Friday, January 07, 2011

End of an Era: Young Texts and Tweets His Way Out of Music City

Remember about a month or so ago, when Titans quarterback Vince Young texted an apology to his coach, Jeff Fisher? That was weird.

Vince tweets also, and, of course, that’s what people do nowadays. The texters and tweeters have helped mightily to fulfill philosopher/social critic/communication theorist Marshall McLuhan’s prescient statement of 47 years ago: “The medium is the message.” See, it doesn’t matter what you say anymore, it’s what cool gizmo you use to say it with that counts.

I dunno. Probably the last thing VY should do is tweet. Instead of relegating his thoughts and feelings (such as they are) to an emotion-less, iPhone-generated electronic mouthpiece, VY might want to “man up” and “get real.” Addressing his “fan base” with pat responses to big issues just seems lame. And immature.

Alas, electronic gadgetry--however it may mask immaturity--cannot mask failure. Young, 27, was at it again Wednesday, tweeting with typical blandness, after getting his ass kicked off the Tennessee Titans, a team that waited five years for its first-round 2006 draft choice to learn the system, mature as a leader, and then translate his vast physical tools into postseason NFL success.

That never happened. But Vince thanked everyone for his opportunity. In a tweet. Way to go, Vince. (To be fair, Young was quoted in the Tennessean, the local paper of record, expressing some sense of disappointment. So he did apparently talk to a fellow humanoid. Keep that up, Vince. Very therapeutic.)

Young had a penchant for the occasional blockbuster play, and he actually posted a very respectable W-L percentage (.638) in games he started (30-17). Which certainly makes the average Titans fan wonder if the former University of Texas demi-god won’t re-surface somewhere else in the league, where maybe an older but wiser Vince can eventually harness his athleticism and merge that with on-field savvy.

Fact is, sometimes, reflecting on Young’s performance the past five years, it’s tempting to wonder what things might’ve been like if the Titans had simply let the stallion run wild on the field, exercising the improvisational skills that made him a hero in Austin.

Instead, head coach Jeff Fisher and his assistants spent all of their time trying to re-make Vince into a conventional NFL quarterback. That’s pretty much what always happens to athletes like Young. Because NFL history teaches us that conventional quarterbacks, operating from the pocket--poised and absent of panic--win Super Bowls.

Maybe Young will get another chance. Maybe he’ll find success after hooking on with another team, where the karma might be more welcoming. Where he’ll be older but wiser.

Seems unlikely, though. In five years, VY never even came close to running an offense like Brady or Manning or Brees. Neither did he do it in Roethlisbergian fashion, with uncanny strength and absolute determination. And, unlike Michael Vick, Young never found a way to utilize his assets with discernible consistency. (Oh well. At least he didn't get involved in a dog-fighting scandal.)

Young did have his moments, though. He looked capable of making the throws and, for one brief series of shining moments, he even used his athleticism to tantalizingly run the option attack in tandem with fleet running back Chris Johnson. Those possibilities just seemed to die on the vine.

There was some genuine excitement in the Young Era, but--unlike Vince when his protection broke down--things just never took off.

Now there’s really nothing much left to say. Or text. Or tweet. Vinny, we hardly knew ye.


Way too often, big-time (and small-time) college quarterbacks don’t pan out in the NFL. Here’s a rundown of the QBs drafted along with Vince Young in 2006, including brief commentary on their whereabouts.

#3 (1st Round) Vince Young/Texas/Tennessee Titans--Currently unemployed

#10 (1st Round) Matt Leinart/USC/Arizona Cardinals--Mediocre results with the Cards; now a backup with the Houston Texans

#11 (1st Round) Jay Cutler/Vanderbilt/Denver Broncos--Strong arm in evidence but stint with Broncos proved disappointing; now heading into his first-ever playoff game with the Chicago Bears

#39 (2nd Round) Kellen Clemens/Oregon/New York Jets--Had some opportunities as a starter, but now a backup with Jets

#64 (2nd Round) Tarvaris Jackson/Alabama State/Minnesota Vikings--On and off starter; still with Vikings, but maybe not for long

#81 (3rd Round) Charlie Whitehurst/Clemson/San Diego Chargers--Benchwarmer for the Chargers, and now a backup for the Seattle Seahawks, who, surprisingly, he led to a key victory and a playoff berth last weekend

#85 (3rd Round) Brodie Croyle/Alabama/Kansas City Chiefs--Never took advantage of starting opportunities; now a backup for Chiefs

#148 (5th Round) Ingle Martin/Furman/Green Bay Packers--Former Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville) multi-sport standout did the practice-squad and backup thing for several NFL teams; now out of football

#164 (5th Round) Omar Jacobs/Bowling Green/Pittsburgh Steelers--Former NFL practice-squader was later a star in the American Indoor Football Association

#194 (6th Round) Bruce Gradkowski/Toledo/Tampa Bay Buccaneers--Little-known MAC product has shown some skills while bouncing from Tampa to Cleveland to Oakland; currently an erstwhile starter for the Raiders, but hampered by injuries

#223 (7th Round) D. J. Shockley/Georgia/Atlanta Falcons--Former Falcons bench-warmer and practice-squader suffered bad knee injuries in 2007; last seen playing in the United Football League