The League

Dan Levy
Sports Media Guru

Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

Is There a Third Choice?


The question we are asked is specifically worded: Matt Leinart or Vince Young Who Would You Take?

Is there a third choice? Seriously, I'll take anyone else drafted with them. Let's run down the list of the 2006 NFL Drafted quarterbacks (gulp):

Jay Cutler - Drafted by Denver one pick after Leinart got drafted. Rocket arm. Mobile. Earned a terrible reputation in Denver. Couldn't win. Got his coach fired (by not being able to win -- fine the defense stunk too). Fought with his new coach. Got himself traded after stating he didn't want to be traded, then he did, then he didn't. Says, 'you know' far too much. May or may not have a drinking problem.

Kellen Clemens - Drafted by the NY Jets in round two (49th overall). The new people in charge of the Jets have so little confidence in Clemens they drafted a quarterback (Mark Sanchez) in the first round this season. And the OLD people in charge of the Jets had such little confidence in Clemens that they hired Brett Favre to lead the team, a decision that ultimately got them fired.

• Tavaris Jackson - Drafted with the last pick in the second round by Minnesota. How bad is Tavaris Jackson? The people in charge of the Vikings have so little confidence in Jackson they're trying to hire Brett Favre to lead the team. This will undoubtedly fail and they will be fired for it.

• There were seven other quarterbacks drafted, most notably Brodie Croyle who started a few games in Kansas City until the staff was fired, in part because Brodie Croyle was the best quarterback on the active roster at some point. Others include Charlie Whitehurst, Brad Smith (also taken by the Jets, but more as a skill position player), Ingle Martin, Omar Jacobs, Reggie McNeal, Bruce Gradkowski, and D.J. Shockley.

Wow. So the choices are Jay Cutler, a bunch of backups and guys who aren't in the league anymore, or two players who faced off in one of the greatest national title games of all time.

That's what's so odd about this whole situation. Leinart and Young just don't make sense. Leinart went to USC, so you'd think all this fame and fortune he found in the NFL would already be old hat to him. You'd think that Leinart would have been more mature than some of his past behavior has shown.

One would have thought that after having a kid and living in LA for all that time, Leinart would be tired of the spotlight a bit. USC guys are different than most college kids who get drafted into the NFL. They are used to the glitz and glamour. They are used to huge stars shmoozing on the sidelines. You'd have thought that Leinart would have grown up faster than he has. Sure, supposedly he's working hard this off-season to get in real football shape and finally concentrate on the game and his career, but this might be more an act borne out of survival than anything else. Leinart was handed the Arizona job last year and was benched in favor of Kurt Warner. Warner led the Cards to a Division title and a trip to a little thing we like to call the Super Bowl. Leinart isn't really necessary anymore in Arizona. And the rest of the league may not want him unless his attitude changes. Hence, his attitude change. Still, you'd hope this would have clicked a little sooner for the guy.

Young's case is even more curious. Young played at Texas. There is no more pressure on any college athlete in the country than there is on the quarterback at Texas. Football in Texas means more than anything else. Football in Texas probably even means more than barbeque and secession combined. And that's saying something.

And Young was a hero there. He won them the National Championship. He did. He put the team, and the state, on his back and won the National Championship. When he got drafted people said his game wouldn't translate because 'everyone in the NFL is as big and strong as he is' and because his delivery of the ball looks like he's throwing it out of his ear. People thought his game wouldn't translate.

People were wrong. Young had a great rookie season, using both his arm and his legs to, ahem, run away with the Rookie of the Year Award. People saw great things for Young. In 2007, Young had better stats than his rookie season and looked to be progressing well.

But Young, too, saw some off-season troubles in his career. And Young's troubles followed him into last season. He was booed by his home crowd and something must have snapped in his head. Remember, Young was hurt last season, but also went AWOL. Rumors were swirling about Young trying to hurt himself. Titans head coach Jeff Fisher was concerned about his emotional well being. People thought he might have a gun at one point. His mom then came out and said he was quitting football because,

"Vince has gone through a whole lot s a young person. But it is hard, all he is going through right now. He's hurting inside and out. But he will be fine if people are prayerful and help my baby boy out. He is a young man. He just needs a lot of love and support."

Much like Leinart in Arizona, Young was replaced by a veteran journeyman quarterback who led his team to the playoffs. He too, became expendable.

But now Young wants to play. Much like Leinart he has committed himself to getting ready for the season and wants to play or be traded. Yes, Young is now making 'play me or else' demands.

It might be too little too late for both of them to be the superstars we expected them to be. But it's the NFL...everyone can be redeemed. So back to the original question -- Who Would You Take? I'd take Leinart. While Vince Young clearly has more physical ability, he quit on his team. His mom came out with declarative statements about her 'baby boy' and he couldn't handle the fans in Tennessee boing him. He should make a phone call to Donovan McNabb one day to see what real booing is like.

Look, they both clearly need to grow up, and maybe this off-season they've both started to. But the lede of Richard Justice's column from the day after Young went AWOL is probably the deciding factor in all of this:

Vince Young is either a spoiled brat, a troubled young man or some combination of the two.
That's the problem with screaming at him to grow up and deal with things virtually every other NFL quarterback has to deal with.
There could be something more serious going on. Those of us on the outside simply don't know what's going on inside his head. But what we do know -- or what we think we know -- is troubling.

By all accounts, Leinart just needs to grow up. Young may really need help.

By Dan Levy  |  June 12, 2009; 10:03 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Doug Farrar , Quarterbacks , Reggie Bush , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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