It’s been a great week for NFL quarterbacks looking for work.
Veteran signal-callers like Matt Hasselbeck and Donovan McNabb are with new teams, and have new opportunities to lead teams deep in the playoffs. Young quarterbacks like Tarvaris Jackson and Bruce Gradkowski have both signed new contracts this off-season, and will have opportunities to get their careers back on track.
The crown jewel of this NFL off-season was Kevin Kolb. The former Eagles quarterback was just traded to the Arizona Cardinals, with the Cardinals giving up a proven cornerback (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and a second round pick to get him. They then promptly gave him a five-year, $63-million dollar deal, with more than $20 million guaranteed.
And yet, there’s one quarterback that’s barely getting a whiff of interest from teams and NFL execs.
Where’s the love for Vince Young?
You may remember Young. He was the third pick in the 2006 NFL Draft after captivating the country as a superstar at Texas. You may remember that he ended up winning the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2009.
But you may also remember all of the off the field controversy that’s surrounded his short career. You probably remember hearing that Young had a poor work ethic, feuded with longtime Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, and often alienated teammates. You almost definitely remember when he briefly disappeared in 2008 after getting benched, with some fearing that he was suicidal.
While quarterbacks and where they’ll end up have dominated the off-season headlines, Young’s been in the news just once: yesterday it was announced that the Titans have officially cut him.
It’s a shocking fall from grace for Young. You can say what you want about Young’s work ethic, off-the-field field demeanor and attitude, but it’s hard to argue his on-field credentials. He’s 30-17 as a starter. He orchestrated four fourth quarter comebacks…as a rookie. He’s led a team to the playoffs.
Let’s compare that to Kolb, who the Cardinals believe will win them an NFC West title (or at least, that’s how they’ve paid him). Kolb has only started seven games, winning just three of them. He lost four of those games with weapons most quarterbacks would drool over: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy.
Kolb was the heir apparent to McNabb, but quickly lost his job to Michael Vick last year. He threw for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in five games last year; apparently enough for the Cardinals to make him their franchise quarterback.
If Young, a black quarterback, had those sorts of credentials, would he have gotten a similar deal? A better question: If Kolb had Young’s record, what type of deal would he command?
Even though Young has a starter’s resume, he may have to settle for a back up’s role and paycheck. He’s already weighing his options. Yesterday ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported:
“Young already was eyeing the Philadelphia Eagles as a potential destination, a source told ESPN’s NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Some around the league believe the Eagles are considered the “favorite” to land Young, who would back up Michael Vick”
If Young can’t land a starter’s job, this seems like it would be a great option. He could learn under the tutelage of a talented, superstar black quarterback, the same way Vick did under McNabb.
But this option has to be considered a worst-case scenario. Unfortunately as each day goes by and training camps start to ramp up, it’s looking like it’s the only realistic option that Young will have.
Is Young immature? Yes. Is he a head case? I think the jury’s still out.
Is he talented and a capable starter in the NFL? I think his numbers speak for themselves.
Can he be rehabilitated? That’s the question we still don’t have an answer to. It’s the off-the-field issues and unwillingness to put in the time necessary to become a top-flight quarterback that has scared teams off. Both of those things can be corrected if Young really wants it.
I think he does. And I think the NFL teams that are pining for these other quarterbacks will look back at this free agency and wonder why they never took a flier on Young.
It hasn’t been too great of a week for Young. Hell, it hasn’t been too great of an NFL career. But there’s still time for Young to make us remember him for his production and success on the field, rather than his problems off of it.