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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Meet Jake Locker: The Anti-Vince Young

It was only 5 years ago that a highly touted QB from Texas was selected by Tennessee with the third pick in the 2006 NFL draft. At the time, the writing was on the wall for starter Steve McNair (RIP). Injuries and age began to curtail one of the toughest QBs ever. The heir apparent to the Titans QB throne was the scintillating Vince Young. Young was coming off an epic MVP performance in the National Championship/Rose Bowl game that saw him grow into a folk legend in Texas. Young just went bonkers on USC going off for 467 total yards including 19 rushes for 200 yards and went 30 of 40 for 267 yards thru the air. His Rose bowl performance was the icing on cake to one of the greatest college careers ever. Young was 2nd to Reggie Bush in the Heisman trophy voting his senior year and had set numerous NCAA records as he jumped early to the NFL. Titans owner Bud Adams with his Texas ties was captivated by the potential he saw and hand selected Young to replace what most would say was the best Titans QB ever.

As a result of his heroic season and career at the University of Texas, Young was seen as a revolutionary at his position of QB. Never before had the NFL seen such a hybrid mix of athleticism and throwing ability. NFL execs questioned his mechanics but a most thought he would eventually develop into an all-pro in the league someday. Young’s rookie season proved his pundits wrong as he would go on to win Rookie of the Year. Young set the NFL record for rushing yards by a QB finishing with 552 yards and would be named to his 1st Pro Bowl.

Young’s career with the Titans from that point would be considered up and down at best. To illustrate Young’s high and lows take a look at the chart below:

• He was benched for the first exhibition game in 2007 by Head Coach Jeff Fisher after he broke one of the team rules.

• Young led the Titans to a 10-6 record in 2007 and to their first playoff appearance since 2004

• In the first game of the 2008 season Young would injury his knee and refuse to go back into the game after being booed by the home crowd at LP field

• The on field incident would lead to a suicidal episode that Young denies but according to his mother was somewhat true.

• Kerry Collins would be named the starter for the remainder of the 2008 season and he led the Titans to a 13-3 record and the AFC divisional round in the playoffs.

• Young would reclaim his starting job in 2009 after the Titans started a dismal 0-6.

• He led a stunning comeback against the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals that cemented his status as the starting QB.

• He started the 2010 season with a 103.1 QB rating through 7 games, second only to Michael Vick.

• In week 11 of 2010 Young was booed again against the Washington Redskins for under performing and would injure his thumb on a throw, resulting in a season ending torn flexor tendon. Young became visibly upset with the coaching staff and trainers after they would not allow him to re-enter the game

• Young would respond by: antagonizing the crowd, throwing his helmet and shoulder pads into the stands, walking past reporters and brushing off a teammate who tried to talk to him before he left the stadium.

• Young would also storm out of the locker room during Jeff Fisher’s post-game speech, reportedly saying he was quitting on Fisher.

The last chapter of events effectively ended the Vince Young experience in Tennessee. The franchise has said it will depart with the 3rd pick of the 2006 draft after and it also fired head coach Jeff Fisher. Young and Fisher never were on the same page and it’s a shame because the relationship never reached a level of trust for either. The two were intertwined even if they didn’t like each other and their mistrust and miscommunication led to both being ousted in Tennessee. Young always seemed to lack accountability, consistency, and the leadership skills needed to succeed in the NFL. By the end of his term with Tennessee, most had labeled him a thin-skinned, injury prone, disinterested, and unstable player. What a turnaround in opinions from when Young was first drafted.

Now enter Jake Locker and newly minted head coach Mike Munchak. Just as Fisher and Young will be forever connected, so will Locker and Munchak. The Titans were said to be enamored with former Washington Huskies’ QB and took him with the eighth pick of the 2011 NFL draft. Locker was the projected top pick in 2010 had he skipped his senior season at Washington. Locker was the most polarizing player in the 2011 NFL draft. His draft stock plummeted his senior year due his regression in passing accuracy. His completion percentage dove from 58.2% as a junior to a disappointing 55.4% as a senior. He had a miserable performance on the national stage against the Nebraska Cornhuskers going 4 of 20 in the blowout loss. Locker would recover from the lackluster performance and lead the Huskies to the Holliday Bowl.

