On August 30, The University of Texas rolled out the burnt orange carpet for you and retired your jersey. As a UT alum, I was happy to see this. You almost single-handedly brought a national championship to Texas after a 35-year drought.You know you will always be shown the love in Austin. You are a Texas legend. Your accomplishments at UT will never be forgotten.
Today, you’re playing for the Tennessee Titans, and stuff is hitting the fan and flying all over Nashville. Despite your team’s 17-10 victory, Sunday was a nightmare. You threw two interceptions. Fans booed you. Worst of all, you injured your knee. Some folks think your team could go to the Super Bowl … with Kerry Collins under center.
More stuff is flying because of what happened last night. Someone close to you was so concerned about your emotional state that they reached out to Coach Fisher. Turns out that you wanted to watch Monday Night Football with no distractions. No harm, no foul.
Nevertheless, you are at a crossroads. Rightly or wrongly, you are perceived as the weakest link on your team. You are expected to work miracles with Chris Johnson, Bo Scaife and a group of second-string receivers (no disrespect intended, but there is not one Pro-Bowl-caliber receiver on the Titans roster … this is a statement of fact).
It is not your fault that the Titans didn’t draft DeSean Jackson, Eddie Royal or your buddy Limas Sweed.
It is not your fault that some Titans fans don’t understand that it takes time to develop a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, and that Dan Marino and Ben Roethlisberger are once-in-a-generation exceptions.
It is not your fault that some Titans fans have quickly forgotten that you were 8-5 as the team’s starting quarterback in 2006, after Tennessee had a 5-11 record in 2004 and a 4-12 record in 2005.
It is not your fault that many of us, including myself, pay too much attention to sports and athletes, when, in the big picture, sports is only a diversion and has little to no real importance.
However, this is the world we live in. Football is your chosen profession, and millions of people are fans of your sport. We not only want to know your statistics, we also want to know what you bought your mother for Christmas.
Because we pay so much attention to the athletes we love and hate, it is hard to ignore pictures like this:
(photo source: John Partipilo, The Tennessean)
Longhorn alumni know it wasn’t too long ago that we saw this.
It’s hard to imagine what you must be going through, and I’m not going to speculate or play amateur psychologist. But if we see you hanging your head on the sidelines when things aren’t going well, it’s understandable that fans will be concerned.
With that, here’s some unsolicited advice:
1. Get help if you need it.
As a mental health advocate, I know that life is an unrelenting grind. From time to time, all of us feel stress from our jobs and our families. I also know that many people fear the stigma of mental illness and will not seek much-needed help.
A couple of years ago, Joey Harrington admitted that he sought the help of a sports psychologist. I thought that was a courageous admission from a guy who was committed to maintaining a positive frame of mind while working to be the best quarterback he could be.
Sometimes it takes more than prayer to get through life’s tough times. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling if you need it.
2. Hire Steve Young as a consultant
You said your goal was to make it to the Hall of Fame. Not only will you need superior on-the-field accomplishments, you will need a superior work ethic and a superior understanding of the game to get there.
Why not hire Steve Young as a consultant?
As you know, Steve Young was a very accomplished runner who eventually led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl. What you may not know is that Steve Young had to overcome a number of obstacles, including improving his passing skills, before he was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Steve Young often speaks of the “art of quarterbacking.” In fact, in a 2003 article (link here), he stated that your mentor, Steve McNair, after many years of hard work, finally reached the point where he “got it.” McNair, too, was a running quarterback who eventually mastered the passing game, and became co-MVP of the NFL the same year Steve Young wrote the article.
Since you will have a few weeks of not being under center for the Titans, I’d give Steve Young a call.
As a Titans fan, I want you to succeed. Thousands of Longhorn and Titans fans want you to succeed. Bud Adams, Jeff Fisher and Mike Heimerdinger want you to succeed.
Being an NFL quarterback is the toughest job in all of sports. However, you may have the easiest of the 32 quarterback jobs in the NFL. You play for a team whose offensive philosophy hinges on running the football. Your job is to find your place within the offense and minimize mistakes.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are not expected to shoulder the entire offensive load. Do the best with your talents, and hope that someday the general manager will remember that Steve Young had Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens’ help on the way to the Hall of Fame.
Best of luck going forward.