Kerry Collins will no longer be that old guy the Titans should re-sign to mentor Jake Locker in Tennessee, or that old guy who’d be holding back Locker in Tennessee if he’s re-signed. He won’t even be that old guy singing deliriously (what? wrong Kerry Collins?).
Nope, now he’s that old guy who’s just like every other old guy, except with a few more passing yards and touchdowns. The 38-year-old Collins has announced his retirement after 16 years in the NFL.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon Collins said he reached his decision after several months of contemplation. His parting words reflect those of a broken down veteran who’s been slowed by various injuries over the past few seasons. Unlike a certain other Hattiesburg, Mississippi native who’s name seems to surface every July, Collins knows when his body and mind are telling him to walk away.
“My willingness to commit to the preparation necessary to play another season has waned to a level that I feel is no longer adequate to meet the demands of the position.”
Collins leaves football after bouncing between five teams throughout his career (Panthers, Saints, Giants, Raiders, and Titans), and compiling 40,441 passing yards to go along with 206 touchdowns and 195 interceptions. Often cast in the role of being a placeholder for a seemingly better and younger quarterback with more sex appeal (see: Vince Young), Collins’ career highlight will be the 1999 season in which he led the Giants to the Super Bowl.
He’ll be remembered for his ability to cling to a career when others had banished him to permanent headset-wearing and clipboard-carrying duties. Collins consistently hovered just above that vague mark separating average quarterbacks from Donovan McNabb, and in a way that’s admirable.
Collins was drafted fifth overall by the Panthers in 1995, and struggled through the typical growing pains expected of a young quarterback getting battered both mentally and physically as the offensive leader of an expansion franchise. Coupled with his battle against alcoholism early in his career, Collins could have easily gone the way of David Carr or JaMarcus Russell, packing his guaranteed millions away and fading off into the mystic wasteland of quarterback busts.
But he didn’t. He persevered and led New York to within one win of a championship. While he didn’t have the dominating pocket presence of Tom Brady, or the charisma of Peyton Manning, he was steady and reliable. He was the Rodney Dangerfield of quarterbacks, receiving little respect amongst fans and job security from coaches. Collins passed the clipboard to Young during his tremendous and highly unexpected 2008 season after he was driven out of New York by Eli Manning. He was a mentor and a leader, but he just didn’t have the flash and dazzle that separates good from great, and also-ran from elite.
Call it maturity beyond his many years, because not many players have fought through the sudden lack of ambition that led Collins to abruptly walk away from Carolina, essentially quitting the team. Or simply call it a quarterback who knew his greatest asset even in times of struggle: a booming arm and a forever sailing deep ball.
Now the two-time Pro Bowler hands off to Locker, and Tennessee will watch and pray that another young, first-round quarterback out-runs the mental linebackers who sacked Young.