The League

Jason Maloni
Crisis Communications Expert

Jason Maloni

Senior Vice President with
Levick Strategic Communications
and Chair of the firm's Sports & Entertainment Practice.

Image Is Everything

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Performance changes a lot of minds and, as the new NFL season looms, both Matt Leinart and Vince Young are doing and saying enough of the right things to give coaches and fans a glimmer of hope that each man will deliver this season when his team needs him.

Early reports indicate that both players have put childish behavior behind them. Leinart pulled out of the International Beer Pong World Championships simulcast on Facebook and Young is considering getting some of the Titans' passing plays tattooed on his arms rather than the names of any more family members.

Neither athlete has lived up to their potential or their contracts, but each has a dilemma not of their doing: aging quarterbacks ahead of them on the depth chart who took their opportunity and ran with it. Kurt Warner and Kerry Collins were more heroes than the college stars were villains.

Also, you can't blame Leinart and Young for their hefty contracts. Blame the hype machine of the NFL and the league's (over)emphasis on the quarterback position. More power to them for getting a payday.

Starting jobs are won and kept based on results. It is very likely, because of those two aging quarterbacks, that both will get their chance to shine this season. Neither player is well served by a trade.

Right now, there's a lot more each player can do to get himself mentally and physically prepared for the road ahead. Leinart was seen recently throwing balls with Tom Brady, a smart move.

Off the field, Leinart now seems to get it that a celebrity's every move can end up on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Michael Phelps, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger know what it's like to have an unflattering picture turn up on the InterWebthingy. Leinart learned the hard way that a QB is a leadership position whether you're a starter or back-up and a team's leader can't be seen gallivanting around with a beer bong. Peyton Manning breaks down film and analyzes opponents every night... and that's just in April!

Vince Young has substantially more upside right now than Leinart. He led the Titans to a 10-6 record in 2007 so the Longhorn has more than just potential. Vince Young might be smart to get Warren Moon on speed dial. Young, no doubt, spent some time as a kid growing up in Houston watching Moon, a Hall of Fame drop back passer with the Titan's when they were known as the Oilers. That's the model Young needs to emulate.

In addition to adopting good role models and learning from those who have achieved success, rings and busts in Canton, both players would be wise to put their pouty side away. Accept your backup role with a smile and make the most of your opportunities when they come. Again, it's amazing what happens when you deliver results. It tends to change a lot of minds.

By Jason Maloni  |  June 12, 2009; 10:47 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Draft , Quarterbacks , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Leinart Has Less Baggage | Next: Spoiled for Choice

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They're both OK as NFL quarterbacks go, but the fact that both got picked as high as they did (and hyped beyond that) confirms Bill Walsh's belief that pro scouts have never understood what it takes to play quarterback. Leinart and Young seemed to expect their teams to build the offense around them. Warner and Collins looked to fit in with a team concept. You can see which turned out to be the more successful approach.

It's a mistake to compare Matt to Peyton Manning or Vince to Warren Moon. Leinart will always be more like Eli than his brother. Young's role model should be Randall Cunningham. Can they succeed with their current teams? Sure -- Larry Fitzgerald still plays in Phoenix, doesn't he? And Tennessee remains one of the AFC's more talented clubs, even without Albert.

Still, this has been an object lesson for the NFL hype machine -- these are people, not cartoon action figures.

Posted by: Samson151 | June 12, 2009 4:25 PM

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