Stefan Fortsis of Slate.com has a suggestion for struggling Tennessee Titans' quarterback Vince Young: quit football. Even though Young, 25, is only entering his third season as an NFL quarterback, and even though it's not unusual for young NFL quarterbacks to struggle early in their careers, Mr. Fortsis thinks that Young might be best served by just walking away from the game.
Although Mr. Fortsis admits to not having ever met Vince Young, he thinks he's got his finger on the source of Young's struggles. In Fortsis' view, Young just doesn't like playing professional football. He cites the following as evidence of Young's distaste for the NFL:
"Last week, Young had to be prodded to return to the team's season opener after throwing an interception; missed a scheduled MRI on a knee he injured later in the game; mentioned suicide after leaving home without a cell phone but with a gun; and was questioned by Nashville police after going AWOL for four hours. Young's mother told the Tennessean that her "baby boy" had grown tired of criticism over his performance, and the newspaper said Young had told friends he didn't want to play anymore. (In the spring, Young told a writer he considered quitting after his rookie season. He also reportedly asked to sit out the second half of a playoff game last season."
In light of such troubles, Fortsis reasons, Young should consider making a clean break from the game:
"Quitting outright is a dramatic endpoint, to be sure. But it shouldn't be an illogical one. Maybe Vince Young just isn't cut out to play in the NFL. "I'm really much more amazed by the people who continue to grind it out," says Joel Goldberg, who was a psychologist for the New York Giants and other NFL teams for more than two decades. 'Honestly, the brighter ones quit."
Vince Young is probably the most physically gifted college quarterback, and most dominant college football player, that I've ever seen. And I've been following college football since I was pretty young (I may be from Chicagoland, and I may be a "basketball person," but since half of my family is from either Texas or the Southeast, I was heavily into college football before I ever caught on to basketball). I can remember as far back as the days when Bo Jackson (at least as far back to his senior season), Tim Brown, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Peyton Manning and Michael Vick were collegians.
But Vince Young was probably the most explosive, instinctive and dangerous college football player that I've seen.
And that may, ultimately, be the nexus of his current struggles.
In college, nobody could stop Young. He was just too athletic.
Vince Young was so unbelievably fluid, agile and explosive that he could dismantle defenses all by himself. I can't count the number of times Young's heroics led Texas to improbable comeback victories, even when the Longhorns' opponents had jumped out to seemingly insurmountable leads. No opposing team's lead was safe when they were playing Texas.* Ask Michigan, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and USC.** Vince Young could not be stopped. He could beat you with his feet and with his arm. And he was nearly impossible to sack. Vince Young was the Michael Jordan of college football.
But I suspect football came so easily to Vince Young that he never really had to learn to play quarterback. Despite his overall collegiate dominance, Vince Young's game had some noticeable deficiencies when he was at Texas. Even as he was slicing and dicing college defenses, scouts and commentators would wonder how Young's playing style would translate to the NFL. In pro football, quarterbacks are expected to stay in the pocket. Athleticism alone won't get a quarterback very far in pro football. No quarterback is going to overwhelm NFL defenses with his ability to run, as Young did to opposing defenses while at Texas.
In order to succeed in the NFL, a quarterback needs to have a firm grasp of all the intricacies of the position. But even the most NFL ready rookie and second year quarterbacks face a steep learning curve once they get into the league. Peyton and Eli Manning were raised to be quarterbacks (thanks to their father, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning). When they were in college, coaches didn't have to spend much time teaching them the finer points of the position. In fact, I can remember some of Peyton Manning's college coaches saying that it wasn't unusual for him to see things in the game film that coaches hadn't picked up on. But even though the Manning brothers entered the NFL having already mastered playing the quarterback position, they still took their lumps as young quarterbacks in the league.
My suspicion is that, because of Vince Young's extreme athleticism, he was able to breeze through high school and college without ever having to master the finer points of playing the quarterback position. And now that he's a starting quarterback in the NFL, it's catching up to him in a major way.
What's more, I'd be willing to bet that, prior to his arrival in the NFL, Vince Young had never experienced real adversity in his lifetime as an athlete. He's probably been so good for so long -- and as such, has probably been subjected to nothing less than god-like treatment (especially in Austin, where football players are worshiped at UT to such a degree that it almost must be seen to be believed) -- that he has no idea how to handle adversity. Because he's probably experienced nothing but success up to this point.
So rather than suggest that Vince Young quit football, Drive and Dish believes that Mr. Young would be well served to:
1.) Start spending more quality time with the sports psychologist
2.) Make a conscious decision to take this year's struggles in stride
3.) Resolve to learn from his mistakes
4.) Resolve to stick it out through good times and bad
5.) Resolve to dedicate himself to getting better in the off season.
Oh yeah, and it probably wouldn't be a bad thing if Vince Young would think about toning down the off season partying just a bit. And, just for the sake of appearances, it probably wouldn't hurt to think twice before partying shirtless and sh*t-faced (and possibly rollin' on ecstasy).
For the record, no matter how bad the photos look, I don't think that Young was really dancing shirtless at a gay club, as many sports bloggers and sports radio personalities have alleged. But that's beside the point. When you're a struggling starting quarterback of an NFL franchise, it's probably best to avoid the perception that you're an out of control partier, and that your affinity for the nightlife may be interfering with your ability to perform on Sunday afternoons.
* I am descended from an old Texas family (on my father's side) in which every reasonably suited young man and woman is expected to matriculate to UT Austin upon graduation from high school. As such, my family is filled with hard, hard, hard core Longhorns fans. And they're obnoxious as hell.
I did not matriculate to UT. Upon high school graduation, I chose to pursue intercollegiate athletics at a small Midwestern college. And I neglected to root for the LongHorns, or to exhibit any discernible inclination toward an affinity for the Horns. What's more, I failed to appear at a family function that was held in conjunction with UT's 1998 Homecoming game (family members -- including non Texas alumni -- were expected to be thrilled to get the chance to sit in the student section, with the guys in the ridiculous orange cowboy suits and Stetson hats, in order to show our loyalty to the 'Horns and to cheer for Ricky Williams and Mack Brown).
Since I'm anything but a 'Horns fan, I wanted no part of that scene.
As such, I'm the black sheep of the family.
And as such, I've spent a fair amount of time rooting for whichever team is playing the Longhorns.
For years, I was of the opinion that Texas was over hyped and overrated. And during the Vince Young era at Texas, I often had my suspicions confirmed when opposing teams jumped out to sizable leads against the Longhorns ... only to have my hopes of an embarrassing Texas upset loss vanquished by Mr. Young's late game heroics.
** Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and USC were opposing teams that jumped out to sizable leads against the Longhorns, only to have their hopes of pulling off an upset win over Texas vanquished by Vince Young's late game heroics.