Young Has Three Weeks to Rewrite Career

In some ways, Vince Young was too successful for his own good. He was brilliant at Texas and was NFL Rookie of the Year in 2006. Rich Gannon, a former league MVP quarterback and a friend of Mike McCarthy, provides his thoughts on what went wrong and details the challenge that lies ahead.

For about three weeks, the Green Bay Packers will be able to kick the tires on Vince Young.

Who are the Packers getting? The quarterbacking phenom who played one of the all-time great games in leading Texas past USC for the BCS Championship Game following the 2005 college football season? Or the quarterbacking bust who has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns for his career and hasn't thrown a pass since tossing four interceptions as a member of the Eagles on Dec. 1, 2011?

"I don't know that they're sure," said Rich Gannon, a former league MVP quarterback, a close friend of Packers coach Mike McCarthy and a commentator on the Packers' preseason TV broadcasts.

"I think there's always concern when you're out of football for as long as he's been out," said Gannon following his broadcast on SiriusXM NFL Radio's show originating from the Lambeau Field Atrium on Wednesday afternoon. "He last played in the league in 2011 and didn't really get a chance to play in Philly (in 2011) and, of course, the Buffalo thing didn't work out a year ago.

"I think physically they know what they're getting: a guy that has taken care of himself, is still very athletic, can still spin the ball. I think the big thing is how has he matured? Has he learned from his past experiences to be a better teammate?"

Young said he has matured, and the year out of the game opened his eyes to the harsh reality that athletic stardom is fleeting.

"Just maturing, that's the biggest thing," he said on Tuesday. "Back in the day, I was a young Vince. Now, I'm more mature and definitely learned from things that happened in the past. I'm married now, a grown man, 30 years old. I'm kind of like the old head in this locker room. It's funny hearing some of the guys call me old head and tell me to stretch my old hamstrings. It's pretty cool, but at the same time, it definitely taught me a lot, so I can be definitely somebody if anybody in this locker room needs to talk to, I've definitely been through the highs and the lows and different things like that. It's the way you come out of it to stay strong. I'm more strong than I've ever been."

Now, the question is whether that "old head" can learn new tricks.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson did Young — or McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, for that matter — no favors by signing Young a week-and-a-half into training camp. Under McCarthy, the offense is installed during organized team activities in May and June and reinstalled during the first week of training camp. The second installation phase ended on Tuesday.

"Probably the uncertainty is where is he mentally in terms of learning what we know is a fairly complicated system," Gannon said. "This isn't a system that was just installed this year. This is a process that with Mike (McCarthy) and Aaron (Rodgers), the offense has evolved over time. It's not an easy one to pick up in a couple weeks."

Yet that's what Young is being asked to do. After all, he has just a few weeks to earn a roster spot.

It will be up to Young to get himself up to speed on an offense that Graham Harrell has been operating since May 2010 and B.J. Coleman has been engrossed in since May 2012. They've been through several installations of the offense, gone through quarterbacks school and taken thousands of practice reps. Complicating matters, a large portion of Young's daily practice reps will be dedicated to running the scout team to help the defense get ready for the upcoming games.

"You know, I don't think it's like anything he's ever seen," Gannon said of the playbook. "I think it's going to be all new for him, which is going to make it very difficult. You have to be patient with him through that process. He's been out of football for a while so he's just getting used to live bullets again. So, it's going to be a big challenge for him to come in and compete."

A chance to simply compete for a roster spot seems almost unimaginable in light of his college heroics. Young piled up 467 total yards and ran for the winning touchdown in the title game against USC. Before the 2006 draft, Thompson mentioned Michael Jordan while discussing Young. Young landed with the Titans with the third pick of the draft, was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie after leading a league-high five game-winning drives. In 2008, after a minor knee injury and subsequent benching in favor of Kerry Collins, Young was named to the Pro Bowl again in 2009 after guiding six game-winning drives and the Titans to an 8-2 record in his 10 starts.

Nonetheless, Young failed to grow as a quarterback or personally. In five seasons, he threw 42 touchdown passes against 42 interceptions. The Titans chose not to re-sign Young, and he signed with Philadelphia and anointed the Eagles the "Dream Team." He started three games but was intercepted eight times.

In 2012, Young signed with Buffalo but failed to make the team, and he spent the season out of the league.

What went wrong?

"He had arguably one of the greatest games I ever saw a quarterback play in that game against SC in the championship game. He almost single-handedly won that game for Texas," said Gannon, who watched Young guide the Titans on several occasions as a commentator for CBS. "Everyone was just wowed by his athleticism, his playmaking ability. He showed great confidence in that game.

"I think what happened to him is he went to a place, Tennessee, where he had some success early and goes to a Pro Bowl, not very mature, doesn't realize what it takes in terms of a work ethic and those kind of things. He had some bad experiences and some adversity that he didn't handle well. He realized probably too late that it takes more than that. I think the other thing is, it's one thing to do a good job drafting a player but it's another thing to be able to develop that player. I don't know that they did a good enough job of that in Tennessee in terms of being more demanding of his time away from the field. In other words, in the offseason, in terms of the classroom and those type of things, I don't know that he had the right framework and the right structure around him at Tennessee."

Now, Young has a chance to turn his career around. McCarthy is one of the top quarterback gurus in the game. If Young can learn quickly and absorb what's being taught, perhaps this will be the launching point for another chance to be a starter, another chance to live up to the ridiculously high expectations from eight years ago.

"That's always something you want to do eventually," Young said of being a starter. "When it happens, it happens, but at the same time you have to take advantage of being on a team and supporting whoever the starting quarterback is. That's pretty much what I'm doing, as well as the rest of the quarterbacks here. That's the way we are as a quarterback, as a team, as a brotherhood, we support each other. Whoever is starting, whoever is playing, we want to be the eye for him on the sideline. Anything he needs to ask questions for us or the coaches, we want to be there for them. That's what it's all about."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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