As Locker prepared for the draft, opinions on his NFL potential varied from extremely good to extremely bad. He spent most of pre-draft process working with ex-NFL QB Ken O’Brien on his mechanics and throwing motion. Many questioned his physical reckless abandon style of play as many of his highlights were him running over DBs instead throwing touchdown passes to receivers. Locker was often injured because of his style of play but it also gave him the label of being tough, a word that never associated with Young. And as much as critics criticized Locker’s mechanics and accuracy, most marveled at the intangibles he brought to his team. The one thing that can not be measured at the combine is what makes a player tick on the inside. Former coaches and teammates all raved at the leadership and resiliency that Locker played with. Again these are two things that were never associated with Young. Locker mental make-up seems to be what GM Mike Reinfeldt and Coach Mike Munchak liked best about him.

Furthermore, it seems Tennessee wanted to distance itself away from the Vince Young era as much as possible. The franchise wants to do it so bad that they drafted the exact opposite person in terms of mental construction. Locker in many ways is the anti-Young .He symbolizes everything that Young wasn’t as a tough, hardworking, and leader of men. Young is a great athlete there is no denying that but as it has been proven in the NFL, it takes more than that to cut it as a QB. Young was a celebrated star at Texas who compiled a record of 30-2 and won a national championship. Locker went through a 0-12 season and his teams never contended for the Pac-10 title much less a national title. The more you compare the two, the more you see differences in each other. Locker did not have the success of Young in college but that isn’t such a bad thing all things considered. It might actually turn out to be good that Locker had to face adversity as he will surely face plenty of it in the NFL.

One thing is clear here, the Titans needed a clean slate to start off a new era of Tennessee football. They needed to get someone who was in no shape, form, or fashion what they were trying to get away from. For everything that Young was, Locker appears not to be. Both men are supremely talented athletes but that seems to be the only things they have in common. The Titans took a gamble on guy that they trust to lead the franchise for the future. They may have reached in taking Locker at eight in the draft but they have set the course for a change in philosophy and culture within the locker room. No more VY or Jeff Fisher to blame as the scapegoat. This will be a different team that will hopefully reflect its tenacious former offensive linemen coach Munchak and the toughness and assiduous of its new QB in Locker.

In closing, I believe the Titans selected Locker with the reason of him being the exact antithetical person Young was. The Titans now have a person of strong character that won’t t be distracted every time he is booed or needs to go on suicidal watch after a bad game. Young and Locker’s physical attributes are similar but mentally these two couldn’t be further opposite from one another and that’s exactly what the Titans front-office had in mind. To all Titans fans, meet your future starting QB Jake Locker, the anti-Vince Young.


  1. NFL Draft reaction

  2. Nice post - I always folloed Vince to see the skill factor, but you always knew that the other Vince could drop by at any time. Yeah, from reading you it definitely seems Titans made a decision to reverse cource.

  3. Thanks Mike. Yeah living here in Nashville I got an up close and personal view of VY. He never seemed to embrace the leadership side of quarterbacking. He always seemed to be reluctant to take on that role. I didn't agree with the Locker pick intially but upon further research I see what they are trying to do here. Hopefully it works out.

  4. You got a lot right, and I do believe its time for VY to leave. He hasn't been doing the things in Nashville that made him great in Austin. But I will mention that some of that was due to the fact that he and Fisher never got along. Fisher wanted someone else, and not VY. He was never really supportive of the guy. Just to show how much bias i have. I got that NFL sunday ticket thing to watch the Titans games and VY. I think a lot of it started when they fired the OC after his rookie year. Never understood that. Plus when he ran the Texas offense at Tenn it worked. Especially with the out of nowhere eliteness of Chris Johnson. I don't think he will be as good without VY. One thing of hope is that Locker is the most mobile white guy I've seen in years. He's not Vick, but he maybe be able to put Johnson in space that he needs to go crazy again.

  5. Yeah your right J.R Fisher did not give Young the proper support or respect in the first place. The situation was doomed to fail in my opionion. Bud Adams made the executive decision to choose Young and it led to certain feelings in the locker room. I hope VY goes to a team where he can compete for starting time. I really want to see him succeed even if its not hear in TN.