He’s humble. He’s contrite. The man on the other end of the phone is reflective and appreciative of his new job as a potential backup to a quarterback out of Harvard.
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He’s Vince Young, circa 2012. Amazing, isn’t it?
There was a point where Young seemingly ruled the world. Today he is competing with Tyler Thigpen for the right to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo. What a sad, strange and wasted trip.
He was a legend collegiately at Texas. The Rose Bowl against USC was truly epic. Texan native and Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams had a man crush on Young and went against his football people. He made Young the third overall pick in the 2006 draft with the idea that Young would follow in the footsteps of his father figure Steve McNair.
While Young won games in Tennessee, his time with the Titans was marred by immaturity, a lack of accountability and feuding with head coach Jeff Fisher. It ended badly. His football savvy was questioned. The Titans rightly pulled the plug after five seasons. The Eagles did the same after one season as Mike Vick’s backup.
I talked to Young last month on SiriusXM NFL Radio and I wrote on FOXSports.com that he sounded delusional about his unemployed status. Young said he wanted to stay in Philly and the Eagles wanted him back, but coach Andy Reid told him he needed to be somewhere he could start.
It was sad listening to him say that. The Eagles employ a brittle quarterback in Vick. Their backup quarterback position is vital. The backup is going to play, just like Young did last year when he beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in New York. Yet the Eagles passed on bringing Young back. They opted for Mike Kafka being a heartbeat away from game action. Let that sink in. They picked Kafka over Young and nobody really argued.
Think about it. Young’s name was tarnished so much in league circles that teams didn’t want him in the quarterback room. He won a game for Philly in the division on the road. Not only did Philly have no interest, but even quarterback-starved teams passed on him. Miami signed David Garrard, who didn’t play a single down last year due to injury.
Young said last month that he was looking for a place to start or at least compete. Instead, as most everyone else in the world realized, he would have to take a job as a clear backup and get his good name back.
Speaking to Young once again this week after he inked the deal with Buffalo, he seemed more in touch with reality. Young knows the perception of him out there. He wants to be a good teammate. He told us on the SiriusXM Blitz, “I want to prove everything to them. I want to prove that I’m a cool guy that can laugh and joke and most especially I love to play football. I know you can’t make everyone happy, but I’m here for the organization and to help them win anyway we can.”
Bills coach Chan Gailey has had great success with strong-armed athletic quarterbacks. Young is eager to play for Gailey, explaining: “He lets you play your game and puts the offense around you as a quarterback. That’s all you can ask for. I thought it was a great opportunity and fit.
"He has coached some great quarterbacks, and I’m happy to be here. I told him that I’ve made some mistakes in my previous years. I’ve learned from them. I expressed that. You have to bite your tongue on certain matters. Sometimes you get upset, but you have to keep it professional. You can’t make it seem like you are trying to show up your head coach. I wasn’t, but that was the perception about me. I learned.”
I believe that Vince believes that. I believe he is making an effort. He has a family now. Young didn’t sound like the cocky and relatively clueless youngster I interviewed in 2006 and ’07. I personally think he is in a great spot. Gailey is a great teacher. I could see Young getting on the field and running the Wildcat.
In theory, it is a great opportunity. But in reality, Young has to make it work. There are doubts about his leadership and his football acumen. While he claims the line between perception and reality in Tennessee was blurred, his version seems to be closer to fiction.
For years I thought Young lacked likeability with his lack of accountability. I’ve genuinely enjoyed our past two conversations. He talked about the passing of McNair and how he lost his football role model. When pressed for new football mentors, he simply talked about family and pastors. Perhaps that’s part of the problem.
I hope I’m wrong and the light goes on for Young in Buffalo and he uses his time wisely. I applaud the signing of Young as a backup for the Bills under Gailey. But I don’t think he’ll ever be an NFL starter again. I’m not convinced he ever will be in a legit quarterback competition. Sadly, he’s the last one to know.