Can we all agree that Vince Young can be childish?
Well, at least you know where I'm coming from on this one. In Tennessee, Vince Young, who leads the NFL in rabbit ears, heard scattered boos in the first half of a 19-16 overtime loss to Washington and appeared to wave to the fans to invite more derision. In the third quarter, he banged his throwing hand on a Redskin helmet and injured his thumb; when he tried to throw a few balls on the sidelines to show he was able to return to the game, coach Jeff Fisher told me, the balls were off-target and sailed, and Fisher stayed with third-stringer Rusty Smith, with backup Kerry Collins out with a calf injury. Young thought he was ready to play and was angry.
On his way off the field after the game, he threw his shoulder pads and shirt in the stands and then, according to beat man Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, muttered under his breath while Fisher was addressing the team. When Fisher saw him ready to bolt the locker room, he told him not to quit on his teammates, and Young, according to Wyatt, said he wasn't quitting on them -- he was quitting on Fisher.
I spoke with Fisher about an hour after that, and I didn't know the details of the locker room drama at that point. I asked Fisher if Young, the up-and-down fifth-year quarterback, was still his quarterback of the future. "We'll talk about the future at the end of the year,'' Fisher said, then chose his words carefully: "I'm not going there now.''
As I said on NBC last night, this is bound to be an incendiary topic between the team and Young, and probably between the coaching staff and owner Bud Adams. Young is a 9-to-5 quarterback who doesn't work at his craft enough, either in the classroom or in rehabbing injuries. His leadership is poor because he doesn't show the commitment of many of his teammates. And though Young's played better this year (10 touchdown, three interceptions), I get the sense the coaching staff has tired of spoon-feeding him a version of the offense and not the whole thing, which makes Collins a more desirable option at this point, despite his age and creakiness.
Drama has surrounded Young since he was drafted by Tennessee in 2006 as a favorite of owner Bud Adams. Young is from Houston, like Adams, and was a big star at Texas, and Adams took great delight in drafting the local kid while the local Texans spurned him, and he hoped Young would be the kind of star who could help Adams defeat the hometown Texans for years to come.
Though he's had some good moments, Young has never grabbed the starting job and made it seem he was the no-doubt quarterback of the future. Now he may need season-ending surgery on his thumb. He's due $11.5 million next year. I find it hard to believe the Titans will move forward with such an emotional problem child as the quarterback ... unless Adams tries to shove him down the coaches' throats.
I'm told Adams still views Young as the franchise star, which is part of the problem. The Longhorn Vince Young is not the Titan Vince Young. He's not the leader or player he was in college. Is the petulant Iversonian figure who throws his uniform into the stands after a tough game the guy you build your franchise around? Adams would be foolish to think he is. Adams, I believe, is in love with a player who doesn't exist.
For now, the Titans, only a game out of first place in the AFC South, will go with sixth-round prospect Rusty Smith as quarterback entering a crucial stretch of four straight division games. It's not looking like their year. The worst decision they could make is going forward with Young into 2011 and beyond. Tennessee needs to cut its losses. Now.
Get ready for more Pats-Colts in 2011.
New England and Indianapolis will play for the ninth straight regular season next fall -- if they finish in the same position in their division standings in 2010. The game would be in Foxboro. So if the Pats win the AFC East, Indy would have to win the AFC South for the game to happen again. Or both teams would have to finish second, etc.
Why would it happen in November? The league likes putting big games where it can get the max ratings, because November is a sweeps month for television. And because the league doesn't want to put a mega-game like this one early, when a possible labor action could wipe out one or more weeks. If they meet, it would be the ninth straight year that the two non-division foes contested the Brady-Manning passion play, and the seventh straight year that the game would be in November. It's such a great series because it's so ridiculously close. Margins of victory in the past six meetings: 7, 4, 4, 3, 1, 3.
