In Vince we trust

Yesterday Vince Young was awarded the Associated Press NFL Rookie of the Year award. There have been detractors for Vince ever since he declared for the 2006 NFL Draft. A alleged Wonderlic score of six, which would rate lower than some algae, only fueled the fire that Young was an undiscliplined “athlete” pretending to be a QB.

He led the Titans to an 8-8 record, which isn’t too impressive except for a couple of things. The Titans won nine games total in the past two years. Between November 12 and December 31, the team otherwise known as the Flaming Thumbtacks didn’t lose a game. The six-game streak was the franchise’s longest since 2003.

This 8-8 record came from a team that finished 32nd in yards allowed, 31st in points allowed, and 27th in offensive yards. That doesn’t compute to an average team. For comparison’s sake, the 2005 squad that finished 4-12 ended up 19th, 29th, and 17th in the same categories.

Detractors say that Vince Young had a poor QB rating. Ben Roethlisberger had a QB rating of 20 in last year’s Super Bowl and they still gave him a hat and t-shirt when the game was over.

Here are the numbers I find impressive. 553, as in his rushing yards. That’s the top number for a rookie QB. Seven, as in the number of rushing touchdowns. Twelve is his ranking as a fantasy quarterback. OK, that has nothing to do with his worthiness as a Rookie of the Year candidate.

There were plenty of other worthy candidates. Maurice “pick a name” Jones-Drew had fifteen touchdowns, and he started one game all year. Reggie Bush caught 89 passes. Marques Colston had 70 catches in 14 games. Joseph Addai averaged 4.8 yards a carry (by the way, Edge averaged 4.2 in 2005) and exceeded 1,000 yards. Marcus McNeil started at left tackle for a team that not only had a record-setting running back, the Chargers had the top record in the NFL.

In a stat-obsessed world, sometimes the bottom line isn’t important. The Titans won six games in a row. The Texans were the only team with a losing record when the Titans played them. When the season started, Kerry Collins was the starting QB and Chris Brown the starting RB. By Week 17, Travis Henry had exceeded 1100 yards and Vince Young took home some hardware.

Sure, his hype was the product of a few extraordinary plays, most of them on the ground. I prefer his 36-yard jaunt with one second left in the first half of the Bills game over the game-winner in the Texans’ game.

Let’s talk about the streak for a while, because I haven’t enjoyed being a Titan fan more than during that time. It started with a relatively benign thrashing of the eventual NFC East champs. A weak push out of bounds tore Donovan McNabb’s ACL and the team couldn’t recover. Young had 101 total yards.

In Week 12 I was on a second honeymoon in Maui. I took a nap when it was 21-0 Giants. When I woke up it was 21-14. I wouldn’t hear about Vince Young’s heroics, and Mathias Kiwanuka’s assistance, until much later. It was a TD pass to Brandon Jones (see a trend here?) that tied the game. Rob Bironas hit the game winner.

Week 13 was a showdown with the hated Colts. The Titans hadn’t defeated the Colts since 2002. Their 14-13 loss earlier in the year was one of the first signs that the Colts’ defense was a liability. The Colts took a 14-3 lead but were unable to convert a first and goal from the one. They settled for a game-tying field goal. It took Young nine plays to move the team 33 yards to get on the cusp of field goal range. Strangely enough, the Colts took their second and third timeouts after Young incompletions. Because they had no timeouts for a drive of their own, Jeff Fisher rolled the dice and had Bironas try a career-long 60-yard field goal. The rest is history.

Young wasn’t great the following week at Houston. He did finish well. Someone pointed out that had the Texans drafted Young with the number one pick, they might have finished 2006 with the offensive and defensive rookie of the year. Mel Kiper would have to give that a B+ at least. Young made his mad scramble on third and 14. It was a passing down.

The Titan offense barely broke a sweat the following week. The Jaguars held the ball for 34 consecutive offensive plays in the third quarter. The Titans scored 14 points, the Jaguars none. Three defensive scores were the difference. The final field goal came after a 70-yard Pacman Jones kickoff return.

Then it was a showdown with 7-7 Buffalo. In the previous week Joey Harrington went something like 5-48 passing as the Bills shut out the Dolphins, who we forget shut out the mighty Patriots the week before. Neither defense had much luck, although the Titans were better at bending, giving up five field goals. I would imagine that this was the first game in NFL history that involved scores in consecutive seconds. Vince Young took off on an improvised run for a touchdown with one second left. Bironas kicked the ball out of bounds, then J.P. Losman completed a long pass after having his face mask nearly pulled off. The penalty gave the Bills an untimed down for a field goal that cut the lead to 20-19. Heck, there were three scores in the final 61 seconds of that half. The Titans went three and out in all of their third-quarter possessions as the Bills took a nine-point lead. Young hit Brandon Jones for a 29-yard touchdown on third and nine. Clutch. Young converted two more third downs, almost hauling the entire Bills D line for another one before yielding to Bironas, who hit the game-winner.

VY turned the ball over three times against the Patriots and struggled in the red zone when the game was still in doubt. A victory meant a playoff spot. Part of me is glad that the streak is over, because earning the most improbable playoff berth ever only would have fueled the legend. Vince has a lot of work to do this offseason. He better work hard, because defensive coordinators are going to have a lot of late nights.

The team has a lot of work to do in the offseason. The defensive line, minus Kyle Vandenbosch, is a disaster. David Givens is recovering from an ACL tear. Drew Bennett might leave as a free agent. Travis Henry has a giant bonus due so he’ll probably get an extension. Will he do so knowing that LenDale White is nipping at his heels? Picking up a solid cornerback, defensive end, a DT or two, and a playmaking receiver seem like the offseason goals. The OL came together nicely. Kerry Collins probably will sign again as the backup. It’s good to be a Titan fan.

2 Responses to In Vince we trust

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