While he waits to unwrap owner Bud Adams' new toy -- Mr. InVince-able, (batteries and grasp of Norm Chow's offense not included) -- Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher has this other, reasonably crucial responsibility on his hands: winning as many football games as he can in 2006.
Fisher, heading into his 12th season with just nine wins over the past two years, feels a sense of urgency. So forgive the man, who is as shrewd and as skilled as any current NFL coach, if he has yet to accept top draft pick Vince Young as his personal savior.
While understandably high on Young in terms of personality and potential, Fisher also knows there is a quarterback on his roster, at least as I write this column, who has the potential to put the rebuilding Titans on the fast track to renewed NFL relevance.
Never mind that Steve McNair, he of the $23.46 million cap figure, is almost certainly headed out of Nashville, and most likely to Baltimore. Even with the seemingly irrevocable tension between McNair and the franchise resulting from its decision last month to have him barred from the team's facility -- the quarterback filed a grievance through the NFL Players Association, and a hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday -- Fisher is holding out hope that the relationship can be salvaged.
"My job is to win now," Fisher said on Tuesday, "and the guy who gives me the best chance to do that is Steve. So, yeah, I'd love to try to figure out a way to keep him here if there's any way it can be worked out."
Though Fisher declined to discuss the situation in detail, the coach was not overly optimistic about the prospect of retaining the man who has quarterbacked the franchise to more victories (81, against 59 defeats) than anyone else in team history. The Titans and Ravens nearly completed a trade on the second day of last month's draft, but Baltimore, apparently secure in its belief that Tennessee will end up releasing McNair, offered only a fifth-round pick, rather than the fourth-rounder the Titans were seeking.
The standoff has intensified in the week and a half since, with the Titans granting McNair's agent, Bus Cook, permission to negotiate with the Ravens. Last week NFL.com's Adam Schefter reported that the Ravens and McNair had agreed on the parameters of a deal that would pay the 33-year-old passer a signing bonus of nearly $11 million and another $1 million in base salary for 2006.
The Ravens know that the Titans are inclined to release McNair before the start of training camp in July to free enough salary-cap room to sign their rookies (including Young and former USC running back LenDale White). Undoubtedly, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach Brian Billick are also hoping that the arbitrator who hears McNair's grievance will grant the quarterback's request to be released immediately.