Two thoughts about Sunday's 31-28 New England survival test. One: Peyton Manning played a modern Favre-style game. Trailing 31-14 with 10 minutes left, he led the Colts on one 73-yard touchdown drive, then another 73-yard touchdown drive, making it 31-28. With just over two minutes left, he set out on what could have been a 74-yard touchdown drive to win it ... but, 50 yards into it, he underthrew a pass that James Sanders picked off to end the game with 31 seconds left. Scintillating, as usual, with a shocking late mistake.
Two: Amazing to me how the Patriots keep finding the bit pieces to win games. What NFL team would be comfortable playing the guts of its schedule with two street free-agents -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead -- as their primary ballcarriers? The Patriots are fine with it, and the duo's combined 28 carries for 165 yards (5.9 yards per rush) and two touchdowns show how much Bill Belichick is concerned with only production, not pedigree.
Mike Vick's never going to make it to that big payday if he keeps exposing himself to so much punishment.
I bet Michael Vick hurts this morning. Justin Tuck sacked Vick three times Sunday in Philadelphia's 27-17 win over the Giants, and the Giants hit Vick another five times behind the line, and he exposed himself to more punishment in 11 rushes. Twice on the NBC telecast I heard the kind of audible hits that the announcers ooh and aah at, where shoulder pads meet shoulder pads or helmets. This is the torment coaches over the years have had when Vick plays: How much punishment can he take? He's already missed four starts this year, three after getting violently sandwiched by the Redskins on a run.
In the last six weeks of the season, Vick is at Chicago (with the fourth-ranked defense in the league), home to Houston (with sacker Mario Williams), at Dallas (with DeMarcus Ware) and at the Giants, then home with Minnesota (who knows if the Vikings will be playing hard by then) and Dallas. So it's a schedule fraught with some pass-rushing land mines for Vick, as well as one with some pushing tacklers on the front seven.
I'm not quite sure why, but in the past three weeks, since Vick has come back from his rib-cartilage injury, he's run the ball 29 times (too many), while LeSean McCoy, the bellwether back, has run it 41 times in those three weeks. Will the Eagles do a better job of getting Vick to stay at home, and a better job of distributing the ball to other playmakers? They'd better, if they want Vick to last well into the playoffs.
Vick's a free-agent at the end of the season, but I expect the Eagles to either franchise-tag him or sign him to a club-friendly multi-year contract, with his motivation being he needs money to pay off some long-standing debts stemming from his dog-fighting conviction. But for him to get any real money -- money the market would pay a top quarterback -- he has to stay healthy. Which he's been able to do for 16 games just once in his career. And forgetting the contract ramifications for a second, but Philadelphia might be making a magical run. The only way they can go on a great run is with Vick staying upright. So they'd better start designing plays to keep him close to home.
Bill Parcells is not coaching again.*
* The asterisk is there because of the Bill Parcells Quote of His Career, which he has said more often than he has breathed: "I reserve the right to change my mind.''
I talked to Parcells Saturday, and he told me regardless of the quote at the end of the excellent NFL Films documentary on his career (superb work, Chris Barlow) on NFL Network Friday night, he's not coaching again. He told me that Saturday, and I reported it on NBC Sunday night.
I know, I know. You can't trust Parcells on this. When he took the Patriots job in 1993, he said, "This is my last job.'' When he quit the Jets after the 1999 season, he said, "This is definitely the end of my coaching career.'' When he turned down the Bucs' job in 2002, he said: "Write this on your little chalkboard -- I'm not coaching again.'' And here was are, almost nine years later, and I'm believing him?
A couple of factors. One: He'll be 70 on opening day 2011 (if there is an opening day 2011). Two: The stress is too much for him. He told me Saturday he can't even watch the games any more because he gets too wound up; he woke up at 5 a.m. Friday and went to his computer to find out who won the Dolphins-Bears game because he hadn't watched it.
I don't expect him to be a day-to-day consultant again either. But -- and this is another Parcells cliché I've heard a lot over the years -- they don't sell insurance for these kinds of things. You want my gut feeling as a guy who has known Parcells? Those are my gut feelings.
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