Vince Young is having a tough sophomore season.
He’s completing over 60 percent of his passes and his team has a 6-3 record, but he’s thrown ten interceptions and has accounted for only six touchdowns — four passing and two rushing.
There is no doubt that the Titans lack playmakers at the receiving position. Playmaking receivers make tough catches and fight through tight coverage. They don’t drop easy passes. A young quarterback needs playmakers to ease the learning curve. Rookie Ben Roethlisberger had Hines Ward on his side in 2004. Tony Romo has Terrell Owens. Eli Manning has Plaxico Burress. Other quarterbacks, such as the 49ers Alex Smith, struggle in part because they lack a dynamic and experienced receiving corps.
Apart from the Titans receivers, I think Young is struggling because he’s trying too hard to be a pocket passer.
An article by ESPN’s L.Z. Granderson says that Young sometimes wears a t-shirt that says “I am a quarterback.” His expressed goals are to take the Titans to the Super Bowl and to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Vince’s ambitions will serve him well in the long run (no pun intended). The Titans will have games similar to last week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars where the defense shuts down Tennessee’s running game and Young will have to pass frequently in order to give his team a chance to win. Cowboys great Troy Aikman recently said the most important quality in a quarterback is accuracy. If Vince wants to be a Hall-of-Famer, he must become a more accurate passer. And heaven forbid he suffer a knee injury and lose his effectiveness as a runner (see Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb). If he becomes a solid passer, he increases his odds of having a long and productive NFL career.
But how do Vince’s goals affect him in the short run?
There have been a number of occasions this season that I’ve seen Vince Young roll out of the pocket with open field in front lof him. Instead of taking the opportunity to run, as he often did in 2006, he passed (pun intended). More passing and less running mixed with inexperienced receivers equals more interceptions and fewer touchdown passes.
It’s awkward trying to play football (this is a game, remember?) and overcome stereotypes at the same time. It’s even tougher when you’re a high-level competitor like Vince Young.
But I understand why he trying to become a better pocket passer. Hall-of-Fame ambitions aside, no quarterback ever wants to be compared with Michael Vick.
Anthony Cotton of the Denver Post wrote a great article about Vince Young and suggests that he is taking too much responsibility for his team’s offensive struggles.
Not long after his Tennessee Titans lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, Vince Young, still clad in most of his game uniform, took a seat in front of his locker and stared. Soon enough, the 15 minutes became 20, and 20 turned into 30.
Teammate LenDale White ambled over, offering a few words, as did backup quarterback Kerry Collins a short time later. Before the lonely contemplation was complete, offensive lineman Michael Roos also would approach, offering his own solace.
“It’s not his fault,” Roos said. “He gets the blame for a missed pass, but it’s the offensive line maybe not giving him enough time. It could be the receiver. It could be the tight end.
“It’s everybody. He just shouldn’t be so hard on himself.”
We’ve seen what happens to athletes when the game becomes work. When it’s no longer fun. When he can’t deal with unreasonable fan expectations. Some athletes turn to drugs or get in trouble with the law.
Other athletes retire early.
I don’t want Vince to retire because he’s not having fun, or because he never became as accurate as Troy Aikman, or because he never passed for 4000 yards in a season.
I want to see the Tennessee Titans win the Super Bowl and Vince Young sharing the victory with his teammates, regardless of his passing stats.
Barring injury, Vince Young has the competitive drive and the physical talent to become one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, but it won’t happen if he’s playing quarterback simply to overcome stereotypes. In order for Young to reach his full potential, his decision-making ability needs to equate that of the great Joe Montana, with a twist.
If running the football is the best option during a pass play, run.
It’s OK to be a quarterback who runs the football. Redefine the position and win.