By Chris Murray
ABOVE PHOTO: Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young (10) has his right thumb worked on by the team’s medical staff in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Nashville, Tenn. At left is head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher said Monday, Nov. 22, that Young will be placed on injured reserve and needs surgery on his hand.
(AP Photo/The Tennessean, George Walker IV)
The latest incident in the saga of Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans has had me scratching my head the last couple of days.
As you may know, the 27-year-old former Texas Longhorn got into an argument with Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. After the argument, Young, who is out for the season with a thumb injury, quickly left the arena and reportedly told Fisher, “I’m not running out on my teammates, I’m running out on you.”
In an interview with ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Young admitted that he threw his shoulder pads into the stands in frustration while giving his jersey to the daughter of a team executive.
Viewing this situation, I can see fault in the positions of both Fisher and Young because I think both of them have helped this situation become a hot mess.
Meanwhile, Titans owner Bud Adams has told both of them to figure out a way to work things out.
Good luck with that.
Despite the fact that Young is 30-17 as a starting quarterback, Fisher has never had confidence in him. According to various reports, Fisher didn’t really want to draft Young; his preference was his Rose Bowl opponent, USC quarterback Matt Leinert. According to ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, Fisher and the coaching staff have had to “dummy” down the offense to fit what Young can do.
When the Titans struggled to an 0-6 start last season with Kerry Collins, it took the urging of team owner Bud Adams for Fisher to put Young back in the starting lineup. With Young under center, the Titans went 8-2 down the stretch and probably saved Fisher’s job.
In a loss to the Steelers, Young threw a couple of interceptions early and got pulled from the game. When the Titans lost to the Miami Dolphins, Young was apparently frustrated that Fisher didn’t start him and when he got hurt in Sunday’s loss to Washington, he was upset that his head coach didn’t stick with him.
What’s odd about all this is that Young has actually improved as a quarterback with 10 touchdown passes, three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 98. At one point this season, he was the league’s top rated passer.
But while I can understand Young’s frustration with having a coach that doesn’t trust him to do his job, running out on his team is definitely not the answer. In fact, it’s the ultimate act of immaturity and gives Fisher all the ammunition he needs to keep him on the Titans’ bench.
Throughout his time in the pros, Young has done things that make you think that he should have a pacifier instead of a mouthpiece in his helmet. From refusing to go into a game after fans booed him to getting into an altercation with a fan who made fun of the University of Texas with a reverse Hook ’em Horns sign, he’s done the kinds of things that could make you question his ability to lead. If Young wants to prove that he belongs in the NFL, he needs to grow up, toughen up, and stop pulling punk moves like these.
As the quarterback of an NFL team, Young has to be bigger than what he’s exhibited; even in a situation where your coach wouldn’t miss you and doesn’t care if you know it. It’s like a line from an old Rudyard Kipling poem, “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming you.”
Perhaps Young should make a phone call to the opposing quarterback in last Sunday’s game—Donovan McNabb, a guy who has had more than his share of slings and arrows flung at him over the years. He can tell VY a thing or two about how to handle to adversity like a professional. Young could also give a shout out to current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick as well.
When McNabb was wrongfully benched in the last two minutes of a Redskins loss to the Detroit, he didn’t bail out on his team or even criticize his coach, although in that situation he may have had every right to. But McNabb conducted himself as a professional and worked through it. Even when fans and the Philadelphia media branded him as thin skinned when Eagles fans (and talk radio pontificators) became too hard to ignore, McNabb remained focused as a player.
Ironically, it was Young who criticized McNabb back in 2007 for pointing out that Black quarterbacks get more criticism than their white counterparts.
“I really feel like myself, black or white quarterbacks, we all go through something because that is the life of a quarterback.” Young said in an ESPN.com article back in 2007. “You have to be able to handle all the pressure and you have to be able to handle the losses and you have to be able to handle the media saying this about you … If you can’t handle it, then you have to get off that position and go play something else.”
(Hey Physician, how’s that self-healing going?)
In Jason Campbell’s tenure with the Redskins he endured poor coaching and more than a few offensive coordinators. With his new team, the Oakland Raiders, he was benched in week two. Yet, Campbell has managed to maintain his professionalism and his work ethic while winning back his starting job.
It may be too late to convince Fisher and the Titans coaching staff that Young is their guy. If the trust that a quarterback and a coach need for things to work isn’t there and isn’t possible between Fisher and Young, it might be in Adams’ best interest to trade his former first-round pick to another team. A change of scenery and a new coach may be all that’s needed to help Young refine his skills and let him become the quarterback he’s capable of becoming.
But while Black quarterbacks are still more highly scrutinized and have less of a margin for error than their white counterparts (paging Brett Favre), Young doesn’t help himself by conducting himself in a way that doesn’t recognize this reality. Whether you’re the CEO of American Express or the President of the United States, if you’re Black and in a position of authority like, say, an NFL quarterback, you don’t have the luxury of crying about it. You have to keep your head up and keep keeping on.
Hopefully the next group of Black quarterbacks like Auburn’s Cam Newton and Ohio State’s Terrell Pryor will see how Young has conducted himself during this latest incident——and do the exact opposite.