As you’ve almost certainly heard by now, the Bills made a move at the quarterback position last week, signing former #3 overall pick and 2-time Pro Bowler Vince Young.
Young has had an up-and-down career, to be certain. Coming out of Texas – where he was without a doubt one of the greatest players in the history of college football - Young entered the NFL with massive hype. His rookie year (2006) he was Rookie of the Year and in 2007 he led the Titans to the playoffs. He was benched after getting hurt in 2008 and feuded with Titans coach Jeff Fisher for the rest of the duo’s joint tenure in Tennessee.
Young made the move to the Eagles, last year, and he wasn’t good in limited playing time. He also made the ridiculous “Dream Team” comment that haunted the super-talented Eagles the entire season.
So there’s certainly some serious red flags with Young. But here’s why this is another smart decision in an offseason that Bills GM Buddy Nix is knocking out of the park:
1) Young wasn’t quite as bad as his numbers looked last year
Young’s numbers last season in Philly were ghastly, no doubt: 57.9% completions, 4 TDs, 9 INTs. But at a second glance, it’s not as bad as it looks. Four of those interceptions came in Philly’s December 1 Thursday night loss to the Seahawks – a game in which the entire Eagles roster played so poorly that the entire team should have forfeited their paychecks. Not all Young’s fault. Three more of those interceptions came in a contest against the World Champion New York Giants – a game the Eagles won.
One statistic also jumped out at me when checking out Young’s stats: his yards-per-passing attempt number (7.60). That’s hardly a great number, but it is far better than the YPA of a man named Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2011 (6.74).
2) Young, even with his faults, is an upgrade over Tyler Thigpen.
I can’t lie: part of the reason I’m so on board with the Young signing is that I don’t trust current Bills backup QB Tyler Thigpen at all. I was okay with the Thigpen signing last season – he’s a good fit for the offense and has experience with Chan Gailey. But would you feel even a little comfortable seeing Thigpen trot onto the field if Ryan Fitzpatrick goes down? I wouldn’t. Thigpen’s career record as a starting QB? 1-11. Most of those starts came for a wretched 2008 Chiefs team, to be fair, but 1-11 is 1-11.
And we can’t ignore just how bad Thigpen was in the 2011 preseason. He was awful. You can make all the excuses you want – he was playing behind Buffalo’s awful second-string offensive line, there was no offseason thanks to the lockout, etc. – but he couldn’t throw the ball straight.
Young, on the other hand, has won in the NFL. A lot. His record as a starter as a pro? A much-better-than-expected 31-19. If Ryan Fitzpatrick (heaven forbid) goes down in Week 1 in the Meadowlands, and Young has to take over, this could still be a playoff team. With Thigpen playing 15 games? No chance. None.
3) Young is a headcase, but that’s okay.
There’s no question about it: Young is a strange guy. He’s a bit of a headcase. Whether he’s fighting with coaches, possibly threatening suicide, or getting in arguments while trying to secure $8,000 in one dollar bills…he’s always interesting.
Here’s the thing: if the Bills were bringing him in as a franchise-saving QB, I’d be worried. But he’s not that. He’s the backup. He knows it. And frankly, I think he’s happy with that for now. He could use some time out of the media spotlight.
And he’s going to be in possibly the NFL’s best locker room. Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey have completely removed any even moderate questionable character guys from the team. Vince Young is a single head case. You can have one on a team…just not a bunch, because they will hang out and cause trouble. On his own? Vince Young will be fine.