Vince Young’s athletic ability has rarely been questioned.
It is the additional responsibilities that go with playing the quarterback position in the NFL that have often been placed under the microscope.
Young is ultra-competitive, and at times at the University of Texas and even in his rookie year with the Tennessee Titans seemed to will the team to victory on his own abilities and intangible qualities.
But Young is still very much a work in progress, and his nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions last year only tell part of the story.
Young’s competitiveness, which is often his greatest asset on a football field, has occasionally acted as a detriment.
There have been hints of such things like the shoe he lodged into the wall at the visitor’s locker room in the RCA Dome after failing to produce an upset against AFC South rival Indianapolis as a rookie.
There was last year’s post-game questioning of whether the coaching staff trusted him at crunch time, and there was the national TV uttering from former offensive coordinator Norm Chow last year that Young had a tendency to “pout” at times when things didn’t go well.
Of course, part of being an NFL quarterback is dealing with media criticism. In that regard, there have been times where critical opinions, such as those of ESPN commentator Merril Hoge, has gotten under Young’s skin a bit.
But the Titans know they will eventually go as far as Young can take them. And they also know that the maturity curve must accelerate not only on the field but off to maximize Young’s potential as a quarterback. It’s another area where Young is working to improve, and Titans coach Jeff Fisher sees a difference this offseason.
“Successful quarterbacks are very competitive and don’t like to make mistakes,” Fisher said. “When they make mistakes on the practice field, they have to understand why they made them and put them behind them. Vince is doing a much better job with that now. He would get very frustrated early in his career with the mistakes, but now he’s taking responsibility of an errant throw and [will] just play the next play.”
New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger sees Young’s abilities, and from a physical standpoint has asked Young to work on his footwork this offseason, which he has.
But Heimerdinger likes what he has seen from Young in terms of maturation thus far as well, and the ability to not fret over mistakes, but instead learn from them and move on as quickly as possible.
“He’s getting better at it. When he makes a mistake, he’ll turn to me and say, ‘That was my fault,’” Heimerdinger said. “He’s getting better at learning to leave it behind and go on the next play. We’ll see how he does with that in a game.”
Young realizes he must grow up quickly, and if he didn’t already know that his every move would be in the spotlight, he surely does now after a shirtless internet photo surfaced, and an article about him having considered quitting football after his rookie year came out within weeks of each other.
“Off the field and on the field, how fast you can mature and how fast you can learn your offense, that’s how you take your game to the next level,” Young said. “You know how I am. I like to have fun and joke around with the guys but when it’s time to go to work, it’s time to go to work.”
Young said he is maturing and learning every day about life as an NFL quarterback.
“Every day in life you learn something. Y’all are older than me and you’re still learning things,” Young said when asked about his maturity by the Nashville media.
If Young is indeed growing older and wiser as a quarterback, it can only help his development on the field. Moving on from a bad play is key in that on-field maturation process.
“The good ones have to let it go. The good ones let it go,” Heimerdinger said. “It bothers them, but you’ve got to let it go and go to the next snap. If you let a mistake bother you for the rest of the game, then you’re not going to be successful in this league, because every quarterback is going to make a mistake. It’s like a corner getting beat on a deep ball. You’ve got to have a short memory and come back and compete.
“A quarterback makes a mistake, you’ve got to go right back with your team, no matter the situation. You’ve got to let it go. It’s probably hard for young guys to learn that. But you’ve got to learn that.”
Young already appears to be on the right track in terms of adjusting on the field.
“They talk about the speed of the game. But it’s not so much the speed of the game running wise, it’s the speed of the game mental-wise and when you get that down, that’s when your game can really take off,” Young said.
Maturity attached to Young’s already strong sense of competition is what both he and the Titans are striving for.
“He’s a competitor. He competes. He hates to make mistakes, and he’ll tell me when he’s made a mistake and he seems to come back [from it] pretty good,” Heimerdinger said. “….It’s a learning process with young guys with everything. You know with a young person, there’s going to be a mistake somewhere, and it’s a matter of how we all react to it.”