Haven writes: hey paul, all year long we've heard all of the reporters bagging on vince young and saying how bad he is, but i want to see him in a game even just for a couple plays, see how it works out, or even put him in the wildcat formation, imagine him lining up at wideout, is there any chance the titans would ever do that?
Paul Kuharsky: He can't master the position he's played all his life, but he's a magical solution as a gimmick receiver? I have to admit I don't understand the widespread fascination with this idea. The Titans lost one game. I don't see how it changes anything with regard to his role, which remains backup quarterback. Things have gone great with him very much in the background. I don't expect the team to mess with it.
Here's a mailbag to tide you over while we wait on a full day of AFC South action.
I'm going old school, driving to Indianapolis this morning. Hope to get there in time to position myself in front of several TVs to track Packers-Titans, Jaguars-Bengals and Texans-Vikings and will provide semi-Rapid Reactions with some impressions after those three wrap up. I have Sirius in the car if I need a backup plan.
Then I'll talk to you a bunch from Lucas Oil Stadium as the Colts play another game that looks to qualify as must-win against the Patriots.
On to the mail, which I invite you to send any time by clicking here. It's Titans heavy as I am getting loads of Titans mail and not hearing much at all from Jacksonville.
Russ in Nashville writes: Paul, I haven't thrown a question your way in a couple of weeks, so here's one I've been pondering. Kerry Collins has been getting quite a bit of press as of late. He was on Tirico yesterday, Dan Patrick show today, etc... How much of a factor do you think Jeff Fisher's comments when he installed Kerry Collins are playing into his performance? To paraphrase Fisher, he essentially said "as long as we're winning, he'll be starting." Now, I don't think anyone took that to mean that as soon as they lose he'll be bounced. However, he has seemed so motivated to push this team to come from behind in wins against Baltimore and Indy... it sure feels like he doesn't want to leave it up to chance. If they can keep on winning, he'll keep starting, setting himself up for a potentially lucrative contract elsewhere after the season (a la Jeff Garcia and the Bucs). No one's really broached the contract year talk much with Collins as a real motivator, but could that be really what we're seeing?
Paul Kuharsky: I appreciate players who work hard to do well and succeed due to their current contract -- because it's their job -- not to build the case for their next contract. And I think that's the case with Collins here. Sure, he was put into a great situation and wants to make the most of it -- it's to everyone's benefit in both the short run and long run...
Even if the Titans go on to win the Super Bowl with Collins under center, my guess is the best situation he will find for himself is a chance to compete for the starting job somewhere, perhaps starting out as the favorite. (That could be in Nashville, I don't think the Titans have any solid idea of what they will do at quarterback beyond this season.) I can't picture many teams giving Collins big dollars and years and anointing him their unquestioned starter. But there is a lot that has to unfold between now and then.
Marion from parts unknown writes: ALthough I dont always agree with what you say about the Colts on NFL.com's power rankings, I did enjoy your article "Window of oppurtunity,not of Colts issues" very much, but I must remind you that we still have eight games to play! :)
Paul Kuharsky: They are not going to win the division. I'm hardly alone in saying that, they are saying that. I just said on the radio in Indianapolis that the Colts are very much alive in the AFC wild-card picture. A lot of teams are. Hope you meant ESPN.com power rankings, because I'm definitely not supplying any commentary for the ones on NFL.com.
Bill in Hilham, Tenn writes: Just read your column on the Colts. I am really looking forward to the Colts-Pats game Sunday. I forgive the espn tv commentators for having no math skills, but your bio says you went to Columbia. The Titans are 7-0. The Colts (et al) are 3-4. Each has played 7 games. Mathmatically, they must be in an even ratio to each other. The Colts trail the Titans by 4 games in the win column, and by 4 games in the lost column. So just where is this "4 and one half" stuff coming from? About 50% of the stories I have read repeat this error. I suggest are the erroneous commentators be sentenced to studying baseball standings for goofing this up.
Paul Kuharsky: The half comes from the head-to-head result. If the Titans lost their next four and the Colts won their next four, the Titans would still have them on a tiebreaker because of Monday's result. And Tennessee has the same thing with Houston and Jacksonville. For one of them to get in front of the Titans, they'd have to actually be a game better in the standings because if they are tied, they lose out.
But all three of those teams play the Titans again, of course ...
Ben in Houston writes: Andre Johnson just had one of the best months by a WR in the history of the NFL. I'll bet we don't hear a peep about it from the AFC South blogger because it wasn't done by Justin Gage or Brandon Jones. It's understandable that you love the Titans and are completely biased, but when the best player in the NFL this season plays in the division that you blog for, you might want to mix in a mention of him.
Paul Kuharsky: Sorry you missed this.
Andre Johnson is great. He's the best receiver in the division right now. By a lot. But I can't write about him every day or week.
As for Gage and Jones, you caught me. I'm head over heels for them and all the Titans receivers. I mean, what's not to love?
Mike from part unknown writes: You are a moron, the only reason the colts lost that game was again bad officating. pass interference on 3 and 9, whatever!!!! talk about a blown call!!!! funny how no one looks at the 2 horrible calls made against them on the same drive....what has this league come to that games are won by horrible calls!
Paul Kuharsky: I am amazed at how the officials are out to get the Colts. A large percentage of Colts fans who write to me seem to think the team would be 7-0 if it's not for the refs, who are clearly out to get them.
Think about a friend of another team complaining about the officiating after every loss and using it as an excuse constantly. Isn't it a bit unbecoming? San Diego's loss in Denver, that was on the officials. Titans over Colts, not so much.
Eric in Nashville writes: Geeze Kuharsky, do you still work at the Tennessean or slave for Bud's boyz??Nine (9) straight articles (one was feature lenght for ESPiN "the magazine") on the team you covet in the AFC South shows your "adopted" home town leanings... I'll go back (or you may) and check the number of reports for another game you covered for the AFC South and compare. Maybe some fair and balanced reporting on the "entire" division from their towns (and not from your livingroom) would be helpful?? You know, like stating the Texans were trying JJ at punt returner while Dre`Davis was out, when he's been doing that since being drafted by the Texans! I'm sure you and Queen Wycheck will be in "Titan Code Blue" form on the radio...
