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Keep it simple

Teams make systems too complicated for young QBs

Posted: Tuesday December 12, 2006 11:25AM; Updated: Tuesday December 12, 2006 11:57AM
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Vince Young has benefited from the Titans' modifications to their offense.
Vince Young has benefited from the Titans' modifications to their offense.
Peter Read Miller/SI
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Let me start today by saying I totally misjudged Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Vince Young. I thought he would need two or three years to become a force in the NFL, but look at him now. He's got six wins in his last eight games as a starter. About the only thing I actually predicted correctly about Young's pro career was that it would be best served in a place like Tennessee. I figured the Titans had the right coaches to ease his transition from a read-option shotgun offense at Texas to a pro-style NFL offense, and they've done exactly that.

Now here's something else I didn't see coming: After spending last week with the Titans, I started thinking that the NFL is becoming too complicated for its own good. I say this because the Titans have helped Young become an immediate success by keeping things simple. Instead of forcing him to fit into a system they've been running for years, they've modified their offense to fit his rare skills (a move that even included installing some of Young's college plays). The result is that Young plays instinctively and with a high comfort level and the Titans have amazingly turned around a season that started with five straight losses.

I realize that most coaches talk about simplifying things for their young signal-callers. But how many have the nerve to go as far as Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow did with Young? This isn't a knock on those other coaches. It's an observation of how much the game has developed -- and how hard it is to know when that game has become so complicated that it prevents some young quarterbacks from reaching their potential.

I'm not just ranting here, either. I've talked to people around the league and heard similar comments. "Sometimes a coach's system can get so big that we do forget about the players," says Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, who believes the best plays work when coaches have the right players to execute them. "When that happens, when a coach's ego gets in the way, the system can retard the growth of the young guy."

Chow agrees: "Sometimes the problem with coaches is that we spend all this time thinking about ideas that we want to try. I hear people talking about how they run this system or that system. I believe in letting the kid do his thing. When Vince comes to me with a play he likes, I put it in the game plan. That way he feels like he has some ownership of the process."

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