September 7, 2008 was supposed to be the day that third-year quarterback Vince Young would demonstrate his progress as the leader of the Tennessee Titans. Instead, it became the day that Young lost his job.
In the fourth quarter of the Titans season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Young threw an interception to defensive end Derrick Harvey. Some Titans fans reacted by booing loudly.
Before the Titans next offensive series, it appeared that a distraught Young did not want to go back into the game. After reentering the game, he was injured while throwing an incomplete pass. Backup quarterback Kerry Collins finished the game for the Titans.
On September 8, Young left his home in an emotional state that greatly concerned family and friends. Young and his agent, Major Adams, said the incident was overblown by the media, but Vince’s mother, Felecia Young, said her son was “hurting inside and out.”
After Tennessee defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in week two, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher announced that Kerry Collins would continue to start at quarterback as long as he played well.
No one imagined that the Titans would go on to win seven consecutive games.
Today, the Titans are the NFL’s only undefeated team. The Titans defense is stellar. Running back Chris Johnson is a candidate for Rookie of the Year.
And during the Titans victory against the Chicago Bears, Kerry Collins demonstrated that he is more than a “game manager.” Collins is receiving consideration for being selected as the NFL’s most valuable player. He is also making a strong case to receive a new contract from Titans management.
In the meantime, Vince Young sits on the bench, waiting for an opportunity. He might not get a chance to play this season.
It will be difficult when Young returns to the playing field.
In addition to overcoming Kerry Collins’ performance in 2008, Young will have to earn the trust of his teammates. He will have to win the hearts of fans in Nashville, many of whom could care less about his heroics at the University of Texas.
Young will also have to deal with the rising expectations placed on young NFL quarterbacks.
Expectations have always been unrealistically high for quarterbacks. Today, many fans are unwilling or unable to accept the notion that it takes time for a young quarterback to develop into a consistent and reliable player.
Before 2008, you could count the number of young quarterbacks who had extraordinary success early in his career on two fingers. During their second NFL seasons, Dan Marino and Ben Roethlisberger helped lead their teams to the Super Bowl.
This number has doubled to four.
In Atlanta and Baltimore, rookie quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are surprising NFL fans with their solid decision-making and efficient play. The Falcons and Ravens both have 6-3 records. Ryan and Flacco have a chance to lead their teams to the playoffs.
After this season, many Titans fans will have little to no patience with Young.
How will he handle these circumstances?
Some observers say Young has an opportunity to grow emotionally and to learn how to play the game by watching Collins.
Coach Fisher has said, on record, that Vince Young is the franchise quarterback of the Titans and will eventually start for the team. This, of course, remains to be seen.
Vince Young has overcome adversity many times in his life. He overcame a tough upbringing in Houston and became a superstar athlete in high school. He struggled early at the University of Texas, but would eventually lead the Longhorns to a national championship.
The way Young handles this challenge will reveal much about his character.