Learning Young: Titans rookie comes through in the clutch

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

If you didn’t see the 4th quarter of the Tennessee Titans-New York Giants game, you missed a glimpse of what could be a very bright future for Titans rookie quarterback Vince Young.

With his team down 21-0 and seemingly out of it, Young reminded folks why he was the top quarterback taken in the 2006 NFL draft. Young engineered three touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for another. Then he drove his team to a game-winning field goal in the Titans stunning 24-21 comeback win. It was the greatest come back in NFL history by a rookie quarterback.

Young’s brilliance reminded me of what he did to the USC Trojans and Michigan Wolverines in the last two Rose Bowls when he led the Texas Longhorns to a pair of come-from-behind wins.

Granted, he still has plenty to work on as an NFL passer, but he is getting better and better with each game. Most of what he needs to know simply has to do with adjusting to the speed of the game and recognizing the myriad of pro coverage schemes. But that will come with experience. The played Sunday he is definitely making progress.

It’s a sneak peak of what’s going to happen, not just with me, but with this team in general,” Young said.

Young completed 24-of-35 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He was 13-of-17 for 133 yards in the last 10 minutes of the game. He also ran for another score. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said Sunday’s performance was a major step in Young’s development as an NFL quarterback.

“It was huge and now what we have to do is build on this. We can’t afford to take significant steps backward, but every team is different and every team provides a different challenge,” Fisher said earlier this week. “I don’t think the Giants anticipated us spreading things out, dropping back and throwing the ball down the field. I don’t think they, 1- anticipated his ability to scramble they way he did, and 2- his ability to make throws down field. His was exceptional with his arm and decision making.”

Give Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow credit in simplifying the game and tailoring his plays to fit Young’s skills. At times, the Titans have used a version of the college spread option offense to take advantage of Young’s ability to run the football. Chow told the Associated Press back in October that Young’s work ethic is enabling him to learn the offense faster than he anticipated.

“He studies, he works and he’s disciplined. He has great leadership skills. He’s determined, and because of that, the work ethic comes along with it. If you’re willing to work at it like he is, you continue to get better,” Chow said.

But even more than his ability to run the ball was his ability to rally his teammates and not let them give up when everything seemed lost. He put the team on his back. It reminded me of a young John Elway pulling off the same feat against the Baltimore Colts in 1983 when he rallied the Denver Broncos from a 19-point deficit to a 21-19 win. It was a precursor of things to come for Elway, who would spend his career helping the Broncos come back from many fourth quarter deficits.

What I like about Young is that he doesn’t panic and keeps the same cool expression whether his team is up 35-0 or down 35-0. When he was a sophomore at Texas, he rallied the Longhorns to victory after being down 35-0 to Oklahoma State. He did the same thing against Oklahoma State last year with his team 28-10 at halftime.

And no where was his cool under fire more apparent than on that 4th and 10 play where Giants defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka had Young in his grasp and thought he had thrown the ball. Incredibly, he let him go. Young got the first down and faked safety Will Demps out of his jock strap in the process. And then he threw a laser to Brandon Jones in the end zone to tie the game.

“He was cool like it was it was a regular day. He was like ‘If you guys don’t want to play then you need to get out of the huddle’,” Jones said in the locker room after the game. “He knew from the beginning when we were down by three touchdowns that we were not going to leave a goose egg on the scoreboard. Having a leader say something like that makes you want to play harder.”

That ladies and gentleman is respect and not many, if you pardon the expression here, young’uns, especially rookie quarterbacks, get that kind of respect in this league. Young may still be green and inexperienced, but the SOB has guts. That’s what you want from your quarterback in a pressure-packed situation.

Young will no doubt make his share of mistakes and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a tough day against the Indianapolis Colts. But he will grow from it in time. Once he learns all the tricks of the trade, he’s gonna be a bad man.

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