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Young Mr. Young

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I feel like I'm encroaching on Doperbo's franchise, but he seems to either be taking the first round playoff loss particularly hard, or is bogged down with life and stuff.

I think the consensus is that after an amazing 2006 (Rose Bowl win, led Titans to 8 - 4 record as a starter and almost into playoffs, Rookie of the Year), the bloom has come off the rose for Vince Young. The Titans limped into (and out of) the playoffs with a team that won with its defense and running game. Vince had looked good early in the year, even earning raves after a MNF win in New Orleans, but had faltered down the stretch. Every national pundit had observed that the Titans were not getting much scoring from their QB, either passing or running (he played through some kind of quadriceps injury that reduced his mobility to that of a mortal). His OC, Norm Chow, even started a whisper campaign against him, questioning his ability to learn the pro game.

 height=I followed his stats pretty closely through the year, and noticed that he seemed to get things back into control in December. A ground rule for this study- NFL passing rating is the chief criteria of comparison. I'm not going to argue that running stats should be incorporated, even though there is a good argument for that, because the chief criticism is whether he can throw at the NFL level. Another rule- I'm only looking at games played in December. OK, let's go.

Going into December, the Titans were 6 - 5, and recent losses to Denver and Cincinnati (due mainly to defensive breakdowns) had them in danger of missing the playoffs. In the five December games, against basically average competition, they went 4 - 1. Vince completed 76 of 118 passes for 853 yards, with 4 TDs and 4 interceptions. This gave him a passing rating of 83.05, which in the NFL is fair-to-good. He had particularly good games against his reliable slump-buster Houston, and KC (well, who doesn't?). He had a bad game in the only loss, to SD.

How did other young QBs fare, in comparison? Jay Cutler is an obvious comparison. Going into December, Denver was 5 - 6, and had five games scheduled against below average competition. He completed 89 of 159 attempts, for 1,113 yards, with 7 TDs and 4 picks, giving him a passing rating of 82.09. Not bad. Unfortunately, this did not translate to winning as the Broncos went 2 - 3 in December. The loss to Oakland hurt the most, and SD was his worst game, too.

How about another QB from the same class- Brody Croyle of KC? The Chiefs went 0 - 4 in all of his December starts, finishing 4 - 12. The level of competition was below-average for every team but the Chiefs. He completed 69 of 127 passes for 613 yards, with 4 TDs and 3 picks for a 64.85 rating. This is the kind of rating that will have your team looking for a replacement, and indeed they are.

How about that Matt Schaub, down in Houston? He had a good year, didn't he? He did, and also a good December. The Texans went into December with a 5 - 6 record, and finished 3 - 2 to reach .500 for the first time. He passed for 96 completions out of 152 attempts, for 989 yards, with 8 TDs and 6 interceptions. The competition was fairly tough. His best game was against Denver, and his worst against Indy. Frankly, he is in a good situation for his career. When you review Kubiak's record of working with mobile QBs (his greatest reclamation project was Plummer at Denver), you realize nobody gets more out of the great mobility/average arm guy than the Texans coach. Sigh...what might have been?

How about that other young star QB in the great state- Tony Romo? The Cowboys went into December 11 - 1, and finished 2 - 2 (the competition was slightly below average). Romo had a bad month (that carried into the post-season), completing 83 of 138 passes for 859 yards, with 3 TDs and 5 picks. This gave him a 70.29 passing rating for the month. Ouch! Come back, Carrie Underwood! This rating would have been improved some if I added the GB Thursday night game just before the month began, but would it really change any conclusions about how Romo finished the season? He had a good game against Detroit, and bad ones against Philly and Washington.

Finally, the new star child- Eli Manning. The Giants were 7 - 4 at the start of the month, and went 3 - 2 against an above-average schedule, to finish 10 - 6. He completed 80 of 157 for 960 yards, with 7 TDs and 5 interceptions for a rating of 71.62. His best game (foreshadowing) was against the Pats, in a close loss at home.

What conclusions can we draw?

1. December is a tough month for young QBs.

2. Vince seems to have found a way to play his game even without his legs giving him a huge advantage. He still needs to figure out a way to get more TDs passing. My subjective judgment- Vince needs to get more accurate, either through his mechanics, or a Manning-like work regimen with his receivers.

3. Jerry Jones may have wasted a lot of money.

4. Given the dislike Chow (now gone) had for Vince, and his lack of elite receivers (all of the other QBs mentioned have better receivers, including Croyle's), he may have a reason for optimism next year. Hopefully Heimerdinger learned some of the Denver QB-coaching magic.