Vince Young is a much better fit in today's NFL than he was when he entered the league in 2006.
That’s the same Bills team that trotted out noodle-armed Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starter. Young couldn’t even beat out the illustrious duo of Tarvaris Jackson and Tyler Thigpen for backup duties.
That was rock-bottom for a guy whose career has been on a steady slide downhill for the past few years.
Young’s pro career got off to a blazing start. He threw for 2,199 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding 552 yards and seven more scores rushing on his way to NFL Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors in 2006.
That still stands as VY’s best NFL campaign, though. He tossed nine touchdowns versus 17 interceptions in 2007. The following year brought the suicide scare and saw him benched in favor of Kerry Collins. Young didn’t regain the starting job until midway through the 2009 campaign. After a thumb injury in 2010, VY tossed his shoulder pads into the stands and was eventually tossed from the Titans roster.
The Eagles scooped him up for the 2011 season. Young started three games in place of an injured Michael Vick but was an absolute disaster. He completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and nine interceptions. He hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since.
The guy is done, right? Cooked. Washed up.
Would you be willing to give Young another chance in the NFL?
Maybe. But Young isn’t ready to hang up the cleats just yet.
He’s been working out all offseason and reportedly "put on a show" at Texas’ pro day on March 26.
“He’s hungry,” former Texas teammate Aaron Ross said on NFL Network Friday. “He’s been working his tail off.”
That’s fine and dandy. But we see players motivated to make comebacks every offseason. Take the game away from a guy and you suddenly see some urgency from even the laziest of the lazy. Heck, even JaMarcus Russell is kinda, sorta back in shape.
But hard work and rededication usually aren’t enough. Luckily, Young has something else working in his favor—the rise of the read-option offense.
Young virtually invented the read-option attack. He rushed for 3,127 yards and 37 touchdowns in his three seasons at Texas, topping the 1,000-yard mark in each of his final two years. He ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the 2006 NCAA national title game.
Young’s NFL arrival came a few years too early, when the drop-back passer was still en vogue. Stick him in the 2013 draft class and he’d be the next big thing—the no-brainer No. 1 overall pick.
Of course, VY comes with a lot more baggage now than he did when he entered the league in 2006. His medical history is sketchy, and it’s fair to question if he has the mental fortitude to handle life in the NFL.
But you can’t say with a straight face that guys like Byron Leftwich, Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart—the top free-agent QBs still available—are better options than Young. Let’s not forget that despite all the drama, Young has compiled a 31-19 record as an NFL starter.
Young would basically come risk-free since he’s on the free-agent market. Bring him in on a cheap one-year deal and if it doesn’t work out, cut ties and move on.
The Seahawks are in need of a backup quarterback behind Russell Wilson. Young has the skill set to run that offense. Head coach Pete Carroll knows the former Longhorn’s ability all too well. He coached the 2006 USC squad that Young defeated in the national championship game.
The Panthers and 49ers could take a look at VY, too. Their current backups—Derek Anderson in Carolina and Colt McCoy in San Francisco—aren’t capable of running the offenses that the starters run.
Young is the same player he’s always been—a top-notch athlete who just so happens to play quarterback. His legs are his greatest asset, but he’s inconsistent as a passer.
The difference this time around is that those guys can work in today’s NFL.
For more from Jared Smola, head on over to DraftSharks.com!