By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Is The NFL Afraid Of Vince Young?
By Tony McClean
Updated: April 12, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — In the sometimes, cookie cutter world of the National Football League, the decision makers of the league at times have to be led kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
When making this point, we’re talking more of an on-field matter. The league still remains ahead of the other three major sports (i.e. MLB, NBA, NHL) when it comes to maximum exposure on TV, the Internet, and other forms of mass communications.
However, there still some things and nuances that make coaches and general managers in the league look like Chicken Little’s crazy uncle after a few beers. One case in point is a certain University of Texas quarterback by the name of Vince Young.
After his stellar performance in January’s National Championship game against the USC Trojans, Young put an outstanding capper to his college career by defeating the Trojans’ Heisman backfield of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinhart.
Staring at a 4th-and-5 down 38-33 and less than one minute remaining in regulation, Young went through three passing progressions, scrambled right, and then trotted eight yards into the end zone to propel UT to a 41-38 victory before 93,986 fans at the Rose Bowl.
Since that January evening, the ability, intelligence, and character of the talented Mr. Young has been under incredible scrutiny. Many scribes fell all over themselves in criticism when it was first reported that Young’s Wonderlic Test scores were well below standard.
Even though those first reports have since been deemed false, it hasn’t stopped the media and some anonymous pro scouts from questioning if Young can “hack it” in the NFL.
The criticism reached a ridiculous point when Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock when so far as to insinuate that Young was slowly becoming the sport’s new Ryan Leaf.
Whitlock and many wags like him played right into the NFL’s hands. As a black quarterback, Young’s abilities have been under a little more scrutiny than most. This all comes despite what the Longhorn standout has done on the field in just under the last three years at UT.
In his first season as the full time starter in 2004, Young showed promise but was erratic as his numbers (12 TDs, 13 interceptions) would attest. Despite that, he helped lead the Longhorns to a stunning win over the Michigan Wolverines in UT’s first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl.
Young looked to improve in 2005. We here at BASN felt that he, not the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Leinhart, was college football’s best quarterback. Despite not winning the Heisman, Young took his game to another level and reinforced what we felt at the beginning of the season.
Last season, Young was 182-of-285 (63.9 percent) for 2,769 yards and 26 TDs to go with 850 yards rushing and nine TDs. His 168.6 passing efficiency rating led all Division I-A quarterbacks and he became Texas’ single-season record-holder in total offense with 3,619 yards.
In fact, Young looked and played with the ability of several different quarterbacks instead of the running quarterback that many categorized him as at the start of his college career. He had the legs of a Michael Vick, the arm of a Randall Cunningham, and the poise of a John Elway.
In many ways, Young offered much more than any black quarterback than was drafted before him. Here was a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder that couldn’t be called “Slash”, but a player that could eventually take the position by storm.
Unfortunately, his greatest blessing at some point would also be his biggest curse. Some NFL teams, in fact, were almost scared to make an fair evaluation of Young’s talent. Despite outperforming the league’s annointed best newcomer (Leinhart), the anonymous scouts still looked to fine minor flaws in his game.
When Young had his private pro workout, these same anonymous scouts felt that he didn’t show them anything out of the ordinary. In fact, some went as far as to say Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler showed more promise in his private workout than Young.
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that Young will just walk in and dominate the NFL. Like any other rookie QB, there will be an adjustment period. Very few rookie QBs walk in and dominate like a Dan Marino. As good as John Elway became, Ol’ No. 7 was truly awful in his early years in the Mile High City.
All we’re trying to say is that on the surface, Young doesn’t offer just the same old, run of the mill talent coming into the league. He has shown good footwork and has consistently improved over the past few years, which will help him to make all the movements necessary in the pocket.
I truly feel that any team that drafts Young will be looking at a franchise-type player that barring any major injury will be a consistent winner in the NFL.
It’s unfortunate that there are some GM’s in the league that don’t recognize that. It appears that in some instances, despite Young’s many gifts, some folks are still a bit afraid to see the light.