Paul Kuharsky: I've gotten a few notes about the number of posts per team, so this is a good occasion to offer a little context. If you count up Monday through Friday (barring a Monday or Thursday game) you're going
to get roughly the same number per team. But if I'm at Colts-Titans like I was Monday or at Patriots-Colts like I will be Sunday, then the numbers that day are going to skew big time to that team or those teams. I'd hope that's understandable. I can only be at one game at a time.
Monday wound up being Titans-heavy because the team won. Might they be getting written about because they are 7-0 and the best team in football?
I made a mistake on Andre Davis. I added a correction to that post.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Unknown in south bend writes: when will you guys give credit to the jags yes they have lost some games this season but they were all 7 points or less and they gave up the lead at the end of those games. if i was you i wouldnt be suprised to see them in the afc championship game even maybe the super bowl before sunday everybody was saying that jags will lose and look what happened would the penalties make a diff if they wasnt called now you guys still diss the jags by saying they won because of the penalties come on there is no telling what could happen in the penalties wasnt called the jags could have still won. what is next are you guys going to say that they will lose there next two games if so then you need to look at the weapons that jags have. when it comes down to it the broncos lost because of turnovers.
Paul Kuharsky: I voted them fifth in the most recent power rankings. Seems like credit to me. They are only 3-3. If they get as good as you expect them to be, they'll get plenty of credit.
Steven in Hampton, VA writes: Mr. Paul, I agree that the Titans' haven't beaten a team with a winning record. However, they have beaten the Jags' and the Vikings, two teams that were considered Super Bowl caliber. Plus, the Titans' "out-defensed" the Ravens'. It's very early to make any bold statements, however, I don't understand why the Titans' receive very little credit for their record.
Paul Kuharsky: They can only beat who the league tells them to play, but it's relevant context.
I don't see the lack of credit. They are No. 1 in every power poll I have seen, including ours where they got all but one first-place vote. Every media outlet imaginable has passed through to cover them. They aren't loaded with flashy stars, so they don't draw attention that way. But who is failing to give them credit?
Barry Oderfer from Fraser, MI writes: I'd like to know why pro athletes, especially football players, are not allowed to voice their opinions on bad officiating? If the ref or some other field judge makes a bad call that determines the outcome of a game, why can't the players say anything without being fined? It seems as if Roger Goodell wants the public to think his officials are always right. Also, would you know where I can write to Roger Goodell, by letter or email?
Paul Kuharsky: If your boss sent people to supervise your work and you then you used your right of free speech to blast that supervision, how would it go over with him? (Still, I don't disagree that players and coaches should have more leeway to call a spade a spade.)
The NFL is at 280 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017.
K.C. in Jacksonville writes: Was forced to do the unthinkable this week. Sitting down a healthy Peyton for Kyle ORTON. Bizarro world! Would u do the same with the Colts facing that Ravens D?
Paul Kuharsky: Here is my thinking: You drafted him in the first or second round -- you've got to start him no matter what. Because the week he finally lights it up, if he's on your bench, that will hurt way more than any of his bad Sundays do.
Here's the context: I am 1-4 in two leagues, always seem to make the wrong decisions and have never won a league.
Mike in Philly writes: Texans are facing the Dolphins and their two-time unbeatable Wildcat formation next week. What are the Texans doing to prepare? What kind of personnel/formations can be used to stop it? Which teams were successful against Arkansas last year with McFadden and Felix Jones and why?
Paul Kuharsky: An excellent question. I assure you the Texans won't be offering me specifics of their countermeasures. But they'll spend a lot of time on it, and it's about time people figured out how to deal with it. It shouldn't be creating chaos the second, third and fourth time it's used. Here's a blog entry on the subject.
Dustin in Lebanon, TN, writes: Paul- With the Titans current success and dominating defense, does this mean Coach Schwartz will finally get the head coaching job he has always wanted and deserves? Who would be a likely replacement? McGinnis? Enjoy your appearances on The Zone! It doesn't get any better to hear you and Frank swap jabs back and forth.
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks, Dustin. I expect Schwartz to get a head-coaching job after the season. Jeff Fisher would put McGinnis there and hire a linebacker coach.
Guy from Round Rock, TX, writes: Paul, Where do the Texans go from here? I can?t stomach much more of this!
Paul Kuharsky: Nowhere to go but up, right?
They can beat Miami. But if they don't beat Detroit and Cincy, things are way worse than I thought.
Josh Cates in Nashville writes: Purple People Eaters ... New York Sack Exchange ... Steel Curtain ... Fearsome Foursome ... "Blue Blockers" for the Titans D ... thoughts?
Paul Kuharsky: Keep working on it? (Not sure they are nickname-worthy yet, but if you come up with the right one ...)
Mad Mike in Houston writes: Paul: This is a pretty simple comment. I still cannot believe what I witnessed Sunday at Reliant. This is something that could set the franchise back further than ever before. I think we will find out a lot about this team and this coach, this upcoming Sunday.....MM
Paul Kuharsky: And Miami is hardly the pushover we might have thought before the season.
Hang in there. I think the Indianapolis game made Mike a different kind of mad.
DJ in St. Paul, Minn. writes: Seriously? AP and Chris Johnson are not in the same league and the Titan did not dismantle the Vikings. Despite 4 turnovers, numerous bone-head calls and all the penalties the Vikings still could have won the game at the end. You are an idiot.
Paul Kuharsky: I pretty much said they aren't the same and that the Titans didn't need Johnson to be Peterson.
Newsflash, if you claim to be a team with dominant lines and get pushed around on both side of the ball and you lose by 13 and never have any control over the game, it's a dismantling. Any game you can say if this, that and this didn't happen, my team would have won.
The Vikings got handled this time. Not really my opinion. A fact.
Nicholas Giannino from parts unknown writes: HOw is Marshawn Lynch so Tragically overlooked? No disrespect to Chris Johnson but if you had to choose would you honestly take him over Lynch?
Paul Kuharsky: People are so eager to claim their team or player is overlooked, I just don't understand it. I sure don't think tragic is the correct word.
The Bills are legit. Lynch is great.
I was covering Vikings at Titans. Don't know that people were looking for me to write about a Bill playing in St. Louis.
