He's earned titles in mediocrity, immaturity and egotism – a three-pronged legacy with the Tennessee Titans.
You got the feeling that Titans coach Jeff Fisher never believed in Young as his quarterback, that all the talk about team owner Bud Adams taking Young in the NFL draft and sticking it to the city of Houston one last time were right on the money. It seemed as if Fisher was stuck with Young.
There was always plenty of "Vince Time," when Young would show up late to team meetings or physical therapy (or even a team flight). There was always the self-worship, including the third-person quotes and Texas-clad pictures of himself in his locker. But there was never dominance. There were no championships.
And now, soon, there will likely be no Vince Young in Tennessee, either.
So if you want to see this week's biggest loser, look for the guy who threw half of his uniform in the stands after Sunday's 19-16 overtime loss to the Redskins. Look for the guy who reportedly cursed repeatedly during his coach's postgame speech, then stormed out of the locker room. Look for the guy who left his teammates to deal with the media after the most damaging loss of the season. Look for the guy who was, as always, living his life on Vince Time.
There will be those who suggest that Young was right to do what he did Sunday, that after being removed because of injury, he should have been reinserted by Fisher after he began warming up on the sideline. Fisher noted in his news conference that Young never came to him and said he was OK to play. According to Fisher, Young never asked to be put back into the game, either. And that kind of nugget is usually only shared about a quarterback for one reason – the coach doesn't believe in his ability to lead a team. And that has more to do with Fisher stripping him of his starting spot than any injury ever could.
For all the accolades he got in college, there have always been signs that Young was more interested in himself than the rest of the team. He has never been close with other quarterbacks during his time in Tennessee. The coaches rarely raved about his work ethic behind closed doors … and at times only seemed to do it publicly in hopes of removing pressure from him or raising his confidence. He always seemed to have problems with criticism.
Maybe the biggest red flag (this month, anyway) was the reports that Young ducked out of physical therapy on his ankle during the Titans' bye week so he could return to Austin, Texas, to attend the opening of his swanky new steakhouse. If you know Young's history, you didn't question that report in the slightest, because some current and former teammates would tell you that he has been and will likely always be obsessed with Austin. He is a king there, and Vince always liked the royal treatment.
But eventually there was going to be a line in the NFL. Eventually he was going to have to prove either he was a winner and a leader, or a middling journeyman who would never realize his talent. We're now five years in, and Vince has made a ton of money. He should be in his wheelhouse stage as a professional quarterback. He should be in his prime … his Pro Bowl and championship years. Instead, he's often injured, rarely dominating, and always good for some drama.
He has been realized as a bust for the Titans.
Whether he ever materializes into something else, only time will tell. More specifically, Vince Time … and whether he can escape it long enough to realize that his career is a drama destroyed mess because he made it that way.
On to this week's other winners and losers …
• New York Jets wideout Santonio Holmes(notes)
If last week's spectacular game elevated Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick(notes) to MVP candidacy, I don't know how Holmes isn't a candidate after essentially pushing the Jets to three straight last-second wins. Minus Holmes, this team could be 5-5 instead of 8-2. Wideouts are never realistic MVP candidates, and there is a long way to go, but Holmes deserves some votes right now. He is the Jets' best player behind Darrelle Revis(notes).
• Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes)
Speaking of MVP candidates, why not Rodgers? He crushed the Vikings with four touchdown passes, and looked fairly effortless most of the way. A tip of the cap should go to Greg Jennings(notes), who caught three of the scores. Rodgers' quarterback rating of 141.3 was close to the 150.7 Vick put up in his jaw-dropping game against the Redskins. Looking at the schedules, not only is Rodgers ready to give Vick a run for his money, he actually has a more favorable schedule, too. A whole lot of passing touchdowns left to be had.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers
OK, you can't deny them anymore. Seven wins is seven wins, even against bad teams. Now the Buccaneers are in the thick of the playoff race. Coach Raheem Morris' "best in the NFC" comment was wild, but considering the results, I'm starting to like the way he thinks. Next up: the Ravens and Falcons. Now we find out if Tampa Bay can win against playoff-caliber teams, and not just exist among them.
• Kansas City Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe(notes)
Has anyone outside of Missouri noticed that Bowe has 11 touchdowns in 10 games this season, including a score in six straight contests? He is quietly working on the best season of his career. Sunday's win over the Cardinals was his fourth two-touchdown game of the season. No other wide receiver in the NFL has that many. Dropped passes? What dropped passes?
• Buffalo Bills
Trailing 28-7 with more than 10 minutes left in the second quarter, it looked like it was going to be a slaughter. If the Bengals had punched in a touchdown at the end of the half, perhaps it would have been. But Buffalo's defense capitalized on quarterback Carson Palmer's(notes) second-half mistakes, and Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) continued to play some gritty football. No doubt, the Bills can score points when they are healthy. And where on earth has Steve Johnson(notes) been the previous two seasons?
• Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew(notes)
It has been a down year by Jones-Drew's standards, largely because of a banged up and inconsistent offensive line. But Jones-Drew still has the ability to win games on the simplest of plays. That's what he did in the win over the Browns, taking a simple screen pass, breaking four tackles and turning on the speed on a 75-yard catch-and-run in the game's final two minutes. Two plays later, Jones Drew plunged in for a touchdown and the eventual win.
• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger(notes)
Sunday's win over the Raiders was easily his best game of the season (275 passing yards, four touchdowns; three passing and one rushing). If Roethlisberger can maintain that level of play against a fairly average schedule the rest of the way, this team could end up with the AFC's No. 1 seed.
• Baltimore Ravens defense
The unit needed to rebound after folding up against the Falcons last week. I wouldn't get too excited, considering the Panthers were starting a self-described stay-at-home dad (Brian St. Pierre(notes)) at quarterback. But this unit runs off momentum, and Sunday's two defensive touchdowns are the kind of thing that sparks this group. No doubt the defense is making more plays since Ed Reed's(notes) return.
• Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb(notes)
He really needed Sunday's overtime win against the Titans. You just can't start 0-2 after the contract extension. Not in a town that seemed to be more skeptical of Mike Shanahan with each passing week. McNabb was by no means as good as his 376 passing yards suggest, but he moved Washington into position to win twice – once at the end of regulation and once in overtime. At 5-5, this team isn't out of the playoff mix.
• Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
I'm still not buying Jason Garrett as the team's savior, but with back-to-back wins, he's giving Jones something to sell the rest of the season. And considering the amount of money Jones has invested in this franchise, that does mean something – even without a playoff berth. Still, this was a win over the Lions. If Dallas beats New Orleans on Thanksgiving at Cowboys Stadium, all of the Garrett attention will be warranted.
• Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner(notes)
He had a speed bump against the Ravens last week (albeit in a win), but he put up his third strong game in his last four outings, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. That's his third 100-plus rushing game in that span. It's good timing with Green Bay coming to town next week, and positioning for the NFC's top playoff seed on the line.
• New England Patriots' role players
People continue to talk about quarterback Tom Brady(notes) as an MVP candidate, but if he lands it, it will be the help with a lot of spare parts. Guys like Danny Woodhead(notes), BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes), Rob Gronkowski(notes) and Aaron Hernandez(notes) continue to make the difference in the red zone. Watch the win against the Colts, and figure out which pieces you should take away. They are all interchangeable parts with similar skill sets.
• New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees(notes)
He still hasn't had that dazzling game in 2010, but he was closer in the blowout win over the Seahawks. He passed for four touchdowns in just a little more than two quarters of play, and rarely looked flustered in the pocket. It helped that Christopher Ivory(notes) provided at least a respectable running presence. The brightest sign for Brees is that Marques Colston(notes) and Robert Meachem(notes) are getting more involved in the passing game.
• Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre(notes)
We've all wondered who would deliver the coup de grace to Favre and where it would come. Well, you've seen it, at the hands of (who else?) Rodgers and the Packers. Maybe Favre is benched. Maybe he retires. Maybe Brad Childress lets him grind it out to the end. Whatever the case, it's officially over. The Vikings won't make the playoffs, Childress likely won't be the Vikings' head coach in 2011, and the Favre experiment will ultimately be remembered more for drama than anything else. Remember these stats: 17-of-38, 208 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. That's the line that ultimately ended it all.
• Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis
Favre isn't the only guy in the midst of his swan song. You can feel the end coming for Lewis in Cincinnati, too. The ugly collapse against the Bills all but seals it. And I think it will be a mutual breakup. Lewis is in the last season of his contract, so it should be relatively painless. Will Lewis have to go the coordinator route to get his next job, or will he do the network circuit and wait for someone to come calling?
• Arizona Cardinals
Wideout Larry Fitzgerald(notes) has quietly strung together three straight solid weeks, but as the Cardinals continue to slide, there will be more talk about his unhappiness. He made no secret of his admiration for former coach Todd Haley heading into this week's loss to the Chiefs. It has been known for a while that he's not happy with the quarterback situation in Arizona. His contract is up after 2011 and he can't be stuck with a franchise tag. So make no mistake, the Cardinals are playing to retain their best player, too.
• Oakland Raiders
Hold the phone on all the talk of the silver and black resurgence. The Raiders had their chance to show how they stack up with a Super Bowl contender in Pittsburgh, and got their doors blown off. I don't care what anyone says about Bruce Gradkowski(notes) or Jason Campbell(notes): You can't win a Super Bowl with either player, so addressing the quarterback spot has to be an offseason priority … yet again. They can't get it wrong forever, can they?
