DMN: The curious case of Vince Young

Michael LombardiContributor IAugust 11, 2009

National Football Post

QUOTE: “Great men generally more anxious to have their reputation of talents which they do not possess than to be extolled for those on which their greatness is founded.” -- Washington Irving

Where have you gone, Vince Young?

I was a Vince Young fan when he came out of college, but after watching his work in the NFL the past two years, I no longer feel the same. When veteran quarterbacks do not look great, or even good, in the first preseason game, there are problems. Now, as Young enters his fourth season, I can look back at my missed evaluations and my unwillingness to view the facts, until this past weekend.

APVince Young

Where did it all go wrong for Vince? He was a Pro Bowl player as a rookie, led his team to the playoffs in just his second season, then was injured in the first game of 2008, lost his starting job and now is a complete mess.

After the ‘07 season, the Titans made a move with their offensive coordinator, replacing Norm Chow with Mike Heimerdinger. They subscribed to the theory that it’s either the players or the coaching, so if we change the coach, the results might change. As we’ve learned, the Titans did improve on offense with Dinger, but Young’s progress stalled.

First, a little background. Heimerdinger came to Tennessee to be the new offensive coordinator last season and help Young take the next step as an NFL quarterback, but so far those steps have been backward.

This is not to imply that Dinger hasn’t helped. Clearly, he has helped current quarterback Kerry Collins and the rest of the offense. Dinger is a fine football coach, a man deserving of a head coaching job in the NFL because all he does is move the ball and make big plays in the run game. However, Sunday night, in front of a national TV audience at the Hall of Fame game, Young looked rusty and tentative, and he looked like a rookie, not a Pro Bowler.

In 2006, his Pro Bowl season, Young had a 51-percent completion rate, with 13 interceptions and 12 touchdowns. His team won eight games, and his quarterback rating was a 66. These are hardly Pro Bowl numbers, but one could sense that he was a budding star with room to grow. After that season, the optimistic glass was half full. Now, two years later and without any progress, the glass is empty.

In 2007, Young and the Titans reached the playoffs, but they did it more with their defense and a field goal kicker who missed only four kicks all season. They won four games by a combined total of 13 points, so their margin for error was small. Young had 17 interceptions in ‘07 and only nine touchdowns.

He completed 62 percent of his passes, but he only managed to throw for slightly more than five yards per attempt (great passers have to be over seven per attempt). Another bad year in terms of passing, but his team won, and there were moments where he looked like he was coming out of his passing shell. The Denver game, for one, seemed to show a glimmer of hope that something good might be coming down the road.

So maybe it was just a false hope with Young. Maybe he was never very good, despite being in the Pro Bowl and despite being the third overall pick in the draft. Maybe he’s been bad for three seasons, but we just continued to ignore the bad. Or maybe we just believed that he was young and would turn it around at some point. But now, I don’t see that point ever coming.

Sometimes we keep thinking that a player is going to turn it around with a change of coaches, or a change of scheme. But the reality with Young is that there have never been great moments. There may have been glimpses of quality play, but the sum of his play has never added up to a quality NFL starter.

That was the first preseason game, and many of you might be saying, “Calm down, Lombardi. It’s early.” But that’s exactly my argument: He should look good. It was a vanilla defense he faced; it was all Cover 2 or Cover 3, maybe a little man to man. It was an all-star game defense, in which veterans with or without talent should look good. When they don’t, they just don’t have it.

I missed on Vince Young—badly.

APTony Sparano

Miami Quitters?

Fullback Matt Quillen became the third player to quit the Miami Dolphins' training camp. Tackle SirVincent Rogers and safety Ethan Kilmer left camp earlier. What does this all mean? It means they had no chance to make the team and decided to get on with their lives. Oftentimes, players who quit camp believe that the NFL is a wonderful dream, but the reality of playing in it is difficult.

I always felt that when a player came to my office to quit, I could tell if his heart was not in the game. Once you lose your heart and your passion, you’re better off removing yourself from the game. There’s no sense trying to talk a player out of quitting once he’s made up his mind because the NFL requires great skill and a great commitment. If you’re lacking in one area, you will hurt yourself and the team.

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