Vince Young: A Talented Quarterback, but Ultimately Flawed
As we all should know by now, Vince Young has once again been handed the reins to the Tennessee Titans offense as they prepare to face the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team they have already lost to during their 0-6 slide and the same team that started all the problems for Young last year.
Or, at least, the same team that exposed his problems.
I am sure we all remember the game, where Young threw two interceptions—the second one booed loudly—before inexplicably removing himself from the game with just over four minutes left to play.
He was limping like his leg was bothering him, but in all likelihood it was more the injury to his ego that took him out.
Because you see, Young does not like to lose. And he sure doesn't like to be held responsible for a team's poor performance.
Unfortunately, this was not something he had much exposure to prior to his NFL debut.
Going into the contest with Jacksonville, his supporters proclaim he has changed, that he grew up after being benched by coach Jeff Fisher and forced to watch as the Titans were successful without him. They say that he has been patiently waiting for his shot to return to the forefront of attention and prove to the world, so to speak, that he is a different Vince Young.
Of course, his petulant attitude during the summer, when he as much as demanded to be played or traded, would say otherwise.
But honestly, it's not his attitude that is going to be his biggest problem.
His biggest problem is going to be his inability to adjust, his unwillingness to change. That is what will ultimately end the career of Vince Young.
Some supporters want to compare him to Donovan McNabb—a big, strong agile quarterback who has the ability to make plays with his legs as well as his arm.
Some have even gone so far as to invoke the name of Randall Cunningham, the former Eagles quarterback who was such a prolific runner that he often led his team in both rushing and passing yards.
OK, maybe I'm remembering Tecmo Randall, but you get the picture.
I'm more inclined to compare him to Kordell "Slash" Stewart, who had a flash of success in Pittsburgh before his performance and production took a nosedive, resulting in a career that saw him lose three starting positions with three different teams before ultimately being released in 2005, never to be considered by another team again.
Their careers are so strikingly similar, it almost seems scripted.
Both wear No. 10 in honor of their mothers: Stewart's mother died of lung cancer when he was 10; Young's mother's birthday is June 10.
Both played in college systems that were designed around their particular abilities; Stewart played in an option-heavy system in Colorado, and Young's ability to run precipitated a change in Texas from a traditional I-formation system to a three-wide shotgun formation, which ostensibly gave the Longhorns more "options" in play selection but ultimately could have been called "Let Vince Run."
Which he did, amassing over 3,000 rushing yards in his three years as a quarterback—he was redshirted his freshman year so he could "learn" the playbook. He did have considerable success passing in his senior year, throwing for just over 3,000 yards and ending the season as the top-rated college quarterback.
Stewart was also a prolific runner in college, racking up nearly 1,300 yards rushing. He had a bit more success throughout his career passing, racking up over 2,000 yards each of the three years he was a starter.
But both quarterbacks were seen as a double-threat during their college days.
In their first full seasons as starting quarterbacks in the NFL—Stewart in 1997 and Young in 2007, 10 years apart—they led their respective teams to playoff berths before both fell short of making it to the Super Bowl.
Both quarterbacks invoked declarations of "revolutionizing" the quarterback position with their ability to run and pass as defenses struggled to defend against them.
Following their respective first playoff seasons, both quarterbacks struggled to repeat their performances, because NFL defensive coordinators did figure them out. Young made it one game before injury and fan fickleness prompted his ouster; on the other hand, Stewart was able to hang on for two seasons, going 7-9 in 1998 and 6-10 in 1999 before being replaced by Kent Graham the following year.
And it is here that Stewart's career truly becomes a harbinger for Young's future.
Stewart regained his starting job after the Steelers started 1-3 in 2000. He was able to rally the team to a 9-7 record that year, barely missing the playoffs. The following year he led the Steelers to a 13-3 record, earning them a playoff berth, quieting the naysayers who had proclaimed that he wasn't capable of leading the Steelers to victory, and taking the Steelers to the AFC Championship game.
But they lost the game, thus beginning a three-year odyssey that resulted in Stewart's ultimate departure from professional football. Stewart struggled again in the 2002 season, and after throwing an interception in the end zone against the Cleveland Browns three games into the season, he was permanently replaced by Tommy Maddox and cut the following year.
Young is taking over for a team that is in the throes of a horrendous losing streak. While it is unlikely that the Titans will finish 9-7, it is mathematically possible. Next year, who knows? The Titans could again go 13-3 and make the playoffs.
The question is, does Vince Young really have the ability to adjust? Will he remain a one-dimensional quarterback, or will he develop into a well-rounded leader?
The jury is still out on that question. Some say he did it at Texas, so he can do it in the NFL, but that is an apples-to-oranges comparison. College teams are rife with players who graduate and go on to have wonderful careers in other fields; the NFL is populated by players who are at the top of their game.
So far, VY hasn't shown that he intends to play any differently than he did before losing his job. And there's the rub.
Young's college success hinged on him being allowed—even expected—to win the game with his legs. NFL defensive coordinators may get taken in by that at first, but they will adjust. Once that happens, and it will happen quickly , mind you, will Vince be able to settle in to learning a passing system?
Or will he run his way right out of the NFL?
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