“I wouldn’t say it’s about me,” quarterback Vince Young said after Tennessee’s 20-17 road victory over Houston. “It’s not about Vince.”
Come on. It’s all about Vince when it comes to the Tennessee Titans.
With all due respect to NFL rushing leader Chris Johnson, Tennessee assuredly isn’t riding a four-game winning streak without Young being reinserted into the starting lineup last month at the insistence of team owner Bud Adams. And the Titans definitely aren’t upsetting a division rival Monday night without Young excelling with both his arm and legs.
Young keyed the game-winning drive with a 12-yard third-down scramble and short completion to Kenny Britt that set up Rob Bironas’ 53-yard field goal with 47 seconds remaining. After Houston kicker Kris Brown missed a 49-yard field goal with one second left, Young was so excited that he forgot to remove his Titans baseball cap when taking the field for the final snap.
“I don’t think there’s been a conversation I’ve had with Vince where the word ‘Houston’ hasn’t come out of his mouth,” said Titans tight end Alge Crumpler, referring to Young’s hometown. “This is a special place for Vince Young.”
In some ways, Young has even more reason to celebrate than when he scrambled 39 yards for an overtime touchdown to defeat Houston as a rookie in 2006.
He’s a better quarterback since losing his starting job to Kerry Collins in Week 2 of last season and finally getting it back. He’s a better teammate since receiving what Crumpler described as a dose of humility. And he has a brighter NFL future after it appeared Young had none with the Titans.
Young is again proving the dual threat that helped make him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft. Although he lost a fumble, Young didn’t throw an interception against Houston in an efficient 12-of-22, 116-yard performance. Young added 73 more yards on 11 carries to complement Johnson’s 151-yard rushing effort.
“I’m excited for him with all he endured over the past year hearing, ‘He can’t do this. He can’t do that,'” Titans tight end Bo Scaife said. “He’s being humble and modest about it. He’s showing everything on the field now.”
Young began showcasing his tools Monday during Tennessee’s third series. Young threw sharp passes and used his feet, including an option that netted a 17-yard gain by Johnson after the pitch.
And then there was the play that combined both those skills. On third-and-3 from the Houston 13-yard line, Young rolled to his right looking to connect with a covered Johnson in the flat. In the past, Young might have immediately run up-field or forced a throw to Johnson. Young, though, went to his second read and flicked a touchdown to Britt that tied the score at 7-7.
This is the type of progress that excites Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger.
“He’s protecting the ball and making pretty good decisions,” Heimerdinger told FOXSports.com last week in a telephone interview. “The best thing he’s done is go through his progressions. If there’s nothing there, he’ll pull it down and run with no indecision. That’s what makes Vince Vince.”
But trying to figure out what makes Vince tick was a frustrating process for the Titans. He failed to progress after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2006. Young then hit bottom in the 2008 season opener. He balked at re-entering the game when booed by the home crowd and acted so erratically the next day that Titans officials called police because of concerns Young was suicidal.
Young was benched in favor of Collins and spent the rest of the year sulking. Collins might still be under center if Adams hadn’t demanded that Young play after Tennessee’s 0-6 start this year.
Owner meddling is usually a recipe for disaster — just look at the Washington Washington Football Team — but Young is proving that Adams made the right call. Young’s completion percentage has improved significantly and turnover total dropped compared to his career averages. This is the result of an improved work ethic that has allowed Young to regain the trust of teammates and coaches.
Young also matured off the field. The subject of embarrassing 2008 internet photos showing him partying shirtless with his buddies at a bar, Young has said he changed the crowd he associates with away from football.
“I see a different guy than last year,” Heimerdinger said. “His approach is much different. He’s really working hard.
“Older guys stay in the league because they prepare. Younger guys sometimes don’t because they don’t prepare. They think talent is going to get them through forever.”
Young, 26, said he learned from watching Collins and asking plenty of questions. He also benefited from the tutoring of quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson, who continued to work with Young while Heimerdinger and Fisher focused on Collins as their starter.
“I’m just taking what the defense gives,” Young said. “If it’s there [in the passing game], take advantage of it. If it’s not, give the ball to the guys underneath or use my legs to make a play. It’s all about being patient.”
Tennessee now seems certain to give Young nearly $12 million in roster bonus and base salary for the 2010 season. But even with a 4-6 record, the Titans aren’t ready to look ahead toward next year quite yet. After Monday’s game, Tennessee players continued to talk about stringing together a 10-game winning streak to reach the playoffs.
Unlikely? Sure. But if No. 10 continues to play like a Perfect Ten, Tennessee has a shot. That’s more than what could be said about the Titans — and Young himself — not so long ago.
Via: Fox Sports
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