The day was January 3, 2007, and Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young was seemingly on his way to the top of NFL life. NFL Rookie of the Year award in hand, Young was the next big thing at the quarterback position.
Oh, how the mighty can fall in the National Football League.
Young was released by the Buffalo Bills Monday after the team dealt a draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks for journeyman quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Once a budding superstar, Young was let go during the Bills' first round of cuts to get to the league-mandated maximum of 75 players.
Some on-lookers will wonder how Young has fallen so far, so fast.
This was a quarterback who led the University of Texas to the National Championship over the mighty USC, a player who transcended the position with a raw but can't-keep-your-eyes-off-him skill set. Young was electricity personified on a football field.
During his rookie season, Young led the Titans from the abyss of 0-5 to the glimmering hope of an 8-8 finish. He became the first rookie quarterback ever to rush for over 500 yards.
What could go so wrong for a player so athletically gifted?
But the signs of this downfall have always been readily apparent. The NFL is a different beast than college football, and eventually, Young couldn't help but get swallowed whole by his own deficiencies.
Even during his rookie season, one could see the writing on the wall.
Young completed just 51.5 percent of his passes during the 2007 season, averaged just 6.16 yards an attempt and threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12). His passer rating was 66.7, or just a percentage point higher than JaMarcus Russell's career passer rating.
Young was going to have to either evolve as a quarterback or fade away into the NFL landscape.
The Titans did finish 10-6 a year later—qualifying for the playoffs—but Young failed to show improvement as a quarterback. He threw nine touchdowns against 17 interceptions and the rushing numbers were almost cut in half.
Questions about his work ethic and leadership began running wild, and Young even gave the Titans a scare after he injured his thumb in the team's 2008 season-opener. Coach Jeff Fisher benched Young in favor of Rusty Smith, and Young went off on an emotional tirade that started paving his way out of Tennessee.
By the summer of 2010—despite a season in which Young had a passer rating of 98.3—the Titans were done with Young. Ownership released him on the first day in which teams could waive players following the NFL's labor stoppage.
Young quickly hooked on with the Philadelphia Eagles, hoping a union with Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg and Michael Vick could revive his drowning career. It wasn't to be. Even the well-versed quarterback coaches couldn't fix what ailed Young.
Young played in six games but threw nine interceptions, finishing the season with a quarterback rating of 60.8—the worst of his NFL career. As was the case in Tennessee, Young struggled with accuracy (57.9 percent) and decision-making. His athleticism simply wasn't enough to overcome those two obvious faults.
NFL cities remained a far cry from the comfortable living that Young found in Austin, Texas.
Like a broken record, Young's faults were again on display this preseason.
In three exhibition games with the Bills, Young completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions. Both picks came in a 38-7 loss last week to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In this day and age of the NFL, there's no place for a quarterback who can't consistently complete passes and turns the football over. That's the position Young is currently in.
Young is also 29 years old, which makes it pretty unlikely that the 6'5", 235-pounder still has time to flick the light switch on.
At this point, it's difficult to find another fit for Vince Young in the NFL. If he does stick around the league, Young is likely going to be fighting for a backup job (at best) for the rest of his career.
But who is going to trust him with that role after two flame outs, including a final stand with Chan Gailey—a coach tailor-made to his talents?
Young is a flawed quarterback with little upside.
Once a Rookie of the Year with nothing but greatness ahead of him, Young will now be relegated to fighting at the very bottom of NFL rosters for the rest of his career.
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