Vince Young serves as a cautionary example of what happens when a quarterback shows promise but doesn’t have the support system around him to thrive in the NFL. Drafted in the 2006 NFL Draft, Young was once believed to be the future of the Titans’ franchise.
Despite some major flaws in the game, he was shaping up to be an excellent quarterback. Unfortunately for him, however, he had a coach who was doing nothing to break him out of his rookie flaws and only lasted five years in Tennessee.
The rise and fall of Vince Young
Young played his college years at Texas. There, he was one of the best young quarterbacks in the entire nation. He came in raw during his freshman season, but by the following year, he had the keys to the team’s offense.
Young had a decent arm, but combining that with his speed made him an intriguing prospect, as he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as a freshman and over 1,000 the following years. In all, Young rushed for 37 touchdowns at Texas while throwing for 44.
During his final season at Texas, Young was third in Heisman voting and heavily sought after by the NFL. The Titans took a chance on him with the third overall pick.
The team wasted no time giving the keys to Young, but the results were mixed. His first two seasons in the league, he threw for 21 combined touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Furthermore, the team wasn’t utilizing his rushing ability as often as he had in college.
From there on out, a combination of injuries and a short leash by head coach Jeff Fisher. There were ups, such as his 2009 Pro Bowl season in which he led the team to an 8-2 record, in 10 games, but Young struggled to improve much of his game and Fisher showed an unwillingness to give him any leeway while refusing to develop him.
Young left for Philadelphia in 2011 and was forcibly retired after appearing in just six games for the team and failing to find another option.
What went wrong?
Vince Young had a limited skill set which was always going to need work in the NFL. Combine that with some questions about his work ethic and conduct off the field and there is plenty of blame that goes on him. Speaking in a 2017 interview as a member of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, Young looked back on what happened to his career.
“This [stint in the CFL] is to finish my career on my note,” he said (per Sports Illustrated). “Before, the NFL shut me down. Teams shut me down. Owners shut me down. I didn’t stop because I wanted to. Now, I can’t blame anyone but me.”
On top of Young’s clear weaknesses in the NFL was another story, however. Fisher reportedly never wanted Young as his quarterback, and as such he never worked on building a positive rapport and developing the young quarterback into the NFL quarterback that many believed him to be. Furthermore, as reported in the Sports Illustrated piece, some believed that Fisher was jealous of the quarterback’s standing with the Titans.
The relationship was toxic from the beginning. Young spoke about Fisher’s penchant for berating him to press and media as a hindrance in their relationship. Fisher refused to hold planes for Young after he had to go back home before a team flight, theorized about Young’s suicidal tendencies, and consistently bickered with the quarterback on the bench.
Young said that as he grew older, he came to grips with his own role in the beef, but his attempts to reach out to Fisher and talk about it were never acknowledged by his former coach.
“I forgive him” and “I still regret it,” he said to Sports Illustrated, “I guess he doesn’t give two s—- about me.”
What is Vince Young up to?
Young is still finding himself. He wrote about his experiences in the NFL in a 2020 piece for the Players’ Tribune in which he spoke about his strengths and weaknesses.
Young spent five years working at Texas before being fired in 2019 over poor performance and absences. Now away from football, Young is looking to spread his wings. He tried his hand at ballet in 2018, playing Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker.
Young is a cautionary tale of how things can go wrong in the NFL. Although he has some blame in what happened, Young also fell victim to an environment that bordered on toxic and made it impossible to become who many believed him to be.
While he might still have some things to work on, Young has been candid and open about his thoughts on his NFL career. Hopefully, he can use them to help another generation.