Vince Young has been the main focus of the Titans' offseason as far as media coverage goes, despite not having played a single snap for Tennessee since Week One of the 2008 season. The combination of a knee injury, a troubled personal mindset, and a "first round bust" tag have ignited the media sparks under Young, who now enters his fourth NFL season under more scrutiny than perhaps any other player.
After his dynamic, thrilling rookie campaign where he led the Titans to the playoffs and won Rookie of the Year honours, hopes were high for the former Longhorn. But 2007's statistical struggles (nine TDs to 17 INTs) were compounded by 2008's personal ones, and Titans fans like your esteemed author find themselves altogether bemused by the situation.
So the question becomes: What are the chances of Young ever playing again in Nashville, or even in the NFL?
First, the bad. In his NFL career to this point, Young has a QB rating of 68.8 and has thrown 10 more interceptions than TDs in his first three years. The last time he was Tennessee's starter in '07 he took a massive step back in overall production from his rookie season, accounting for seven fewer total touchdowns his second year than in his first.
Some blame this on the infamous Madden cover curse, others shrug it off as a sophomore slump. However, before Young had a chance to disprove his critics, they only grew louder in his head. He was booed in his first start of 2008 against Jacksonville, then injured his knee. He spent the rest of the season on the sidelines, watching Kerry Collins lead the Titans to the NFL's best record and a division title.
Many questioned Young's mental toughness and even his actual talent level, accusing him of plateauing and never being able to become an NFL-level quarterback.
Then, just after Jeff Fisher asked another formerly unpolished Titans QB, Steve McNair, to tutor Young in the offseason (Young having had a strong relationship with McNair for nearly a decade), McNair was tragically shot and killed.
A huge personal loss to Young as well as a professional one, this only fueled critics to nail the coffin lid closed on Young's NFL career.
However, despite his obvious struggles thus far, it's not all bad news for Young.
Jeff Fisher and the Titans front office have repeatedly referred to him as "the future of this team" or "our future quarterback," showing that they are still behind Young going forward. Jeff Fisher is not known for patently lying to press cameras or his own players, so it seems that the veteran coach believes Young has an NFL future, and one in Tennessee at that.
Also a positive is Young's attitude since the end of last year.
Young's work ethic this offseason has been second to none, studying film and working out at the team's facility way before even OTAs began, and he seems to want to prove his doubters wrong as the 2009 season rears its head.
He knows that Kerry Collins will start the year—barring injury—but given Collins' age and the inconsistency that has plagued his entire career, Young has a legitimate shot of seeing the field this season.
This is where even the negatives could improve Young's future play, as he has had time to reconsider his situation in the NFL and with the Titans.
He now knows that he has to be better than ever to win back not just the fans but the locker-room too. He wants to be a leader on this team, and his work ethic thus far suggests that he's going about it the right way .
Historically, Young has always played his best with a chip on his shoulder.
Everyone said that Texas would never beat USC in the Rose Bowl; they did, as Young almost single-handedly demolished the Trojans' defense.
Everyone said that Matt Leinart would be drafted first; he wasn't, and Young went on to show how special he could be with a memorable rookie year.
Now the criticisms are raging louder than ever, and if history is to be noted, Young could come out the other side better and more focused than ever before. That's by no means a certainty, but it's something pertinent to consider before slamming Vince Young's NFL case shut for good.
Originally posted at playactionpost.com