Some say the Broncos need a starter. Everyone knows they need a benchwarmer.
Who better to play backup/Plan B than Vince Young?
Vince Young, the godfather of the zone read option at Texas and (sparingly) Tennessee. Vince Young, a physical runner and physically gifted passer. Vince Young, who proved as much when he beat the best college football team ever in the last game of the 2005 season.
Vince Young, potentially Tim Tebow with a possibly higher ceiling.
Tebow’s short list of NFL accomplishments—a modest 8-6 record as a starter, seven stunning comebacks in the fourth quarter or overtime, a league-worst completion percentage and Total QBR, and previously unseen powers of motivation—won’t earn him too long a leash. John Elway, in a vote of confidence too tepid to melt a snowflake, wouldn’t give Tebow any more protection than any quarterback who started his team’s last game.
“Tim's earned the right to be our quarterback going into training camp next year,” Elway said.
But even if Tebow were anointed in Lifetime Contract oil, the team would still need a No. 2. The Chiefs (Matt Cassel), Colts (Peyton Manning), Bears (Jay Cutler) and Texans (Matts Schaub and Leinart) are all case studies that any team, regardless of its strengths and progress to any point in the season, crumbles without its quarterback. That, and the inevitability of injuries and importance of insurance policies.
Who better to fill that role for the Broncos? Brady Quinn, who’s expiration date in Denver (maybe the league) is pegged to that of his contract? Derek Anderson or Jake Delhomme, who’ve become league hand-me-downs these last two years? Anyone else currently in the sport, currently unfit to run Denver’s quirky scheme?
Would you take a flyer on Vince Young?
Anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the April draft, who’d be rejected in Denver like a kidney with different blood type? Darron Thomas, the now-former Oregon Duck, who would incite a riot if selected in Tebow Town?
No. It all-but-has to be Young.
Young, who’s contract is up with the Eagles at year’s end. Young, who's market price would be pennies compared to the $5.7 million Philadelphia paid him in 2011. Young, who’s play last year was so comically, pitifully, mesmerizingly bad—his series in the Washington game should have been Pay-Per View; priceless stuff—he wouldn't be taken seriously.
At least not enough to threaten Tebow. Not at first.
But what if Tebow struggles? What if the magic fades?
What if, meanwhile, Young excels? What if that John Fox concoction clicks the way Andy Reid’s never would?
How wouldn’t VY prove the people’s choice? Especially if it’s for a near-veteran minimum price?
For all the antics and distractions—Young once tossed his shoulder pads into the stands during a game, fell off the face of the earth (to the extent the team was worried about his safety) and dropped a club promoter for mocking his alma mater—Young’s a proven player.
If Tim Tebow became injured or ineffective, would you trust Vince Young to run Denver's zone read option offense?
Or at least he was, when he went 30-17 from 2006-2010, winning a few year-end awards (the 2006 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year), earning two Pro Bowl nods (in 2006 and 2009) after going No. 3 overall to Tennessee.
Still, the dazzle—remember that 180 in 2009 that turned a Kerry Collins-led 0-6 team to 8-8—seems all too similar to what Tebow did where Kyle Orton couldn’t.
Why couldn’t Denver be reinvigorated again?
Bar none, that’s Tebow’s greatest asset: The enhanced performance of the men he inspires more-than-compensates for his own deficiencies. The Tebow Effect isn’t zero-sum; it’s a resounding plus.
I ask again: Why couldn’t that be Young?
Young, who’s been torn down and built up more times than Rome. Young, who’s been humbled by failure the same way Vernon Davis was throttled by Mike Singletary. Young, who needs the same change of scenery to stretch his legs that all reclamation projects do.
Young, maybe the (marginally more) reliable, sustainable, comfortable player Fox and Elway could cozy up to.
Young, who could prove the same free agent draw that Mike Vick was in Philadelphia and Tim Tebow won’t be in Denver.
Young, inarguably the only one worth a look.
Matt Hammond is a producer for 97.3 ESPN Radio in Atlantic City, and writes for 973ESPN.com. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattHammond973.