NFL: Titans looking at three QBs in draft
NFL: Titans looking at three QBs in draft
By JIM WYATT
LOS ANGELES - Matt Leinart is a lefty from the left coast, a proven winner who helped Southern Cal capture two national championships with his precision passing and leadership.
Vince Young has uncanny athletic ability and mind-boggling potential. Most NFL scouts feel as a junior at Texas he offered just a glimpse of what he can do at the next level.
Jay Cutler flew under the national radar at Vanderbilt, but once scouts looked closer at his cannon of an arm he entered the conversation with Leinart and Young.
All three quarterbacks are expected to go in the top half of the first round of the NFL Draft on April 29-30, possibly very early in the top half. All three are being studied closely by the Titans, who have the No. 3 pick.
But which one fits offensive coordinator Norm Chow and the Titans best? And is there one guy who doesn't quite fit?
The popular opinion is Leinart fits the Titans best. He worked under Chow at USC and is considered the most NFL-ready player of the three. He's certainly the closest to a prototypical NFL quarterback of the three.
"That is a marriage made in heaven for Matt and the Titans,'' said Leigh Steinberg, Leinart's agent. "I couldn't think of a better fit. They did so well together at SC, and they could just pick up where they left off.''
But those who know Chow best say it would be foolish to think he couldn't make things work with Young or Cutler, players of different styles yet with the qualities to be very successful in the NFL.
"The thing I like about Norm more than anything is his ability to adapt a quarterback's strength to what he is trying to accomplish on the field,'' said Gifford Nielsen, who played quarterback at Brigham Young when Chow was an assistant coach there.
Nielsen later played six seasons with the Houston Oilers. Chow was at BYU from 1973-1999.
"When Norm was at BYU and took over (as coordinator) all of the quarterbacks were just a little bit different," Nielsen said. "I was totally different than Marc Wilson, and Marc was different than Jim McMahon. Jim McMahon was different than Steve Young, and Steve Young was different than Robbie Bosco. Robbie was different than Ty Detmer.
"Yet all of us continued to be successful because of the ability of Norm to adjust to whoever the quarterback was. They all had different things they could do and Norm was able to adjust to that.''
Nielsen noticed that the pattern continued when Chow left BYU in 2000 for North Carolina State, where he coached Philip Rivers, now with the San Diego Chargers.
A year later Chow moved on to USC, where he coached current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and Leinart before leaving to join the Titans last year.
"You look at all of those quarterbacks and they were all successful," Neilsen said. "And they were successful because Norm has the ability to take a look at what you've got and then say, 'Here's what I am going to do and here's how I'm going to implement this offense around you. I am going to build around your strengths.'''
Chow has spent time with Leinart, Young and Cutler in recent weeks. He said if the Titans draft one of those three players, he'll shape the offense around him when it's his turn to take over.
Depending on the outcome of veteran quarterback Steve McNair's contract situation - he's scheduled to count an almost unbearable $23.46 million against the salary cap - that could be anywhere from the near to distant future.
"I've always thought that you have to fit your stuff more to the quarterback than the quarterback has to fit you," Chow said. "You'd like it to mesh and sometimes it doesn't, but that is your job as a coach, to make it work. I think that is a mistake coaches make. They say, 'This is what we do.'
"We have to fit what they do best and try and magnify that. ... I've always said that you need to magnify the skills of the people you have.''
Chow believes Leinart has the best chance to make an immediate impact in the NFL, and thinks Cutler isn't too far behind.
Conventional wisdom regarding Young is that his adjustment to the NFL may take a bit longer than Leinart or Cutler, but the wait would be worth it.
"I would think anybody would work well with Norm, because he's at the top of his game, he's as good as there is and he always has been,'' University of Texas Coach Mack Brown said. "He has an amazing knack for adjusting to what he needs to adjust to.
"Vince is so eager for knowledge and to learn and keep growing. He had a tremendous jump from the middle of last season to the end of this season in his progression as a quarterback. But I still think there is some out there for him, and what a great thing for him if he had an opportunity to go learn from Norm.''
The Titans spent extra time with Young after the Texas Pro Day and are taking a similar approach with Leinart.
Since Chow already knows Leinart well, it will be a chance for Titans Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Floyd Reese to get to know the former Trojan better.
And they'll all inch closer to knowing if Leinart, Young or Cutler is the best fit for the Titans.
"There are differences in each player, but I think people just assume because Coach Chow has a relationship with Matt that Matt ends up being the guy for us. That's not necessarily true,'' Fisher said.
"He very well may be, but there are a couple of issues. We haven't said for sure we are even drafting a quarterback. We are also going out to look at Reggie Bush and we'll also be making other trips to see other players. So there's still a lot to be decided.''