Former starters Vince Young (pictured) and Tarvaris Jackson have had to learn how to play backup roles for successful teams
(Philadelphia, Pa) — For the most part of the 2008 NFL season, I have been asked by emailers and callers to the radio shows that I have appeared on, “When will the Titans and Vikings give Vince Young and Tarvaris Jackson a chance to crack the starting line-up again?” Both of these young quarterbacks entered the 2008 season as starters, but early on – Young injured his knee in a week one win and never regained his job back from veteran Kerry Collins as the Titans have gone 9-0; Jackson was benched after a week two loss to the Colts with an abysmal completion percentage of 50% and an alarming quarterback rating of 64.8 – their coaches subscribed to the “win-now” philosophy, benching their former designated Number #1’s for perceived lesser veteran backups.
To me simple and plan the moves by Vikings head coach Brad Childress and Titans head coach Jeff Fisher were not motivated by the “race” of their now backups – both were replaced by over 35-year old white veteran quarterbacks in Kerry Collins (Titans) and Gus Frerotte (Vikings). Unfortunately for Jackson and especially Young, they have not lived up to their draft hype and both are now in jeopardy of not getting another look until 2009, barring injury. The news has to be devastating for the two young developing quarterbacks as they were both admittedly experiencing growing pains, but there is no denying that they have a world of potential. Young was the 2006 Rookie of the Year – (8-3) as a starter in ’06 with 51.5 Completion %, 2199 yards passing with 12 TD’s and 552 yards rushing w/ 7 TD’s – while silencing many who thought he was not worth the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL and Jackson, a high 2nd round pick in 2007, led the Vikings to the brink of the playoffs in 2007 (team was 8-8 just missing a wildcard) as a first time full-time starter.
But the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league where coaches like Childress — was widely rumored around the league that he was on a very hot seat entering the ’08 season, which was his 3rd year with no playoffs in the past — can no longer afford to wait as losses pile up and ownership expectations are not met causing “job security” problems. In today’s NFL, you can forget the bygone days when coaches idly sat around and waited for their young franchise quarterback to develop while taking their bumps on the long road to future glory — think of former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman in the early 90’s before his Super Bowl glory years and the slow maturation process of Steve McNair with the then Houston Oilers.
Fisher and Childress both quickly understood that running the football first (Vikings have NFL leading rusher Adrian Peterson and the Titans have leading rookie runner Chris Johnson), minimalizing exposure to errors in the passing game by their veteran quarterbacks, and playing good attacking defense was the recipe for turning around their respective teams. In both cases, you would have to say that the moves by the head coaches to go to a “game-manager” rather than a developing talent has worked – Vikings are 5-4 and tied for first in the NFC North plus everyone knows the Titans are the last NFL’s only unbeaten team at 9-0 entering week 11. The reason why these quarterback changes have worked quite simply is that the NFL currently has a dearth of talented quarterbacks and it is easier for teams to produce wins by taking their chances with a game-manager (i.e. No Turnovers).
I still believe that both former franchise quarterbacks need to stay ready and involved their team’s game plans — both Collins and Frerotte have inconsistency and injuries in their past – as they are only a snap away. There has even been some talk from Titans sources that Young might be featured in some packages, but that seems remote as inserting the former Madden cover player might rock the Titans undefeated ship. To his credit Young — starting record of (18-12) — has taken the news in stride by continuing to support his teammates and staying ready.
Of his backup experience Young said, “It’s a learning process for me, but I am over that”. He added, “It has made me a stronger black man … and made me a stronger competitor. When I do get a chance to be back out there it is going to be a whole other Vince Young.” When asked if he could return as the starter of the Titans in the future, Young said, “I haven’t the slightest idea. You’ll have to ask coach Fisher that. I am just sitting back and playing my part in the position he has me in right now. … If my number is called, I just have to be ready.”
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)