Josh in Dallas writes: Paul- It sure is amusing to me that no one mentions Kerry Collins' numbers, or lack thereof. Those numbers, 18-35 for 199, NO TOUCHDOWNS, and a 68.6 rating fall pretty well along with what Vince was doing when everyone said he wasn't progressing. I think your point on Vince being disinterested is valid, though I do believe you, like the rest of the media, like to make a mountain out of a mole-hill. What I don't get is why there was so much attention placed on the lack of progression and there is so little attention placed on the lack of numbers. You can say with this defense the QB only has to "manage" a game, I can say a 68.6 rating is less than managing, especially when you are barely completing 50% of your passes. Again, I do agree that VY is going to have to make a change in his attitude and stance on his own expectations, but I am baffled why no one harps on Collins when this was clearly a defensive win and not a result of his "Management Skills"...one last thing, Chris Johnson might be a good running back in the NFL, but he will NEVER be what Adrian Peterson is.Paul Kuharsky: I think everyone has made it clear Collins is only being asked to manage the game most of the time. And his team is 4-0. He and Vince can't be compared the same way -- Vince is at the beginning and is expected to show improvement, dramatic improvement in year three; Kerry is an old guy who is what he is.
You talk about lack of numbers and you're right to focus on that. Here's the most significant number Collins is lacking in the context of this team: interceptions. He's thrown one.
I never said Johnson would be Peterson. In fact I said he doesn't need to be.
Grant from Dickson writes: When you compare records, defenses, and wins against the same opponent and some would say a very good Jaguars team, why would you still vote the Giants HIGHER than the Titans? It doesn't make sense
Paul Kuharsky: Because I believe they have better talent and far better experience ... If they played on a neutral field Sunday, I'd pick the Giants. One man's opinion.
JL from Hoboken, NJ writes: I haven't had the chance to look at other 7th rounds but would you say the 2006 draft has been the best 7th round thus far, producing 2 stars (Finnegan and Colston)? What is it that scouts miss about these players? Although they played at small schools, you still see guys out of unheralded programs get drafted high (i.e. Rodgers-Cromartie, Flacco, McKelvin) so I wouldn't think that would be it
Paul Kuharsky: So much of it is a crap shoot. Even teams that hit home runs kind of missed -- If you thought Colston or Finnegan were going to be this good, you'd probably have drafted them higher, some GMs will say. I say if you value him high but know the rest of the league doesn't and can get him in the seventh, that's great work.
Congrats to the Titans on Finnegan. But imagine if they'd also hit on the first-round picks they used for Andre Woolfolk, Pacman Jones and maybe VY.
Small schools stopped being a surprise a long time ago. The Colts shop off the beaten path a lot, and they are hardly alone.
Mike in NOLA writes: Hey Paul. Enjoyed the dialogue on your chat. I think the bottom line is that reports about sports figures that don't involve sports are not sports news. It may be a human interest story but its not sports news. When i tune into ESPN, i want to read/hear about sports, not some BS happening outside of sports. Whether it involves a sports figure or not is irrelevant to me. Its like saying Donald Trump getting busted with a hooker is financial news.
Paul Kuharsky: If a guy is getting a divorce or dealing with some personal issue, absolutely it's private. Until it has a direct impact on his performance. At that point it becomes relevant to the team and to those who follow it. If you're paying a lot of money to watch a franchise that's paying him a lot of money to play and he's playing poorly because of something, that something is newsworthy.
The Trump example isn't a good one. Because if it's an NFL player who gets suspended under the personal conduct policy the whole team feels it. His decision-making is then up for debate, no?
The beauty of it, however, is you can skip the clicks on the subject matter that you don't care for or flip to a different channel for a bit.
Arthur artjuarez from part unknown writes: I dont know if you remember, but this is exactly what I wrote you about, what a great move, letting Slaton have a chance, and him capitalizing on his opportunity. We will release Green this offseason, HOPEFULLY sooner. Have a good day Paul.
Paul Kuharsky: Slaton is doing very well and I am looking forward to watching him in person tomorrow.
JP from LR, ARK writes: My question is, "How is giving up a late first rounder for a Pro Bowl WR extreme?" Really? Extreme? Come on you mean to tell me you'd rather roll the dice than pick up a known commodity who will produce. Anq Boldin and Roy Williams are higher risks than gambling on a pick in the first round. I'm OK if they don't trade for a WR, but I come up with a better excuse. I like Michael Griffin, but I'd trade him straight up for one of two WR's mentioned above..much less for a 1st round pick that you aren't sure will pan out!
Paul Kuharsky writes: Good stuff.
If I am the Titans, I'd trade
my 2009 first if I could negotiate something new with Roy Williams. (It sounds like he's off the market by the way, I don't want to add any life to the idea this could actually pan out.)
I'm not painting it as extreme. I'm merely showing you that they consider such a thing extreme. Mike Reinfeldt called such a midseason deal an "ordeal." Does that sound like a guy who's eager to make the move?
And they Titans are hardly alone. Most teams consider first-round picks more valuable than players, sometimes to an unreasonable extent.
If you're a fan of Houston, Indianapolis or Jacksonville, you can fairly claim this is too Tennessee-heavy.
The change begins with you.
Be part of the next mailbag, because you never know when I may start awarding prizes for the best questions. If you give a name and location, it helps. And without an email address, I can't write you back.
Jeremy from Minneapolis writes: Hey Paul, thanks for all the quality AFC South info. As a Tennessee native stuck up here in NFC North country, I pretty much lived off your blog all the way through training camp and preseason this year. Even though you gave us a whole VY mailbag today, I hope you might be able to provide some insight on another possible scenario for Vince and the Titans. During Jeff Fisher's discussion of Young in his Monday press conference, he mentioned that once Vince returns from his injury the Titans will work on getting him "back involved in the offense." Fisher has indicated that he thinks Vince will benefit from watching a veteran quarterback like Collins handle things for a little while, and I think that is what the team would have initially preferred to do with Young. It was only the fact that the newly signed Collins and the rest of the offense struggled so badly at the start of the '06 season that forced Vince onto the field early. I seem to also remember hearing talk around the beginning of that season of using Young not necessarily as a starter right away, but finding spots during the course of the game where he could be most effective, create difficult matchups, and use his unique skills to exploit defenses. Do you think there is a possibility we will see the Titans use VY in that way as the season progresses, or are we past that point now that he has been the starter for the better part of two years? It seems to me that this approach would be ideal on a couple fronts: First, it requires the opposing defense to prepare for a Titans offense that can come at them with two very different quarterbacks who create different matchup problems. Second, it takes the pressure of being "th...
