Monday, June 15, 2009

If Vince Young is a bust then who's fault is it?

So who's really responsible when Quarterbacks are bust. Here's my theory.

1. The Franchise, the front office, the coaching staff, and the player all share equal responsibility but the quarterback seems to be the one that falls on the sword.

Bud Adams made the executive decision to draft Young. By his logic it worked for him when he made the decision to bring in Warren Moon. This wasn't a popular decision either but it worked out. (Moon was elected to the pro football hall of fame and lead the Oilers to multiple playoff appearances.) Lightning struck twice after drafting some guy named Steve Mcnair out of Alcorn State. Mcnair led the Titans to two AFC championship game appearances one resulting in one of the most memorable superbowls ever played. The third time would definitely be a charm with Vince Young right? Not so fast. Young has shown flashes of his potential but has the coaching staff put him in the position to showcase all of his skills? Has he put in the work to refine his game to the speed of the NFL game. The answer to both questions is NO. Don't believe me then consider this...

John Elway was allowed to play mostly in the shot gun in the development stages of his career. His work ethic helped him to be better under center over time but it was when he was in the shot gun that made him the most dangerous. His passing accuracy was average (57 percent) but should be overly critical of that or focus on some his clutch performances in the playoffs. Does "The drive" against Cleveland in the 1987 playoffs ring a bell?

2. The 21st century fan is easily lead astray. We are more likely to pay attention to pointless and flawed evaluations of players and pay little attention to how each position is really developed.(In particular Quarterback)

We've all grown accustomed to the quarterback getting to much credit when they play well and all of the blame when the team loses. The trend in today's NFL resembles the recipe for instant grits. Gone are the days of the homemade from scratch cuisine our grandmothers used to make. It's been replaced with a recipe that reads: Strong arm, quick feet, pocket presence, the perception of a high I.Q., frivolous combine tests, passer ratings and buzz words such as motor, upside and moxie. Pop that into the pressure cooker of unrealistic expectations and presto, An NFL quarterback magically appears. Nothing could be more further from the truth.

Here are the numbers of some notable legends who struggled early but eventually turned it around.

Terry Bradshaw 1970-1974 season 48 touchdown passes against 81 interceptions. His completion percentage was an awful 47 percent for the five seasons. The 1975 season was were Bradshaw was able to turn it around. He also had the support of a great defense and an above average running game.

Troy Aikman 1989 and 1990 seasons looked pretty dismal for Aikman. In both seasons combined he threw for 20 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. His completion percentage wasn't that terrible at 55 percent plus he lost his job to Steve Walsh. In 1991, he improved his completion percentage to 65 percent but struggled still with his interception to touchdown ratio. By 1993 he had a young Emmit Smith, two deadly wideouts in Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin, a pro bowl tight end in Jay Novacek and a bone crushing defense that kicked backside and took names.

The moral of these two examples is that while the right quarterback can be the missing piece in certain situations, its fools gold to believe that every team is "one franchise" quarterback away from building a championship TEAM.(You've been warned Chicago Bears) It's so much more to it than that.

So what's the real fuss behind Vince Young 17 interceptions? Why have Young's detractors ignored the trends of how quarterbacks really develop in the NFL? Smart companies and business people are most successful when they monitor trends in the market that are off the beaten path. The idea that the Titans won despite Young's performance is a very plausible notion but its overblown. Ask the Detroit Lions if they'd like to be 10-6 with Matthew Stafford throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. The Bears got to the Superbowl with Rex Grossman for crying out loud!!!

3. Does the money high draft picks earn in today's NFL skew our expectations?

Sure it does but how is that any different than any other era in the NFL? Troy Aikman's first contract was 11 million dollars. That was a lot of money in 1989. (It still is in the world of John Q Citizen.) The difference is the time that Aikman was given to develop. He went through having to battle Steve Walsh for his job after being inconsistent. Is Vince Young's developmental challenges any different than most inexperienced quarterbacks that have played in this league? Not necessarily. Aikman showed a lot of grit in toughness those for two years. We've seen very little grit or toughness from Vince Young but performance wise no.

