He is the game's most electric quarterback. His moves with the football are something you only see in video games and defensive coordinator's nightmares. His mere presence behind center quickens the pulse of most football fans.
He is not Michael Vick. He is Vince Young.
Those used to be the words associated with Vick. But since Vick's suspension from the NFL, Young has assumed those hyperbolic words for his own.
Most compare the pair for obvious reasons — they're big-armed quarterbacks with pinball-machine running moves who can turn broken plays into touchdowns. And while Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said those years preparing for Vick could help the Buccaneers on Sunday against the Titans, he dismisses the assertion that Young and Vick are that much alike.
"I think there are mobility issues that you have to account for (with Young)," Gruden said. "There are perimeter problems that he can create. He finds scramble opportunities, and certain coverages can make you vulnerable there. But … I think Vince is a lot different than people portray him to be."
Compare Vick's and Young's numbers through 17 NFL starts — Young makes his 18th on Sunday — and there are definitely similarities:
— Vick: 2,578 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions on 453 attempts; 844 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns on 120 attempts;
— Young: 2,782 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions on 457 attempts; 675 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns on 112 attempts
While Vick had a better passing rating through 17 starts (83.8 to 66.7), Young has a better completion percentage, which coaches value more. Vick's completion percentage hovered around 43 percent. Young completed 51.5 percent of his passes as a starter last year, and that percentage is up to 62.0 percent through four games.
Some say it's Young's deceptive delivery that makes him dangerous as a passer.
"His throwing motion is really sneaky because all the sudden it doesn't look like he's throwing, (and) he's throwing like 40-50 yards, and it's a rifle to the receiver," Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan said.
The Falcons attempted to mold Vick's dual abilities into a West Coast offensive system with dubious results. The Titans drafted Young the same year they hired Norm Chow as offensive coordinator. Instead of trying to fit Young to his philosophy, Chow built an offense that would make Young successful.
That flexibility translated into a six-game winning streak near the end of last season. The carryover had made Young a more efficient passer and game manager.
"He is understanding now where he is and (that) he can just throw the ball away," Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said on Monday. "It's no problem once you get out of the pocket."
For all of Young's progress as a passer — and he took a step back against Atlanta by throwing three interceptions last Sunday — his strength still lies in his legs. Young is as dangerous in a busted play as he is in one of the run-pass options Chow calls for his quarterback (a little trick Chow picked up from Young's time at the University of Texas).
The key, said Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud, is to keep an eye on Young at all times.
"You have to keep your eyes on the quarterback for that scramble," Ruud said. "That's the thing that defenses don't plan for is a quarterback scrambling, and you have to take that into account when you play a guy as athletic as Vince Young.
Young's numbers don't necessarily excite — his quarterback rating is near the bottom of the NFL — but his team's record does. The Titans are 3-1, one game behind the Colts in the AFC South.
There are passers and there are quarterbacks, Bucs running backs coach Art Valero said. Passers can throw the ball well and succeed, but never seem to win the big one. Quarterbacks, Valero said, lead their teams.
Guess which category Valero thinks Young falls?
"He's one of those types of guys that says, ‘Hey boys, hop on my back and I'll carry you and I'll do whatever it takes. It might be running it. It might be throwing it. It might be throwing an interception'," Valero said. "But he's going to make a difference in the game."
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.