Paul Kuharsky: I think it's a good idea and would be a good way to ease him back in - narrow packages used here and there with him as the QB. If you missed it, Albert Haynesworth suggested an all-out two quarterback attack. The narrow packages are what they did early his rookie year. Only downside is, it could create more possibility for controversy. We'll see. I think it's going to be a good while before we see him on the field again, and maybe not this year if things go well and Kerry Collins stays healthy.
Keath in Tampa, FL writes: Paul, You really are a homer, aren't you? You need to go back to Sports Journalism and learn to distance yourself - you followed the Oilers/Titans for 12 years. Good for you. Now you work for ESPN. Distinguish the two, my friend. Quit saying, "We...", because YOU didn't do anything, nor did you use this (pretend-like) for the other franchises. Stick to objective journalism for the future. We readers see right through this...
Paul Kuharsky: Actually, in a Monday entry called "What I think they're thinking," I absolutely used "we," for all four teams, talking as if I was in each team's head. Why don't you take another look?
After you cool down, if you'd like to show me how I failed to be objective, I'd love the feedback.
spietan from Washington writes: Neither the Jags offense nor the defense looks capable of carrying the team into the playoffs. Which coordinator (Dirk Koetter or Gregg Williams) is doing the best job with the players available?
Paul Kuharsky: I think they've both been handcuffed some. Koetter hasn't had Jerry Porter yet and with a patchwork interior offensive line, he's been a bit limited in what he can try to do. Williams was brought in to help find ways to get to the passer, but in crucial situations the Jaguars have failed to do so. Derrick Harvey's long preseason absence during his contract dispute slowed his development, so he's not the key ingredient they were hoping for yet. Both coordinators came up one score or one stop short in the two losses.
Jams from parts unknown writes: Mr. Kuharsky, you do a lot of nice work, but it's "feel bad," not "feel badly." Do you "feel happily" about things, too, or "feel happy"? "Feel angrily," or "feel angry" when people clutter your inbox with grammar crap? It's a subject complement (hence the adjective), modifying "I," not an adverb modifying "feel." You would feel badly, though, if you were to suffer nerve damage in your hands, but I wouldn't wish that fate on you. Sorry to be pedantic, but you know me; I'm a good guy. I point out annoying minutiae for the kids.
Paul Kuharsky: Point taken, thanks. I'll work to make sure you don't see it again.
John E. Lee from parts unknown writes: Paul, congrats on joining ESPN.com! Now maybe the AFC south will have a real voice! Here's my prediction: If Vince Young stays away, and Kerry Collins stays healthy, and Jeff Fisher stops his conservative/predictable play-calling, (will you fianlly hold him accountable this season?) the Titans will win the AFC and make it back to the Super Bowl! Have a great season and thanks for your presence in Music City!!!
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks. A displaced Yankee as the voice of the 'South,' imagine that!
As for Fisher -- Yeah, I've never ever held him accountable, except for every time I've said he's a good coach who tends to be too conservative and loyal, which is usually only a few times a week.
What should I be raking him over the coals for right now at 3-0?
Rob in Fort Myers, FL writes: Paul, Why do you think the Colts are looking so sluggish this season thus far? Is this something that you feel they will work out with more time, or is this the decline we have all been expecting to occur with all their success recently? Do they have it worked out by their Monday Night battle with Tennessee on October 27th?
Paul Kuharsky: Peyton Manning's missed time and the O-line injury troubles have certainly been factors.
Quinn Pitcock retiring, Ed Johnson getting himself cut and Bob Sanders getting hurt all messed up the defense.
But it's too early to know if they are slowing overall. I still think they are incredibly dangerous.
Unknown from Bowling Green writes: Why don't the Titans get more press. Both the Monday night and Sunday night half time shows haven't mentioned the Titans in the last 3 weeks. Your from Nashville, can't you pull some strings. You said yourself you need some TV practice.
Paul Kuharsky: You have to admit their highlights don't often feature the sort of diving catches or the sort of explosive plays that rule the reels. Remember Chris Johnson's huge run in the preseason? I saw that everywhere.
Titans fans shouldn't need some media blessing in order to feel good about their team.
I just saw someone on SportsCenter call the Titans the best team in the AFC. SI.com wrote about the Titans this week and NFL.com did too. Seems like great press to me.
I'm covering Vikings-Titans over Texans-Jaguars on Sunday and I give Tennessee a ton of press, too much according to many other readers.
Unknown from Pittsboro, IN writes: You said that the final interference call against the colts Keiaho was "obvious"
but what was obvious was that Williams was running an illegal "pick" play. He ran right at Keiaho, crossed his arm like a skinny kid setting a pick in basketball, then he actually jumped a little when his QB panicked and threw the ball to Williams. The colts read their illegal play, the CB jumped the out route and the refs bailed them out. To me this is obvious, but to you, apparently it was a "good call?"
Paul Kuharsky: I didn't have a huge problem with the call, you are correct. When the ball is in the air, the defender is not allowed to touch the intended receiver. I suspect if that was a Colts receiver and a Jags DB you and a lot of people wearing a horseshoe logo would feel differently.
It's unbecoming when fans pin losses on refs -- outside of an absolute mess up like in the Denver-SD game. The Colts had plenty of chances to finish the Jags off.
Steve in Las Vegas writes: I don't understand it; what do the Titans have to do to earn some respect? Even after starting the season 3-0 people still question why. The Titans are a good team. Yes, they have had their share of drama with VY, but as shown last year, when VY had a bum quad, Collins stepped up and took the team for a while. Their defense is in the top 5, and they have a great duo in the back field, CJ compliments LW perfectly. The only thing that I think they should change is, take VY out of the QB line-up and try him as a TE or short field wide out. He has proved that when he is healthy, he can gain yardage on the ground. He just isn't too confident as a NFL passer. Just my thoughts.
Paul Kuharsky: See my response to the question from Bowling Green above.
What's the respect you'd like for your team that it's not getting? I've seen the Titans rated as the best team in the AFC by a lot of people. They are doing very well in power polls like ours, where they currently sit fourth. That's disrespect?