• Carolina Panthers coach John Fox
Brian St. Pierre had one big play to wideout David Gettis(notes), but otherwise it was pretty much the mediocrity you'd expect from a 30-year-old who had thrown five regular-season passes in life. So I'm not quite sure what Fox was trying to accomplish choosing St. Pierre over Tony Pike(notes), a rookie. Pike likely wouldn't have done better, but it still makes more sense erring on a guy who could be part of your future.
• Detroit Lions' running game
We could go on forever about the defense. But the running game is sagging, too. Jahvid Best(notes) is ailing with turf toes and hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 2. He was barely seen against the Cowboys. Obviously his health is concerning, as is that 3.1 yards per carry average. Durability was one of the concerns about Best heading into the draft.
• Cleveland Browns offensive line
Colt McCoy(notes) was sacked six times, and running back Peyton Hillis(notes) never had enough breathing room to break anything substantial beyond his 47-yard reception. In fact, Hillis never went longer than six yards on a carry. What's shocking is that it came against a soft Jaguars defense that was ranked 28th coming into the game. It's the first time since McCoy began starting that the Browns looked flat.
• Houston Texans
Another week, another last-second fold for the Texans. Even with last week's Hail Mary shocker, allowing the Jets to drive 72 yards for the winning touchdown in only 39 seconds is a defining low point. Remember this game when the coaching staff is cleaned out after the season. Even owner Bob McNair had to recognize it after this one.
• Indianapolis Colts wideout Pierre Garcon(notes)
His inability to anchor himself as the high-powered No. 2 wideout is hurting Peyton Manning(notes). With Austin Collie's(notes) inconsistent health, Garcon continues to play like a guy who belongs in the slot but has been pushed into a role too large for him. It has corrupted the timing of the Colts' offense and forced Manning to take some chances that have resulted in turnovers. Garcon needs to get himself right by the end of the season, or the Colts will look elsewhere for a No. 2. Count on it.
• San Francisco 49ers
The shutout loss to Tampa Bay, at home no less, has to be the dagger. There is nothing consistent about this team. The most troubling thing is the most talented players aren't developing. Michael Crabtree(notes)? In terms of the per-game averages, he's actually worse this season. Vernon Davis(notes)? Worse. Frank Gore(notes)? Worse. Maybe it's all on the quarterback. Or maybe the coaching staff just isn't working. I'd bet on the latter.
(FIVE THINGS I LOVED AND FIVE THINGS I LOATHED)
Loved: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 16-yard second-quarter touchdown run and dive. You were waiting for him to have a game where he looked 100 percent comfortable and in a groove. This was it.
Loathed: Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour's(notes) open-handed punch to the face of Roethlisberger in the second quarter. Roethlisberger had clearly been talking trash, but it was a stupid move by Seymour, costing him an ejection. He'll get a big fine for it, too.
Loved: The Vikings' defensive front seven in the first quarter against Green Bay. That's the Minnesota pressure from 2009. If that front played like this all season, the Vikings would be at the top end of the playoff mix right now.
Loathed: The Vikings' inability to protect the football. Running back Toby Gerhart's(notes) fumble and Brett Favre's interception in the second quarter were Minnesota's 24th and 25th turnovers of the season … in 9 ½ games. Absurd.
Loved: T.J. Houshmandzadeh's(notes) two-catch, 79-yard (and one touchdown) performance in the first half against Carolina. One of those receptions was the 600th of his career. He can turn this into a frightening offense by playoff time.
Loathed: Redskins running back Clinton Portis(notes) starting strong in the first quarter (six touches for 46 yards) before aggravating his groin injury against Tennessee. For a few minutes, he reminded us why he can still be an effective running back. Then he once again reminded us why he can't.
Loved: The 39-yard second quarter reception by Green Bay's James Jones(notes). He's definitely one of the underrated young wideouts in the league. Jones added a touchdown later in the quarter. When Donald Driver(notes) hangs it up, Jones will eventually be a 1,000-yard receiver. Bank on it.
Loathed: Bengals running back Cedric Benson(notes) starting strong against Buffalo and then going down in the second quarter (he did return on the fourth). He was finally looking like the runner of 2009. He still makes a difference on this offense. Check out Bernard Scott's(notes) failed goal-line attempts at the end of the first half if you don't believe it.
Loved: Cowboys special teamer Bryan McCann's(notes) crazy 97-yard punt return for a touchdown against Detroit. The ball looked like it was going to be downed at the Dallas 3-yard line … but McCann kept his eyes downfield, unexpectedly scooped it up off the bounce, and made a huge play when Dallas needed it.
Loathed: Jamaal Charles(notes) not touching the football until there was 11 minutes remaining in the second half for Kansas City. He enters the game and catches a 25-yard pass. I'll never understand his uneven use by the Chiefs.
- Vince Young
- Santonio Holmes