Saving Vince Young

The NFL, by locking out its players until very recently, alienated a lot of fans. The general public realized that in a battle between millionaires and billionaires, the only losers were US. And then last week happened. We were treated to such furious free agent and trade activity, that all of that lockout silliness was forgotten. When it was announced that the lockout was lifted, I literally imagined DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell standing on the platform above the NYSE floor, ringing the bell, and all of the GMs buzzing around like a scene straight out of Wall Street. Some teams held tight (Tampa Bay, inexplicably, was very quiet), and others spent big boy dollars. The New England Patriots, in typical fashion, used a few of the 3,721 late-round draft picks that they have amassed, and stole a couple of supremely talented, somewhat tarnished veterans (we’ve seen this before. Last time they did this, Tom Brady had the best season any QB has ever had. Look out). The Eagles, however, made the biggest splash by landing the prettiest girl in the club, Nnamdi Asomugha, the highly coveted cornerback from Oakland. But their most INTRIGUING move was the one they made to bring Vince Young into the fold. This move is interesting for many reasons that we will explore, but largely because it was the only move made by any team where the player needed the team more than the team needed the player.

The NFL is a cold place. If you have a needed skill, you’re in (sometimes; Randy Moss is not the worst receiver on anyone’s roster right now). If not, you’re out. There is no room for reclamation projects that aren’t going to help a team get to the land of Milk and Honey. In Vince Young’s case, he is not a reclamation project, from an on-field perspective. His talent AND his win-loss record tell you that he is a starter in this League. His only issues were that he had a fragile ego and a Jeff Fisher-sized albatross around his neck. It was no surprise that the Titans cut him. What was surprising to me however, was that it took so long for him to get picked up. Several FA quarterbacks came off of the board before him. Enter the Philadelphia Eagles. Enter Andy Reid. Enter Marty Mornhinweg. ENTER MIKE VICK.

It was only two years ago that Mike Vick was in Young’s situation. Supremely talented, yet in need of a job. Teams were afraid to touch him. Afraid of the potential media and PR backlash that would no doubt coincide with hiring a confessed dog-killer. Donovan McNabb went to the Eagles brass, convinced them to give Vick a shot, and then took it one step further by mentoring Vick, as an older brother would a younger brother. One pilfered starting job (from Kolb, not McNabb), most-improved player award, and a playoff berth later, the rest is as they say, getting really close to winning a Super Bowl. Vick has McNabb to thank for all of his recent success, more than Reid or Mornhinweg. 

Which brings us to current course and condition. Remember that Seinfeld episode with “Bizarro Jerry”? Mike Vick is now the Bizarro Donovan. It is he that now must take Vince under his wing, and show him how to prepare. It is he that must show Vince that buying into a system, into a way of playing will not only add years to his career, but dollars to his bank account. Most importantly, Vick must impress upon Vince Young that it is ok to trust a coach. Vince hasn’t trusted a coach since he played for Mack Brown. And here is the main reason for this move being the most intriguing of the free agent/trade frenzy: everything that has happened in Philly for the last 2 years, has paved the way for this acquisition, and no one knew it! If the Vick Experience had blown up in Andy Reid’s face, there is NO WAY that he takes a chance on Young. None. But Reid, moreso than any other coach in the NFL, understands what it means to have two “starters” at the QB position. He is there all over again.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

Vince Young will not be an Eagle at season’s end. Some team will grow frustrated with their quarterback play, regret not taking Young earlier, and give Philadelphia what they want for his services. He will help that team win. I can almost guarantee that it will not be within the division, though, for three reasons: One, why tempt fate again? Two, there is no way that Shanny is going to entertain any deals coming from Reid, and three, there is an even slimmer chance that Shanny is going to hire anyone formerly associated with the Tennessee Titans.

Vince Young has starter, and more specifically, winner talent. As did Vick. I hope he was watching Vick for the last 2 years, because the blueprint has been laid out before him. Vince, be patient. Say and DO the right things. Listen and absorb every word that Andy and Marty say, even if it is against your nature, because they will help you. Most importantly, if and when your opportunity presents itself, BE READY. You’ve been thrown a HUGE lifeline here. All you have to do is reach out and grab it. Here’s hoping that you do, and hang on with everything you’ve got.