Friday, January 13, 2006
Houston must take Vince Young
By Skip Bayless Page 2
Some people involved in Houston Texans management sound as if they've talked themselves into making a far worse mistake than I did.
All I risked was getting trampled by a stampede of Longhorns e-mail telling me how I should be fired for picking Matt-Reggie-LenDale to out-Heisman Texas 35-17.
Vince Young showed who's really No. 1 in the Rose Bowl.
I felt pretty good about my prediction when a fourth Trojan who'll make NFL Pro Bowl teams -- Dwayne Jarrett -- slam-dunked the ball over the goal line to give "my" team a 38-26 lead. But Vince Young basically yawned, and grinned, and proceeded to make Matt-Reggie-LenDale-Dwayne look like third-rounders. Texas reigns, 41-38.
Lord (and the Longhorns) have mercy, did I ever underestimate Vincent Paul Young Jr.
An NFL personnel director who encouraged me to pick USC told me on Thursday: "That's the closest thing I've seen to Michael Jordan since he left Chicago. I watched this kid every game this year, and he just got better and better and better until you finally step back and say, 'I've never seen anything like him.' I don't want to hear another word about David Carr. The Texans will never live it down if they don't take Vince Young."
This young man has a 6-foot-5, 235-pound blend of talent and intangibles never before seen in a quarterback. I don't want to hear another word comparing Young with Michael Vick or Daunte Culpepper or Randall Cunningham. He's in another stratosphere as a passer/runner/leader.
Young could eventually do for the Texans what he did for couldn't-win-the-big-one Mack Brown. Shrug, grin, watch this. Follow him, Texans, to the top.
But I'm preaching to a shrieking choir in Houston. Young is their native son -- a legendary product of Madison High School -- and Texans fans are like NASA rockets ready to launch on team management if it sticks with its original plan to take Reggie Bush.
Bush made it official Thursday: He's turning pro and he said he wouldn't mind at all if Houston took him with the No. 1 pick. After all, didn't it look suspiciously like the Texans gave it their all to lose the "Bush Bowl" in the season finale against San Francisco -- and win Reggie?
Indeed, if Reggie Bush avoids knee surgery, he'll be a Hall of Famer.
But Texans fans are right: Their team would be crazy not to take Vince.
"If they don't," says Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice, "they'll need an armed perimeter around the stadium to keep fans from storming it. Vince is all anyone is talking about."
So how in the name of Vince Young are so many national insiders, beginning with ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Mel Kiper, saying the Texans will take Bush?
Because that's what general manager Charley Casserly is saying. That's what advisor Dan Reeves indicated after a month of evaluating (and endorsing) quarterback David Carr. And according to Texans insiders, that's what the team's next head coach said he wanted when he was interviewed for the job.
The Houston Chronicle has reported that Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak (who was recommended by Reeves) will be hired as soon as the Broncos' season ends.
Kubiak, Reeves and Casserly are traditional, conservative, by-the-book pro football men who obviously are thinking: So this kid had one great game against a bunch of guys who won't make it in our league. Running quarterbacks have always gotten hurt or gotten you beat in the National Football League, and that little wristy, sidearm flip of Vince Young's and his very average arm strength won't get it done against the likes of Champ Bailey and Sean Taylor.We have a former No. 1 overall pick in David Carr, who has the talent but just needs some coaching and some blocking. We need the next Gale Sayers or Marshall Faulk. We need Reggie Bush.
No one should be too concerned with Vince Young's delivery motion. He gets the job done.
Sound, but shortsighted, logic.
Which brings us to the man with the deciding vote: owner Bob McNair. Team sources say there's no way he'll allow his franchise to pass on a homegrown quarterback who could instantly turn Texans tickets into the hottest in town. Roger who?
Texans business staffers have half-joked that the team could double ticket prices the moment Young is selected on draft day. What an astonishing turnaround that would be for a Reliant Stadium that often felt more like a half-empty library during this season's home games.
