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Fisher could have refused switch from Collins to Young

With Titans owner Bud Adams recently confirming that he instructed coach Jeff Fisher to bench quarterback Kerry Collins and to use quarterback Vince Young instead after the 59-0 loss to the Patriots, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen recently made an interesting point regarding the question of whether Adams had the right to do so.

Actually, we pointed out when Fisher was supposedly mulling over his decision that owners typically do not have the power to force lineup decisions onto the coaches. But at the time we didn’t have knowledge of the contents of Fisher’s contract. Mort, or his source, apparently does.

Mort takes the issue an intriguing step further, aided by an ominous Monday Night Countdown graphic: “Did Bud Adams open loophole for Jeff Fisher’s exit?”

The theory/hypothesis is that Adams breached Fisher’s contract by forcing him to use Young, and that Fisher might be able to use the move as a vehicle for getting out of his contract after the season -- or at a minimum for leveraging a better deal to stay put.

Though Mort couched the whole thing in whimsy, the notion that Fisher could remain silent in the face of an apparent breach of his contract and then claim weeks after the fact that Adams violated the agreement and that the remedy is a free ticket out of town is even more of a stretch than the suggestion that the Steelers might eventually dump Ben Roethlisberger for Dennis Dixon. (Um, maybe I should have come up with a better example.)

If after the 0-6 start Adams told Fisher to do something he didn’t want to do, Fisher should have taken action then, by drawing a proverbial line in the sand, preferably with both middle fingers. Specifically, Fisher should have said, “I’m not playing Vince Young, and my contract gives me the power to make that decision.” Then, Adams would have had an even bigger decision to make: honor the contract and proceed, fire Fisher without cause, or fire him with cause.

If Adams had fired Fisher for cause, Fisher would have had grounds for a slam-dunk legal claim, even before a hand-picked forum that inherently favors the various NFL teams -- the league office.

So the notion that Fisher could agree to go with Young and then use the situation as a chip to be played later is flat out disingenuous, and it makes us wonder whether Fisher is quietly looking for a way out of Nashville after the season.

If, after all, Fisher truly doesn’t believe that Young will be a high-end contributor over the long haul, possibly due to fears that he’ll crumble (again) when he encounters adversity, Fisher might be thinking that his stock will never get much higher in Tennessee that it will be on the heels of a dramatic turnaround to a lost season.

So stay tuned on this on. Not because we think that the notion of declaring a contractual breach three months after the fact will have any legs, but because we think that Fisher might be trying to line up an escape route to another team.

As Mort said last night, “The Cowboys, the Bears. You never know.”