Two of their wins have come against terrible teams, but they look great so far. I have missed the big questions about why they are 3-0. I expect them to be 5-1 at worst heading into their big Monday night matchup with Indianapolis on Oct. 27.
There is no way Vince Young is going to be playing a position other than quarterback.
Jenny from Brentwood writes: PK - is it feasible that the Tulloch/Fowler switch is part of the greater plan to foil gameplanning for our opponents? Meaning, there's a lot of tape on Fowler, and not as much on Tulloch. With the Vikings run game, it's pretty imperative to manipulate the MLB. Plus - we gave up 140+ yards to Steve Slaton last week. Also - isn't Tulloch a little bit faster than Fowler? With Adrian Peterson coming to town, I can sort of agree with the change to Tulloch. Props to Fowler, though. What a class act. I hope he gets back on the field somehow.
Paul Kuharsky: There is more than enough tape on Tulloch for Minnesota to have a good enough feel for what they are getting. And a switch on defense isn't the same as a new QB or RB or something like that. Teams don't have to reshape a plan based on a new middle linebacker, which is a situational job in the Titans defense. Tulloch is faster than Fowler and more of a play-maker, but he's less experienced and more likely to make a mistake. I think he will do well. I'm disappointed for Fowler, a hard-worker and a stand-up guy. I'm excited for Tulloch, also a super-likeable guy, who has more upside. But this is an uncharacteristic move, and I am surprised to see the Titans make it while things have been going so well.
Rob in Fort Myers writes (again): Paul, In light of the fact that the Titans are on a roll and the Lions are tumbling out of control, what do you think the chances are of the Titans offering a 2nd or 3rd round pick to the Lions to take Roy Williams off their hands? I know what you always say...that the Titans just don't do business that way, and they don't value the WR position that highly...but you have to think a dominant force at WR could be the difference in this team going to a Super Bowl with the AFC climate the way it is right now. The injuries to Brady and Manning really give you reason to think that a team like Tennessee with a dominant, championship level defense and a great running game could really get there this year. Roy Williams may be the player to get that offense over the top, and it would also give the team an inside track on signing Roy Williams long term and giving VY the WR he will need in the future. What are your thoughts in light of the developments that have already occured thus far this season? Remember how impactful Chris Chambers was for San Diego last year? Williams could be that guy for Tennessee.
Paul Kuharsky: I just don't see it happening. Chambers was a rare instance and he is an older guy nowhere near the caliber player Williams is. NFL teams don't usually dump guys just before their contracts are up in order to get something for him. That's baseball. And what would the Lions say to their fans - 'Of all those first-round receivers, we hit on one and now we're shipping his butt out of here?'
Also, as a friend in the Titans press room often points out: If you're a big-time WR, why do you want to come to Nashville? To be de-emphasized? To be thrown to by a young QB who's basically gotten himself pulled and hasn't shown he can consistently get the ball to people? You're not going to come here and put up huge numbers, as it's not what they look to do. One man isn't going to arrive and change a lifetime philosophy of a coach who wants to play defense and run it.
That said, the Tulloch-for-Fowler move was uncharacteristic. So perhaps they are working on a blockbuster.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
I packaged all the Vince Young stuff together here so you can skip right past this post if that's your preference.
Lynn in Nashville writes: Hey, Paul, I sent this to the guys at the Zone Friday Morning, but don't think they recieved it because they were on location. I'd be interested on your take, too. This issue with Vince has brouht up an issue for me that I don't think gets discussed enough---rookie salary caps. As a fan, I'm tired of watching these guys who've never proved anything on the field gettin paid the way the are. In my opinion, it's creating an entitlement and prima dona attitude in these rookies. Leniert, Bush, and Young (those are the ones i can name off the top of my head) haven't earned what they were paid and maybe if they'd had to work for the big contract they'd been in a different place right now. I don't watch the NBA but I believe this is the one thing they've gotten right. Why isn't the NFL pushing this? If I was a veteran I'd be demanding it. Thanks, Lynn
Paul Kuharsky: The commissioner and many owners are pushing it. But it has to be negotiated/ addressed as part of new CBA.
Unknown from New Rochelle writes: Regarding the Vince Young situation, I am just wondering how something as confidential as a conversation between a therapist and a patient became public information. Surely, somone has breached something and this, in my mind, is shameful...!
Paul Kuharsky: Police reports are public information and according to the report, which we know had at least two factual errors in it, Jeff Fisher relayed information to police that someone had relayed to him.
Tom in Nashville writes: Paul, Simple question: Is there such a thing as media ethics in sports journalism? Is it worth crippling an athlete's career and public life for the sake of the readers? I suppose a storyline is a storyline, good or tragic, and if a story exists, the masses will hear. The coverage, it seems, has surpassed the boundaries of common decency.
Paul Kuharsky: Nashville Metro police spent a four-hour block of a night on the lookout for Vince Young. How is it indecent to report on that? It's a public entity, funded by my taxes and yours. Aren't we entitled to know how those resources are used and to judge whether we feel their use was or was not appropriate? What if you had a relative in an emergency situation and the police were slow to get to him because they were looking for the quarterback?
Of course there are ethics. Of course I've been sensitive to what's going on with Young and I feel badly for him over a degree of it. But it cannot all be a secret once public authorities are involved. You prefer a cover-up?
We've crippled his career? That strikes me as an accountability issue that is at the very core of all this debate. He's crippled his career. I didn't refuse to re-enter the game. I didn't stand up in front of the media and say, 'You know me, I'm a good guy' as if that would make everything fine. My mom didn't say you need to be gentle with my precious baby boy. I didn't say 'I'm dealing with an injury for the first time and it's hard' when I, in fact, missed games last year hurt. I didn't say 'I've never been booed before' when I, in fact, was booed early in my career at Texas when people thought I should be moved to WR.
You want me to be accountable and I strive to be. Why do you not hold him to the same standard?
Garo in Decaturville TN writes: You mentioned that Vince Young's response to the media today was not good enough for you. What exactly would you have liked him to say? He sounded more "sure" in the audio clip than I have heard him in months. Just curious as to what you didn't like about it and also what you would've done if you were him. Thanks.
Paul Kuharsky: I would like him to be accountable like every other guy in the locker room is expected to be.
"I do this for the kids," and "You guys know me, I'm a good guy?" C'mon.