Madison Avenue analysts are projecting Young could quickly become the NFL's most marketable star -- its LeBron, a Michael Vick who can live up to the hype.
Yet McNair won't insist on Young just to sell a few more tickets and make his two sons who graduated from Texas happy. No, McNair knows all that really matters is winning. Winning sells.
And McNair knows this about Vince Young: Above all else, he's a leader and a winner. His high school and college teammates believed in and followed him. That won't change in the pros.
And the Texans can risk letting Young fall to (and turn around) the New Orleans Saints? Or -- their worst nightmare -- the Tennessee Titans?
The Titans were the Houston Oilers -- until owner Bud Adams got a better deal and moved them to Nashville, Tenn. The last thing a Houston football fan wants to see is Vince Young win Bud Adams his first Super Bowl. That would haunt the Texans franchise for a long time.
The Titans pick third, after New Orleans. Titans quarterback Steve McNair has been a big brother to Young, and would love to teach him the ropes while playing one more season. Bob McNair cannot allow that to happen.
Furthermore, the Texans' owner cannot allow his team to sentence Reggie Bush to life as a Texan. Bush could be a combination Sayers/Faulk and still never quite live up to what Texans fans believe Young could be. Imagine Reggie flashing and dashing for, say, 65 yards on 15 carries in his rookie debut, and getting booed.
No, the Texans simply must take Young -- and trade Carr. That's the educated guess: That Carr will be paid the $8 million bonus that keeps him from becoming a free agent, then he'll be traded, possibly to Miami, hopefully for a first-round pick. Carr isn't bad. But he isn't Vince. He isn't much of a leader.
If the Texans take Young, it sounds like they'll also hire the offensive coordinator he came to believe in at Texas -- Greg Davis. No one knows better how to tailor an offense around Young's extraordinary gifts than Davis.
Davis knows there's one big difference between Young and Vick: Young is pass-first and runs only when he has to. Vick runs because he wants and needs to -- because that's what his shortsighted fans expect. Basically, if tight end Alge Crumpler isn't immediately and obviously open, Vick takes off.
Vick is still the NFL's most dangerous broken-field runner. But he's playing the wrong position. At what appears to be a shade under 6 feet, Vick has trouble seeing over Young-sized defensive linemen, and he still doesn't have much feel or rhythm for reading his progressions and finding and hitting open receivers.
Again, Young is 6-5, which allows him to get away with passing mechanics that will offend most NFL coordinators and draft geeks. But what amazed me most about the USC-Texas game was that Young repeatedly made the right decision and flicked quick-release passes that hit receivers right in the hands.
Vince Young will break pro teams down like MJ did.
Remember, USC coach Pete Carroll was a highly respected NFL defensive coordinator, and he had 32 days to prepare for Young. He should have blitzed more. But even Carroll was intimidated by this kid's freakish ability.
The amazing thing about Young is that he throws and runs so effortlessly that you underestimate his velocity and quickness. He doesn't look like he's throwing hard -- but the ball sure gets there in a hurry. He doesn't look like he can get that 6-5 frame in gear too quickly -- yet he eases past blitzing linebackers and cornerbacks as if they're standing still. No defender ever seems to nail him with a good shot. He hits them harder than they ever hit him. He's stronger and more athletic than Culpepper.
He's deceptively Jordanesque.
I still say USC would win 7 of 10 games against Texas. Yet Vince Young overcame USC's 574 yards and 38 points with play after extraordinary play -- climaxing on fourth-and-5 from the 9-yard line. Make it or lose the national championship. Young glanced at one-two-three covered receivers, then took off from his 16 and beat the entire USC defense to the corner of the end zone untouched.
MJ over Cleveland's Craig Ehlo.
And some commentators are chortling that the Texans must wish LenDale White had gained another half-yard on that late fourth-and-2 so USC had won and the Texans could take Bush? No, the Texans should drop to their knees and give thanks they "won" the first pick the year In-Vince-ible was available.
Am I overreacting to one game? No. I've seen the light and the future: Vince Young of the Houston Texans.
Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.