There has been a lot of press on the Titans front today-not necessarily the type of press Titans fans like seeing- but press nonetheless. Vince Young’s timeline over the last day has been quite the story around the news and sports outlets, even usurping the loss of Patriot Tom Brady, culminating in all kinds of questions concerning Young’s desire and even mental health.
In a submission on Monday, the Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt wrote an article questioning whether or not VY quit on his team on the drive preceding his knee injury. This article was quoted in a subsequent post from deadspin, alluding that the defense felt that Young had quit on the team with a quote from defensive leader Keith Bulluck stating: “No one is going to quit on this side of the ball.” A few plays into the drive in question, Young was injured-after an incomplete pass that should have been caught by RB LenDale White- and left the game for good. Backup QB Kerry Collins came in and converted a 3rd and 15 that eventually led to a LenDale White rushing TD that pretty much sealed the win. It seemed that the big question after the game was the extent of Young’s injury- and how much time he would miss.
Monday was to be when Young’s MRI was to occur, the 2-4 weeks of missed action speculated on Sunday took a back seat to reports of the Metro Nashville Police searching for a distraught Vince Young on Monday night. Young had left his home at roughly 7pm without his phone, and his family was worried. The Titans were contacted and alerted police. Soon after, Young was located with a friend, later meeting with head coach Jeff Fisher at team headquarters. The following statement was released:
“Not having all the facts available to us and approaching the matter prudently, we contacted Metro Police to make them aware of the situation and asked for their assistance in locating Vince. He was located at a friend’s house, where we made contact with him. He then came to the practice facility, where it was determined that those initial concerns by his friends and family were unfounded and he returned home without incident.”
While many of the reports and speculations about the seriousness of Young’s “dissapearence” have probably been taken out of proportion in many instances, their should be little doubt that Young is probably at least a little rattled. It’s hard to imagine that Vince’s personal expectations for the season opener featured two ugly picks, and a showering of boos from the home crowd. Whether or not the reaction was fair, former Tennessean writer, and current ESPN writer Paul Kuharsky alluded to the impact quoting Young’s mother as saying:
“What would you think, if you were tired of being ridiculed and persecuted and talked about and not being treated very well, what would you do? What kind of decision would you make?” Young’s mother Felecia Young told The Nashville Tennesssean on Tuesday. “He may not want to deal with it [all], but you have to get to that point before you make that decision first. But we’re not talking about football right now. We’re talking about what would make him happy, and that is the most important thing. … You don’t want people to be hurting like he is. But it is a growing-up process, and he will eventually come out like gold no matter what. But Vince is going to be OK. We are just going to try and give him some space.”
It’s obvious that Vince Young is going through some things right now that can’t be ignored. The former “savior” of the franchise has seen himself go from a quarterback that might have taken his team to the playoffs his rookie campaign if given the chance from opening day, to a quarterback that might receive the brunt of the criticism if his team doesn’t make the playoffs this year. Whether or not this is fair, Young is an early first round pick in a league and a business where hype is directly correlated with expectations. Young has the fortune or misfortune-depending on how you look at it-of being the most visable figure on a team that up to this point has developed a little quicker than he has. By no means does that mean that hope is lost.
Young is out for the anticipated 2-4 weeks, and hopefully that time off the field can give him a little bit of perspective on what he’ll be returning to. The Titans are a ball-club with one of the best defenses in the league, and a running game that should be able to move the chains and control the clock. The Titans are a team that at this point in time doesn’t need superb play out of their quarterback. That’s not a hit on Vince, but a realization that the pressure he puts on himself isn’t really necessary at this point. There are plenty of quarterbacks in the history of the NFL that needed a few years under their belt to consistently hit their stride (anyone remember Steve McNair?) and there really isn’t much of a reason to think this isn’t the case with VY. Regardless of the numbers or QB ratings, the Titans barely missed the playoffs VY’s rookie season, and made the playoffs last year.
The reality is that the Titans are alone in first place in the AFC South, with a number of very winnable games in the next few weeks. It’s not particularly implausible to invision the Titans going into the bye week comfortably in first place in the division. If that’s the case, it will be because the D will have played like we’ve come to expect them to, LenDale and Chris Johnson have continued to move the ball while showing different looks, and Kerry Collins will have managed the game effectively without forcing the issue. This would be the team that VY would more than likely be starting for after the bye.
If VY realizes that he doesn’t have to do more than make better decisions and protect the ball, he has the ability-with the squad around him-to lead a team that doesn’t need him to have any notion of the hype that has surrounded him. If he can get comfortable with that role in this early stage of his career, then the drama of the last couple of days will have been more than worth it.