Titus Young: WR's Toxic Relationship with Detroit Lions Could Derail NFL Career

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2013

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 28:  Titus Young #16 reacts to a late fourth quarter call during the game against the Seattle Seahwaks at Ford Field on October 28, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Seahwaks 28-24.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Depending on which side of the tale you want to believe, Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young is an arrogant, malcontent player who tried to sabotage his own team, or he simply is a guy who wants his fair share of targets and an opportunity to play in the NFL.

No matter what the true story is, Young's actions are pushing his NFL career to the brink of extinction after just two seasons. 

For the second time in a week, the receiver went on a Twitter tirade against the team that drafted him on Friday. Daring the Lions to cut him, Young was defiant and said he would be willing to play for another team for the hefty sum of one dollar:

That came just days after the 23-year-old sent out a now-deleted tweet in which he threatened to retire if he did not get the ball more.

"Like I said I never been selfish but if I'm not going to get the football i don't want to play anymore," Young tweeted (per ESPN).

These dueling tirades culminate what has been a tumultuous 2012-13 season for Young and the Lions, to say the least. Young was suspended for Detroit's Thanksgiving Day game against the Houston Texans after allegedly lining up in the wrong spot multiple times on offense in the previous week's contest versus the Green Bay Packers.

The incident ultimately led to Young not seeing another down the remainder of the season, as he was later placed on injured reserve. While some would look into Young's relationship with Detroit and wonder where he may go next, the youngster's mistakes are actually more interesting on the conceptual level. 

There's an overwrought concept in the NFL known as the "talented malcontent receiver." Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Randy Moss are obviously the most notable examples, all of whom were given abundant chances to change their ways. 

Based on that principle, it would stand to reason that some team will give Young a chance when the Lions finally cut him (and they will). 

Well, that's possible. But Young's journey to a new NFL team isn't as set in stone as one may postulate. 

While the "diva" receiver is ultimately a true phenomenon, analysts too often use the wrong adjective. Talent means nothing when it comes to NFL teams dealing with "diva" receivers. It's all about production. 

To draw an analogy, Young's Twitter rant on Friday was the social media equivalent of doing sit-ups in his front driveway. Only Young does not have the nine years of NFL experience, five Pro Bowl selections or four first-team All-Pro honors that Owens had when he reached his petulant apex. And say what you will about T.O., but he never (allegedly) purposely lined up in the wrong position on offense. 

Through two seasons in the NFL, Young has exactly 81 catches for 990 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2004, the season before Owens' most noteworthy incident, he had 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 regular-season games—and then nearly won the Super Bowl MVP while still recovering from a broken ankle.

Owens wasn't just the best receiver on the Philadelphia Eagles that season; he was arguably the NFL's best skill position player period. 

I draw comparisons to Owens just to continue the analogy, but the point rings true for Moss, Johnson or any other malcontent player who actually stuck around in the league.

It's hard to deny Young's talent. He has the type of scintillating quickness and strong route-running ability that could turn him into an elite slot down the line. But teams don't pay horrible teammates with hopes that someday they might turn into great slot receivers.

As it stands now, Young is still a pretty big unknown. When using advanced metrics to tell the story, where Young stands on the NFL spectrum becomes abundantly clear. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, Young ranked 39th among receivers this season, placing right in the range of luminary talents like Kevin Walter and Kevin Ogletree. 

He also ranks 35th in drop rate, per Pro Football Focus, and averaged a paltry 0.94 yards per pass reception run. That latter rate ranks fifth-worst among receivers who were active on more than 25 percent of offensive snaps. 

Young is displaying superstar petulance while providing slightly above replacement-level performance. Titus Young pulling a Terrell Owens-like stunt is like Flo Rida snatching the mic out of Taylor Swift's hands a la Kanye West. 

You can only pull these stunts if you've got masterpieces like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or performances like a nine-catch, 122-yard Super Bowl performance on a broken ankle in your chamber. You can't pull a diva move if you make deafeningly awful club music or are barely worthy of starter's snaps. 

Young seems on the precipice of learning that now. It's highly likely that some team will take a flier and hope that the reality check of being cut ages him a decade-and-a-half. 

If not, he may not have any type of NFL check to cash come September 2013.