Just when you think Vince Young has matured to the point where he is ready to be a consistent starting quarterback in the NFL and the face of the Titans franchise, something like last weekend happens.
The news that Young was issued a Class C Citation for an assault that occurred at a Dallas strip club at 3:30 a.m. Sunday had to be infuriating for everyone emotionally invested in the Titans, from owner Bud Adams to the fans in Nashville. This is the latest proof Young simply doesn't get it.
Will he ever get it? What is the Titans' game plan at the most important position on the team? Let's explore:
• Not the first time. Though this may be the first time Young has gotten in trouble with the law, it is far from the first time in which his maturity and decision-making could be questioned. He missed the team plane to Philadelphia for a game his rookie year in 2006. In 2007, he did not play in a preseason game against my team at the time, the Washington Redskins, after he was punished for leaving the team hotel the night before the game so he could sleep at home in his own bed.
Those minor incidents, while showing a lack of professionalism, paled in comparison to the scare Young gave his family and franchise in September 2008. After an opening game victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in which he did not play particularly well and injured his knee, Young went missing for hours and his family was so concerned for his safety that head coach Jeff Fisher enlisted the police to help locate Young.
The focus after the Dallas incident has been on Young's violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy and his potential suspension. More important to me, however, is that Young does not appear to be mature enough emotionally to handle being a long-time starting quarterback in the NFL.
• It's called being a professional. Clearly, Young isn't one and may never be one. Mistake number one for a starting quarterback is going to a strip club in the first place. Being there at 3:30 a.m. wasn't real smart either. But that ill-advised decision wouldn't have been a problem if Young hadn't physically gone after somebody in an incident that was caught on tape and allegedly instigated by a hand gesture.
Can you imagine Drew Brees ever being involved in an incident like this? Or Donovan McNabb? The answer is no because both guys realize the responsibility that comes along with their status.
During my time in the NFL I was friendly with a number of starting quarterbacks. All of the ones I spent time with off the field were extremely cognizant every time we were in public that their behavior was being evaluated. As such, they always had to be reserved and in control, even if their preference would have been to let loose a little bit like other twenty-somethings.
One of them would never have more than two beers in public and would always leave before midnight. He once told me you never know which person in the crowd is taking mental notes of your behavior so that they can post it to a blog or message board.
Another signal-caller often would have the offensive line and other teammates over to his house because he felt like that was an environment he could control. He could act in whatever manner he wanted without having to worry about fans or outsiders taking pictures of him with their cell phone cameras. That's why he always preferred hanging out at his house. It was the only time he didn't have to live up to the higher public standard he knew was required.
Both players knew the situation they were in and how they had to conduct themselves. With this latest incident, Young has proven once again that he doesn't. To his credit, he did own up to it and admit his mistake when facing the media music Monday. That was the first step in what could now be a long road toward restoring the confidence of his franchise and fan base.
• Jeff Fisher's situation comes back into focus. Young's recent misstep shines the light on his unique situation in Tennessee and how it relates to Fisher, the longest tenured head coach in the NFL.
Young was thrust back into the starting lineup last season in Tennessee after the team got off to an 0-6 start under veteran Kerry Collins. His insertion into the starting lineup reportedly came at the behest of owner Bud Adams and apparently was not a decision Fisher wanted to make. Though Young's play helped spark the Titans to finish strong with an 8-8 season, the whole situation created more questions than answers for the franchise.
Question number one is whether Young is the right man to lead the franchise for years to come. He has already been paid a $4.25 million roster bonus this season and is due to receive $7.5 million in base salary this season. In 2011 he has another $4.25 million roster bonus while his salary goes to $8.5 million. Once thought to be in line for a contract extension, Young knows his latest transgression could delay such talks.
The bigger question, however, may be whether Fisher wants to tie his fate to a player with the emotional immaturity of Young. He may not have a choice, given the owner's affinity for Young. His hands may be tied.
But should they be? And should he stand for that? Fisher is one of the top head coaches in the NFL, and as such you would think he should have the power to decide who leads his football team under center. Clearly, based on last season, the decision is not Fisher's to make. That being the case, maybe at some point he should make the decision he can make and leave the Titans.