He said people were at his house so he couldn't go get the MRI the day after the game as he was instructed. Try that out next time your boss tells you to do something.
Have you ever heard him say "my bad?" Or take the blame for anything from a pick to a sideline tantrum to scaring those close to him by carrying a gun around after allegedly talking about suicide?
Sam in Houston writes: Hi Paul - love the column. I'm one of those Texas Nashville Tennessean fans. I must offer one side of the debate in this Vince Young issue. I'm admittedly a huge VY fan, but I am as concerned about recent events as anyone. My point to throw in the debate - to whoever you may know to help spur some real discussion as opposed to just 'smearing' Vince is the following. Many of our athletes in this day and age have serious stresses, depression, etc. However, a lot of them choose to externalize these emotions in bad ways such as drugs, alcohol, aggression, or other poor behavior. All Vince Young is guilty of is showing his emotion. He hates letting himself and his city down(as any UT fan can attest to). It's 100% true that he's a guy who may not speak well and thus may not express his words as he feels, but one thing is for sure and that's that he is a standup guy who holds himself to a very high level. Many QBs in the league(see David Carr) are never unhappy. He was a guy who could throw 4 interceptions and be joking on the radio the next morning. Vince would be so upset that he wouldn't talk to anyone. I'd personally prefer the latter. Also, a word on showing emotion. I read some comment on the Tennessean by a reader saying that our troops overseas go through a lot more and deal with it better. I work currently in the Veterans Affairs Hospital in the Mental Health area. There is one certainty, and that is that the troops who are more expressive(few and far between) tend to have less psychological problems. I have seen too many soldiers to count come in and say "that's just not the way it was done, you don't talk about it, you don't get down about it" and the end result is some serious mental health problem. We live in a society where a man still has to be shameful for showing emotion. Vince Young showed his emotions to millions of people, and they are penalizing him for it. We all have our struggles. No one should feel sorry for him, as he has more money than many of us can imagine. But to say that you are a "better" person than he is because you don't cry, get down, or show emotion is absolutely insane.
Paul Kuharsky: I don't understand what makes him a stand-up guy. Being a stand-up guy doesn't just mean physically standing up in front of notebooks, recorders and cameras.
If I am emotional as a person, do you want to see it in my work? Do you want me to constantly tell you and show you in my work how emotional I am? Or would you like to see me keep it in balance?
Being a competitor is not an excuse for everything. There are a lot of NFL quarterbacks who are a lot better competitors and more effective competitors than VY and they don't use it as a blanket excuse when they hit a bump in the road.
I'm not asking him to swallow it. I'm asking him, after three years, to show he has any interest in learning how to deal with it in a way that affects his work less.
I never said I am a better person than him or that I wanted to be in the spotlight that shines on him. And I don't think that's what most critics are saying. We're saying, 'Maybe it's time to be more accountable for your actions.'
DC in Orlando writes: I first want to say I enjoyed reading your work in The Tennessean. I am originally from Hendersonville. I also want to thank you for pointing out Jason Whitlock's piece on Young. Finally, would like to know your opinion on the Titans with Collins at the helm and if you think Young will ever make it back.
Paul Kuharsky: I appreciate the kind words. You can now find my work at ESPN.com, of course.
I certainly don't think Young has played his last game for the Titans. But if things break well for the team, it won't be soon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
For the final installment, I bring you the Tennessee Titans.
MAC in Nashville writes: The biggest problem I have with Vince Young, is his actions off the field & after the play. Spiking the ball for a delay of game penalty, complaining about the media, not taking respondsability, until he can fix those things I don't think he can succeed on the field
Paul Kuharsky: You have to use "actions off the field" carefully. In today's NFL that usually means arrests and trouble, so let's be clear: Vince Young has no such issues. As far as responsibility and accountability, those remain issues for him and it's fair to expect progress in those departments in Year Three.
Jon in Franklin writes: If Obama had not named his running mate, Jeff Fisher should have received strong consideration. Classic spin doctor, able to make any bad situation look good, better, off the chart great. His continued insistance, "Touchdowns will come", "We have time, no need to panic." "We have not schemed for that defense" "Vince is making the right reads" Jeff's half-glass full rhetoric is over flowing. Behind closed doors he has to be wondering what is up with VY. His longest completions are to his tight ends. VY will always be compaired to Steve McNair in his development, and the McNair to Wycheck combo was potent. But Steve did have great chemistry with Derrick Mason, will anyone from our current roster of wideouts will that need?
Paul Kuharsky: The team will never say anything negative about Young publicly, that's just the way it works. Which is why he might be wise to be more self-critical. Young has shown chemistry in the past with Justin Gage. But there is no McNair-Mason feel to anything yet, no.
Garo in Lexington, TN writes: What is your take on NFL Network's Jamie Duke's point that the Titans shouldn't have drafted Chris Johnson, despite admitting Johnson is a great player? His claim is that the Titans should've drafted a WR in the 1st round instead? Is this not a little assine especailly considering the potential of Lavelle Hawkins? Why is it that no one seems to believe Hawkins can develope into #1, is it because he was a 4th round pick instead of a 1st or 2nd? Before his injury, he looked to be the only WR with serious playmaking skills on the Titans roster.
Paul Kuharsky: I say: Give me a name. Who is this receiver they should have drafted? It's not like they went out on a limb by passing on a WR in the first round. Everyone did! If there was a Calvin Johnson out there, then yes, they should have done everything possible to get him. But there wasn't. They don't necessarily believe in having a No. 1. Check out this blog entry from earlier in the week on the topic of No. 1 receivers.
Bill in Nashville writes: Paul, I have watched all of the Titans preseason games multiple times. Vince isn't the only one struggling with the new offense. Kerry Collins has looked just as bad sans the one long pass to Hawkins against scrubs. I see Vince's hot reads not look for the ball on the blitz's. I've seen Vince throw balls that are 5-10 yards off target. The only explanation of this is that either Vince didn't remember the route or the WR/TE did not. This offense is completely out of sync. What is your thoughts on the overall impression of the team's grasp on Dinger's passing.
Paul Kuharsky: That's the root of the problem. Things are not clicking and syncing up as well as they need to. I speculated early that Young might get worse before he got better following the coordinator change. I suspect that's what we're seeing now, with him and the whole passing offense.