Kerry Collins isn't a young pup but he is a safer option when you have a immature franchise quarterback on your roster. Jeff Fisher is doing the right thing by making Young earn the job. If Young can't earn the respect of his coaches by showing up and working hard then he doesn't deserve the job. PERIOD.

4. What is Vince really saying when he claims that no one could handle the pressure he is under?

This statement wreaks of woe is me. If I were him I'd have Donovan Mcnabb, Eli Manning, Steve Mcnair, Steve Young, Doug Williams and Peyton Manning on speed dial. These guys took a beating in the media. Eli took a beating for appearing aloof with anyone outside of the locker room. Tiki Barber accused him of not being a leader. Mcnair's intelligence and aptitude for the game was questioned weekly. Steve Young was criticized for not being Joe Montana. Mcnabb has been accused of everything from not playing like a "black quarterback" to being stupid because he didn't know a unimportant rule about overtime.

Mcnabb has rarely cracked under the intense scrutiny his game has gotten with the exception of the interview on real sports with James Brown.(Some people understood where he was coming from) Peyton Manning has been beat down for not being clutch in big game situations. He had an issue with throwing his team under the bus when he didn't play well. He and Tony Dungy found common ground when they focused on the TEAM and how his performance on the field would speak louder than any attempt to defend himself with words. Now with a superbowl under his belt he isn't view in the same light as before. Vince Young has never been asked by a reporter before a game "How long have you been a black quarterback" (Doug Williams was asked this question before the 1988 superbowl) In addition to that Williams is from an era where a black guy playing quarterback was an exception and not the rule. So this sentiment of unusual pressure coming from Vince Young is complete hogwash.

I was expecting Young to tell us something we didn't know in his interview with Michael Smith of ESPN. When I heard the excerpts of his interview I cringed. I knew then that the buzzards of Bustville were circling the field. I heard him acknowledge his immaturity. I heard him acknowledge certain aspects of the alleged suicide attempt. I even thought it was fair for him to tell his story because I was waiting for his "I've seen the light speech", which is the equivalent of Hollywood A Lister's going to rehab after they do something really stupid when they want to repair their public image.

I heard him acknowledge that he quit on his team. (indirectly) What I didn't hear was an apology to the fan base. Especially the ones who have really tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. This was his chance and he blew his rehab moment. There's a shrinking amen corner that is still hoping that he turns it around. These fans have been both subjective and objective in their defense of him, Virtually ignoring his inconsistent performance. IF Vince washes out of the league it won't be because of his throwing motion. It won't be because he can't read defenses. His demise will be caused by his inability to deal with adversity and his refusal to take ownership in his development.

Another intangible that can be measured in his success or looming failure can be attributed to his spotty work ethic. The defiant attitude I witnessed in the interview bothered me. It was more or less as though we owed him an apology for booing him. Expecting an apology from the fans is like expecting an admission of guilt from O.J. The interview reinforces that he still hasn't totally accepted the role of a leader. I've been a huge supporter of him but going home in the summer will not make you a better quarterback.(To his credit he's here this summer)

Crying to Felicia Young or Michael Smith will not win football games. Working your backside off is what earns your keep in the NFL. Sure there are competing elements that have influenced his development but where is the accountability from him? Where are the wise people in his inner circle? If they exist why isn't he listening? Winning the respect of his locker room is paramount to him reversing the path of "the bust". If there was a bust o'meter I'd say he is 85 percent there.

I still want to see him stick it to guys like Merril Hodge and Jason Whitlock. Andre Rison has his own hall of fame. I wonder if he has a spot for all of the NFL flops. Maybe Rison personally sculptured all of the bust(pun intended) of the inductees. How about an induction class of Joey Harrington, Alex Smith, David Carr, Vince Young and Jemarcus Russell in 2012.