By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report
ABOVE PHOTO: Eagles’ quarterback Vince Young (9) scrambles during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Eagles won the game 17-10.
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J–Coming into last Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, the only images that Eagles fans had of backup quarterback Vince Young were the interception he threw against the Washington Redskins in a brief relief stint for Michael Vick and not knowing where to lineup in another brief outing against the Arizona Cardinals.
Then there was the chorus of fans on the sports-talk radio circuit who thought’s Young’s appearance in Sunday’s game against the Giants would be the final death knell for a season inches from the grave.
But now they have the image of Young leading the Eagles on an 18-play, eight-minute, 51-second game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s victory. While he struggled at times with three interceptions, Young’s finest hour of the game came on that drive. He converted six third downs including the game-winning eight-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper.
It was a heck of an effort for a guy who hasn’t started a game in over a year and a measure of redemption for a man trying to right the ship in a career marred by his tumultuous time in Tennessee.
“He had a couple of turnovers there, but he came right back and he didn’t flinch,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “That’s the seasoned veteran that he is.”
In what was his last game with the Titans, Young got into an argument with then Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher and then walked out immediately after the game and before the postgame meeting. He reportedly told Fisher, “I’m not running out on my teammates, I’m running out on you.” He also angrily tossed his jersey and shoulder pads into stands.
As petulant and immature an act as that was, it was a reflection of the fact that Fisher never wanted to draft Young as his starting quarterback and never really had his back during his time in Tennessee according to various media reports and those close to that situation.
Young has been defined by his on and off the field issues from refusing to go into a game after being booed to reports of him being suicidal along with an altercation with a fan outside a strip club.
But for all of Young’s dysfunction and for all of those who say he has been a bust as a pro quarterback, he has been a winner even when his immaturity has gotten in the way.
After all, Young has a 31-17 record as a starting quarterback and a guy who led 13 game-winning fourth-quarter drives and has seven come-from-behind wins. As a rookie, he was the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year and he has made two trips to the Pro Bowl.
Most of those wins came during his time in Tennessee when he didn’t have the best receivers in the world and while playing for a coach who didn’t consider him the apple of his eye.
So far, during his brief time in Philadelphia, Young has managed to impress his coaches with his work ethic and maturity.
“He came in without any type of offseason at all and with a little bit shorter camp,” said offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg prior to Sunday’s game. “He has been working hard both on and off the field and in the classroom. (Quarterbacks coach) Doug Pederson has been doing a great job and has great confidence in Vince. I think he’ll play well.”
With the result of Sunday’s game, Morhinweg turned out to be right.
I’ve always believed that the success of an athlete depends on whether or not they’re in a situation where they can develop and grow. The history of sports is littered with stories of athletes moving from a situation where their talents weren’t utilized to a place where they blossomed into superstars.
For example, the first three years of his career with the Buffalo Bills, O.J. Simpson was considered another “Heisman bust”, but then head coach Lou Saban came in and decided that the offense would revolve around Simpson’s rushing ability.
From 1972 to 1976, Simpson became one of the NFL’s most dominant running backs. In 1973, he became the first back to rush for over 2,000 yards.
In baseball, Lou Brock was considered a bust during time with the Chicago Cubs. When he got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964, he became the catalyst of St. Louis’s run to a World Series title that year, was one of the greatest base stealers ever, and is now a Hall-of-Famer.
While Young, barring a career-ending injury to Vick, will probably never get to start for the Eagles on a permanent basis, studying under head coach Andy Reid and his offensive coaching staff as a backup might have been the best thing that ever happened to him in his football career.
But ultimately it’s up Young to maintain that work ethic, stay grounded and keep his head when things get bad no matter where he is next year. He has to be more consistent and efficient as a quarterback.
Hopefully, Young will find the right situation that will help him become an even better quarterback. The guy has been a proven winner in the clutch even in the midst of his troubles in Tennessee. If Young can find a situation in which he can flourish, the sky can be the limit for him.