Please leave an email address next time Bill, so I can try to write you back personally too.
Jenny in Brentwood, TN writes: Okay Paul. You asked for questions. Here you go. How important do you think it is that former Titans DC Gregg Williams is now working for the Jaguars? Is he spilling trade secrets to the competition? Also, Tennessee worked out Byron Leftwich before he signed with Pittsburgh. Any Jags secrets given to the Titans that day? Do players, coaches, etc. sign confidentiality clauses? It would be next to impossible, I suppose, with all the switcheroos that happen each offseason, but I've often wondered if there were "meetings" and "hires" for the purpose of information gathering. And how do you keep a playbook secret? Really. So many players come and go. Enlighten me
Paul Kuharsky: Jenny, good to hear from you.
Coaches move around all the time and trade secrets are overrated. The Titans have one player on defense, Keith Bulluck, who played for Williams. He knows how Jeff Fisher and Jim Schwartz like to operate, but so do a lot of coaches they play against and they have a similar knowledge of him. Having Williams will be a good thing for Jacksonville, which needs his blitzing style to get more heat on the AFC's best quarterbacks.
Players get signed by teams all the time right before a team plays his former club. Consensus is there isn't a whole lot to glean, and the old team certainly changes signals, etc. to cover for any possible giveaways. Leftwich was far enough removed from Jacksonville I'm certain it was not the point of the meeting. Wouldn't he have been upset if they were wasting his time while he was trying to create some buzz and find work?
There are pretty strict protocols in place about playbooks. You turn the big one in at the end of camp, you turn the weekly one in at the end of the week, you get giant fines if you lose them, etc. Would you risk your job security or ticking off your boss in order to put a copy on your bookshelf for down the road? I believe most guys wouldn't/don't mess with the code,
Jesse in Nashville writes: Reynaldo Hill has not shown me anything new this training camp. He gets burned so often I find myself thinking fondly of our days with Denard Walker. I think its a great possibility that Nick Harper will not go the distance this season - meaning Rey-Rey will get the starting nod and opposing offense will begin to salivate as he takes the field. Do you see anything out of Eric King or Chris Carr that leads you believe that either of them (or someone else) can provide that much needed depth at cornerback? Also Vinny Fuller and Steven Tulloch have really been bright spots so far this pre-season. It seems that both of these guys are ready for a breakout in their 3rd year. What opportunities and possible new roles to see them filling this coming season?
Paul Kuharsky: I think King would rank ahead of Hill in such a situation now, though King had tackling troubles in one preseason game. They could look to upgrade at Hill's spot through waivers. Fuller is entrenched as the nickelback and the only concern with him is durability over 16 games. Tulloch is the fourth linebacker. He'll play in some goal line packages, be on most or all special teams and get the call if anything happen to Ryan Fowler, Keith Bulluck or David Thornton.
Dirk in Nashville writes: Paul, did you hear Norm Chow on the radio with Mark, Kevin and Frank this morning? It was fascinating to hear that he was fired over the phone in a 15 second conversation. Also, he was as blunt as I've heard him saying that he believed Matt Leinart was the guy they should have drafted and when they went with Vince he told his wife his "days were numbered" in Tennessee. That hire clearly did not work out from the beginning. I really wish they would have asked Norm's opinion on Vince's current struggles because clearly he had his doubts all along
Paul Kuharsky: I did hear it. I mentioned it in a "Reading the Coverage" blog entry. I like Norm Chow, hope he's someone I can call to talk football with for years to come. I am not saying Norm was treated properly.
I do think it's time to let go, at least publicly. He's told that story multiple times.
And we always need to be careful about not having both sides. Jeff Fisher's never given his side of that chat, and he could have offered a number of things to Chow that might have extended their talk or made it appear less harsh. Again, not that it would have made things right, just a little less striking.
Corey in Waverly writes: The Titans obviously have a top three defense (barring injury). The question is Vince Young. If he can have a even a mediocre year, is this a Potential Super Bowl team?
Paul Kuharsky: Not to me, no.
I see them in the playoffs. To win in the playoffs, they'd have to score points and I just don't see them scoring a lot of points. They are in a group of teams a solid notch below New England, San Diego and Indianapolis.
Jeff in Augusta writes: How do you see the Titans doing so well (2nd in the AFC south), when they have a quarterback who has yet to prove he's a consistent NFL caliber quarterback? Payton Manning-check, Matt Shaub-no Manning but a 87.2 passer rating isn't shabby, David Gerrard-102.2 pass rating and finally Vince Young-71 pass rating with a 9/17 td/int ratio. Young doesn't have "it" yet, and Kerry Collins is not much better. The Bears might have gone to the Super Bowl without a QB, but the Titans defense is definitely not the same caliber as the Bears defense was. I like the Titans running game (a lot), but Young at QB will bring the Titans down to a distant third in the AFC south. Anyway, thanks for doing this AFC south blog as it's a quick and easy reference for the news and notes.
Paul Kuharsky: Vince Young and the passing offense were really bad last year, and the Titans went 10-6 in the toughest division in football and made the playoffs.
The defense has 10 starters and the nickelback returning. The running game got better with a rookie back, Chris Johnson, who looks like an excellent addition to a rush attack that was fifth in the league last year.
Under Jeff Fisher they've often started slowly and then made a charge. It could unfold the same way.
Glad you like the blog, thanks.
J.D. in Austin writes: On the Titans: with the reported concerns over the receivers' failure to create separation, do you feel like the Titans will shop for anyone after this weekend's cuts? And are you getting feedback that Chris Henry is starting to learn his position or is he just getting to hang out as a recent second round pick?
Paul Kuharsky: They better do some shopping. They'll look at guys who come free, not make some big trade. Though until someone is hurt, I wouldn't expect to see them dipping deep in a receiver rotation.
On Henry, I have to say it's the latter. I think his 2009 replacement may all ready be on the roster: Rafael Little is rehabbing a knee injury suffered at the Senior Bowl and is on the Titans' non-football injury list. (Yes, it was a football injury but not in football with the Titans, who signed him as an injured undrafted rookie out of Kentucky.)
