Vince Young used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders

By John Gorman

Emotional frailty has no place in NFL football.

Perhaps in other disciplines, the depressed and dejected can be built up and coached up to become tough, confident and successful. The NFL doesn’t have that kind of patience and understanding.

Such is the enigma that is Vince Young: A clearly talented, winning football player with severe, deep-seeded self-esteem and self-respect issues in an atmosphere that isn’t conducive to players with severe, deep-seeded self-esteem and self-respect issues.

Vince Young was cut by the Buffalo Bills today, to unceremoniously pave the way for the incoming Tavaris Jackson. That we’re having a discussion about Young losing any roster slot to T-Jack tells you most of what you need to know about how far the one-time next great thing has fallen.

A lot’s been made about Vince Young’s mental makeup. With an increasingly bizarre history of locker-room flareups, sideline meltdowns, suicide watches and concerned parents in his wake, it’s easy to lose track of the following:

Vince Young is 31-20 as a starting QB.

In a league where winning 60% of your starts over 50+ games would get most quarterbacks a multi-year extension, guesses are warranted as to why teams haven’t quite warmed up to Young.

It’s a precipitous fall for a man who, after the 2009 season, seemed to be the future of the Tennessee Titans organization after leading the Titans to eight wins in their last 10 games. Is this the case of a man losing control of his career? Or something deeper?

You could argue one bad day in November 2010 changed everything.

Young, despite playing well, was booed lustily during a home game against the Washington Redskins, and often waved his arms to encourage more. Young then injured his thumb after completing a deep pass to Nate Washington, which set up the Titans for a score.

As Young was removed to get healed and taped up, conflicting reports emerge:

Either Young couldn’t grip the ball well enough to return, or he was cleared to return to action but his head coach Jeff Fisher vetoed the medical staff, citing VY’s penchant for fumbling.

In the meantime, Fisher inserted rookie Rusty Smith, who didn’t fare particularly well (3-for-9 / 62 yards / 0 TD / 1 INT), and the Titans went on to lose in OT.

Following the loss, Young walked toward the tunnel and threw his jersey and shoulder pads into the stands before getting into it with Fisher in the locker room, forcing the police to separate them.

Young finally walked out of the locker room in the middle of Fisher’s post-game address to the team, stiff-arming the media, causing Fisher to implore Young, “Don’t you run out on your teammates” to which Young responded, “I’m not running out on my teammates, I’m running out on you.”

That was the beginning of the end. Vince Young never took another snap as Titans QB (despite Tennessee only being a game back of first place at the time of his benching and his QB rating standing at 98.6, by far the best in his career).

After a loudly uninspiring – it’s hard to imagine any backup quarterback playing more wildly inconsistent ball than Vince Young did – 2011 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bills signing him on the cheap seemed like a solid, bankable investment guaranteed to minimize risk and maximize upside. And for the first three preseason games, he acquitted himself well and looked just a notch shy of excellent.

But Vince Young was given the entire second half of the game to prove himself worthy of the backup slot, or, more interestingly … to play himself out of the job.

See, it was all a little too quick for the Buffalo Bills to cut Vince Young for Tavaris Jackson after one poor game. Per Buffalo Rumblings:

Young had an up-and-down pre-season for the Bills as he made a few plays but struggled with consistency and grasping Chan Gailey’s complicated offense. In three pre-season games, Young completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw two ugly interceptions while only leading one scoring drive.

Those two ugly interceptions were from the most recent preseason game. The one that ended mere hours before word leaked T-Jack was headed to Western New York.

Murmurs out of Bills camp pointed to Vince Young getting the axe as early as before the first preseason game. But Tyler Thigpen, his competition for the backup job, simply couldn’t outplay Young. The Bills didn’t want to be left holding the Vince Young Bag in the event starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick goes down with injury or remembering he’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, so what the Bills needed was another serviceable, low-risk backup to fall from the sky to make the move look like an upgrade.

That’s what Russell Wilson winning the job in Seattle did for them. It freed up Tavaris Jackson, and gave the Bills an out.

I’m telling you, there’s something mentally and emotionally bewildering about Vince Young. He seems to be radioactive to NFL Front Offices. Even while he was starring with the Titans, he’d been benched no fewer than 10 times during his tenure there. But to guess what precisely causes teams to run and hide from him is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, I can’t imagine all this isn’t killing Vince Young inside. I suppose this will only hurt his composure even more, causing his career to drift further away from the stars for which once upon a time it seemed most assuredly destined.

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