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Vince Young, I'd like to introduce you to someone you should know.
VY, meet Michael Vick.
He was the left-handed you, but three years older. He had it all -- and then he didn't. He cut corners, thought he was made of Kevlar, deceived himself and those who cared about him. He was a fraud.
|Vince Young had a rough day against the Redskins; Lorenzo Alexander (No. 97) separated him from the football on this play.|
Just like you.
"My whole life was a lie," Vick said in a recent interview on the NFL Network. "Everything from A to Z."
You and Vick have much in common. Same position. Similar electric skill sets. Former top-3 draft picks. Former Madden NFL cover models. Once celebrated. Then doubted and discarded.
Vick led two lives, both of them laced with career and personal poison. The Public Vick was the face, arm and legs of the Atlanta Falcons franchise who phoned it in each week. The Private Vick was a dog killer.
"I didn't dedicate myself," said Vick to his former Falcons coach, Jim Mora, in the NFL Network interview. "[You were] only trying to help me in so many ways. And I was just young. I can't blame myself for that, neither. I was 25, 26 years old then. So you're old enough to make rational decisions for yourself."
You're 27, VY. This is your fifth season in the NFL. Time to start acting your age, not your jersey number (10).
On Sunday, during a Tennessee Titans home loss to the Washington Redskins, you were pulled from the game after injuring your thumb. You pouted. You heaved your shoulder pads into the stands. After the game, you bolted from the locker room and ignored the pleas of your head coach and your teammates, including former University of Texas teammate Michael Griffin, who chased you down near the players' parking lot.
|Jeff Fisher will be seeing more of little-known backup QB Rusty Smith the rest of the season.|
Later Sunday night, you told ESPN's Adam Schefter that you were frustrated with coach Jeff Fisher's decision to keep you on the bench. You didn't actually apologize, but you did play the martyr card.
"It is not just me," you said. "It falls back on me, but I don't know how to respond to it when it's not just me, right. I'm outnumbered now."
This latest incident, one in a growing series of VY moments, helps undo all the trust you earned in 2009, when you led the Titans to five consecutive victories and an 8-2 finish. Once again, your behavior reminded people of your bizarre actions in 2008, when you wanted to ditch your teammates during a September game. The next day, you disappeared, sparking rumors of an alleged suicide attempt scenario.
You talk and Tweet a good game. Remember what you told ESPN The Magazine before this season started?
"I want to take my guys to the Super Bowl," you said. "I want to be in the Hall of Fame. There's a great slogan I'm thinking about using: 'Say I Won't.' Like, say I won't accomplish this or that. Go ahead. Say I won't."
Uh, VY, you just walked out on your guys. Again. The only way you're getting into Canton is if you pay the $20 admission fee. The only way you get a HOF-like yellow jacket is if you become a Century 21 realtor or a Fiesta Bowl rep.
And, OK, I'll say it: You won't take your team to the Super Bowl. You won't fulfill your vast athletic potential. You won't be anything more than the newest cautionary football tale.
You're destined for one of those What-If careers. You're going to be a bar bet: Name the former No. 3 overall draft pick who lost his starting job to a rookie from Florida Atlantic named Rusty Smith.
|If Young is looking for a template to get his life and his career back in order, he need look no further than this man.|
You had it all -- and then you didn't. You had the lessons supposedly learned from your mentor and friend, Steve McNair. But you've forgotten them. And you had the benefit of watching Vick's rise, fall and rise. But you've ignored it.
Several months after the 2008 incident (and the extended benching that came with it), you told the Austin American-Statesman: "I'm very patient. That's the first thing you teach yourself from the Bible: Be patient with everything. It's not going to happen like you want all the time. Everybody's going to have adversity."
But you weren't patient then and you're not patient now. You still don't know how to handle this kind of adversity.
You want to lead your guys, but you can't even lead yourself. In that same 2008, photos of you bare-chested and drinking alcohol become an Internet sensation. You apologize to kids and say you're trying to be a role model.
During this past offseason, you're cited for a misdemeanor assault at a Dallas strip club. You apologize to your teammates, your family and your fans. "I made a big mistake. It was a bad decision," you told reporters.
And earlier this season, when you were benched in a Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh, there were reports that you missed and/or were late to team meetings.
Notice a trend?
Vick once thought he was bulletproof. He thought his fame, his celebrity, his football skills encased him in an "Iron Man" suit.
|On Sunday, Young said his thumb wasn't hurt seriously. On Monday, he went on IR.|
"Hey, man, I'm Mike Vick," he told Mora. "What's the worst thing that can happen to me?"
Humiliation can happen. Incarceration can happen. Vick lost his job, his fortune and his freedom. VY, you've lost your starting job, the loyalty of your teammates and, if you're not very, very careful, your football future.
You think you work hard enough, but you don't. You think you've matured, but you haven't. You think you're guaranteed a place in the NFL, but you aren't.
Vick served prison time. You've served bench time. Big difference. But Vick used his time to reflect and, more important, to leave his two poisoned lives behind and begin a new and improved one.
It isn't too late, VY; Vick proved that. He rehabilitated himself and much of his reputation. He embraced his past so he could change his future. He slowly has made us believe in him again.
You're doing the opposite. Your excuses lack originality. Your apologies lack sincerity. But now that you're on injured reserve and your season is finished, you'll have your own time to reflect. You'll also have a choice: You can become the old Vick or the new Young. What will it be?
Based on your body of work, I'm going to say the magic words.
I'm going to say you won't.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. He can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GenoEspn.
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