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Installment three of Monster Mailbag Sunday focuses on your Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jeff from parts unknown writes: Paul, I read your comment about not hearing from us Jags fans, I think that most Jags fans on trying to be talked off the edge after the terrible performance that they had against MIA, plus this tropical storm "Fay" has also been the center of attention. My question is based upon gregg williams history of being a blitz heavy coach how much could this help compensate for the lack of pass rush. My opinion is even if harvey would have signed 2 weeks ago his lack of experience would of held him from being very effective in year one (see mario williams) but I think that if gregg can come up with ways to create a pass rush at the beginning of the year that hopefully by the second half of the season we can possible get some type of production from one of our first two round draft picks
Paul Kuharsky: Williams will definitely blitz creatively. The Drayton Florence move was made to shore up the secondary and give them more confidence about using linebackers to rush or sending guys from the secondary. We're going to see that. I think your sense of things and timetable are both right on.
Aaron in Orlando writes: How high do you think Fred Taylor can climb up the all-time rushing list? Do you think he can get high enough to be a first ballot hall of famer? And since Jimmy Smith seems to get discredited for putting up his numbers during the "pass happy" era, shouldn't Fred and other running backs get credit for putting up their rushing numbers in the same era
Paul Kuharsky: Heck, let's give Taylor just 2,000 more yards -- not a stretch at all considering he's gone for over 1,000 four of the last five seasons and doesn't appear to be slowing, though it can happen fast north of 30. That would boost him to eighth all time, ahead of Jim Brown, presuming LaDainian Tomlinson passes Taylor on the way. I think Taylor will stay ahead of Edgerrin James for sure. First ballot Hall of Famer? Maybe not, unless he gets a Super Bowl ring. If he is a top-10 yardage guy with his excellent average, he'd have to get a vote from me if I had one.
Brian in Jacksonville writes: Please forgive the Jag fans needing validation. They haven't gotten to point where a team's success is not forged by the sportswriters but rather by winning on the field. Now that I'm off my soap box, the preseason thus far has led me to concern regarding the Jags run defense. If our ends can't contain the sweep and our linebackers can't come up and make the play where do we go in the South? The titans (lower case on purpose) look to have a pretty good running game and even the Texans may be able to have balance against us. Am I missing something? I know it is only preseason but I see cracks in what is normally the strongest link. The Jags can't get into shootouts.
Paul Kuharsky: Valid concerns I think, but I think the linebackers will show up more often than not. Bigger concern is the offensive line, especially Khalif Barnes. What do you imagine Kyle Vanden Bosch is thinking while watching tape of him right now?
Jim from Jacksonville writes: You know what I think (and I think I might get mixed feelings when I say this), I think that just in case Jerry Porter doesn't become "that" explosive receiver (not saying that he won't) Jacksonville need to see whether they can snatch up Usain Bolt from the olympics (which may not be possible, but it's worth a try) and get him develop as "that" guy, because you know he's got the speed, it's just a matter of whether or not he can catch, run his routes and take a hit.
Paul Kuharsky: Devil's Advocate: Catching, route running and taking a hit have done a lot to send very fast receivers who played football their whole lives way off track. Those aren't minor considerations. That said, I read Gil Brandt's assessment of Bolt at NFL.com and expect some team will try to at least get him to workout. It could be lucrative and give him another big platform to show off. Can you imagine his TD celebrations?
Paul Holmes in Wellington, NZ writes: Hi Paul, love your column. Unfortunately you are going up against the Vic Ketchman (jaguars.com)juggernaut in the AFC South fan Q&A domain. Got a question for you though - what do you think of Quentin Groves' performance so far? Is he simply struggling because he's a rookie or are there some fundamental concerns you have based on what you have seen to date?
Paul Kuharsky: It's more and more difficult for a rookie pass rusher to make an impact, I believe. And when I spoke to Groves early in camp, he said they weren't keeping anything simple for him, that he had to know everything.
Here's a blog entry from back then on the difficulties for young pass rushers.
Jason in Jacksonville writes: Two questions: 1) Does Matt Jones make it through the season with the Jags, or will we finally gain his roster spot as soon as the other receivers recover? 2)Why does it seem like Goodell has backed off of his hard line stance against player misconduct that most of the people that I talked to appreciated. Pacman and Henry should not have been reinstated in my opinion
Paul Kuharsky: Matt Jones may have turned a corner. I know that's a dangerous thing to say, but he sure looked good to me in the Washington game. I wouldn't put him out on the market any time soon.
Chris Henry still has a suspension to serve and Pacman Jones' had to end sometime if he stayed out of more trouble. I think Goodell remains as big on the player conduct issue as he's always been.
Brian in Jacksonville (same one I think) writes: I do respect the titans but I simply don't see how you pick them over the Jags. VY is a minus. Their WRs are worse than Jacksonville's. Their running attack, though with potential, is still unproven. The titans have a tough front 7 but but they simply can't expect to compete with their pedestrian offense. What specifically do you like that has them better than Jax
Paul Kuharsky: How is the Titans running game still unproven? It was fifth in the league last year, three whole spots behind the Jags. And now Tennessee has a far better second back in Chris Johnson and two stronger guards. Meanwhile, Barnes looks lost. Not to pick on Barnes.
Tennessee has shown it can win with
a bad passing game. And I expect, in time, Mike Heimerdinger's offense will click in and we'll see some passing-game progress. The pedestrian offense of a year ago was good enough for a split with the Jaguars last season.
I think the two teams are very close and that the Jags may well win on opening day in Nashville. But I gave the edge based on the status of the offensive lines right now.
Jeff from parts unknown writes: No complaints here regarding the fans poll. Personally I think its discouraging that the Jags did not take the corporate ticket bailout. I have seen MIA stadium mulitple times and rarely have they ever had a packed house, even when they was pretty decent they was never full yet there are always "Sold Out" due to corporate and ticket companies buying there unsold tickets. Why the Jags dont due the same is crazy, anyway thanks for the Fred Taylor receipe....I Love Shrimp Creole. Finally any thoughts on Harvey's first appearance in a Jags uniform, he seem to look really quick out there even though it also looked like he didnt have the slightest idea what was going on. Also are you going to put our your predictions for the AFC South now that the preseason is over. Thanks and keep up the good work
Paul Kuharsky: He's referring to these fan rankings. And to these recipes. Let me know how that dish is.
Predictions have been made. Here's a page that shows you what we all think will happen. And from here you can find team previews with specifics on our predictions for each.