Coach, Analyst Butt Heads In Nashville

By Jim Wyatt
Updated: September 23, 2008

NASHVILLE — Some of ESPN analyst Merril Hoge’s comments about Titans Coach Jeff Fisher and quarterback Vince Young during a recent radio interview were “incorrect,” Fisher said Monday.

Later Monday night, Hoge said his remarks weren’t intended to offend Young, and tried to clear up some misunderstandings. But he hasn’t changed his opinion of Young as a player, he said.

“I know people think that I hate Vince Young,” Hoge said. “I’ve never met Vince Young and I don’t want him to fail. I’ve been critical of him, but that’s my job. Everything he has gone through, I hope he’s able to work his way through it.”

Speaking on a Pittsburgh station last week, Hoge said Fisher told him he “fought like crazy” to keep the Titans from selecting the Texas quarterback in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Hoge also said Fisher told him he was going to threaten to use the Texas offense if the Titans picked Young “because he has no chance to run an NFL offense.” But on Monday Hoge said he was the one who told Fisher he should run the Texas offense if the Titans picked him. Hoge said he was trying to protect Fisher as a friend from picking a quarterback he felt was destined to fail.

“I am not changing how I feel about him as a player,” Hoge said. “He just hasn’t improved, he’s the same player he was in his first year. But I feel bad the explanation and understanding of some things was misinterpreted.”

Hoge said Fisher has been supportive of Young. Fisher and Hoge have spoken since the interview.

“Whatever he reported that I disclosed with him is incorrect,” Fisher said earlier Monday. “He implied, or stated, that Vince (also) takes a limo to work every day and lives three miles away from the facility. That is so far out of line. He doesn’t do that; we all know he doesn’t do that. So if you are going to start there, I think it discredits everything. He accused me of saying a lot of things that I never said.”

Hoge, a long-time critic of Young, called him a “soft baby” during the radio interview.

Hoge also said he’s heard audio of Titans’ players on the sideline during the season opener making disparaging comments about Young, who initially refused to go back into the game after throwing his second interception.

Young hurt his knee a few plays later and isn’t expected back anytime soon. Fisher said Kerry Collins would remain the starter as long as the Titans (3-0) are winning.

Earlier Monday, Fisher said “up until this point” he’s had no problems with Hoge, a former Steelers running back.

“I’ve helped Merril. He has called me and asked me questions. But we talk football, we don’t talk about life,” Fisher said. “If I spent all my time trying to figure out why people say things or do things, I am taking away from coaching my football team. I don’t want to spend any more time discussing it.”

Hoge said he’s not surprised Fisher is standing up for Young.

“As a head coach, he did what I would do,” Hoge said. “If it’s about your guys, you are going to protect them. I completely understand that. I have no problem with that. I’ve had people lay into me before. You never say anything that 100 percent of America is going to say, ” I agree.”

“One thing I would like to never talk about again though is Vince Young. I am so done with his stuff and how it has turned out. I feel bad for him as a person, and it bothers me it has gotten so deep because I have nothing against him as a person ”.