Friday, December 04, 2009

Peak Performance Case Study: Vince Young, Tennessee Titans Quarterback

"My goal is to win three or four Super Bowls."

--Vince Young, NFL quarterback responding to questions as he entered his third NFL season with the Tennessee Titans in 2008.

"This guy is unique, no question he's unique. He's a very, very competitive young man. He's used to winning. He's used to being a leader, so it all fits very well."

--Norm Chow, former Tennessee Titans' offensive coordinator, talking about quarterback, Vince Young, and his emerging leadership in 2006, Young’s rookie year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vince Young threw for a career high 387 yards, won his ninth straight start (after sitting behind Kerry Collins for 22 straight games) and improved to 23-11 in his career against the Arizona Cardinals.

For many people, this is vindication and a reputation-rebuilding and career defining win. With a great deal of confidence, Young showed he could be a pocket passer as well as a running quarterback.

Early Concerns

Many college quarterbacks such as Young who almost exclusively used the shotgun at the University of Texas have difficulty adapting to NFL offenses where most snaps are taken under center. Many scouts and personnel analysts felt that Young would not be an adequate passing quarterback in the NFL. Many critics also were concerned about Young’s unorthodox throwing style.

Traditional or Trailblazing Quarterback

“I am not sold that Young will ever be an elite passer who can threaten the whole field, and I do think that the Titans have very wisely kept his reads very simple -- from option one to option two to tuck the ball down and run.”

--Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

“He’s not that guy, not now. But what he’s doing is allowing them to win football games. Now you’re hoping that as he continues to grow, he’s going to eventually be that guy. You want him to be that guy, but he’s not that guy yet.

“I think with what he’s done you’ve got to stick with the guy now. That doesn’t mean you don’t draft a guy. If Collins is done, if this is his last year, they need another quarterback. Do you draft a guy? Maybe so. Maybe you draft the pocket passer you want so if it doesn’t work out you’ve got a guy in your system that you know you are grooming.”

--Herman Edwards, NFL analyst and former head coach in the NFL, responding to questions about Young, even after Young’s return as a starting quarterback.

“All I can do is play my game. I can't worry about what they're going to try to do. All I know is when Coach calls this or this or that, I have to execute the play. If it's a run or a pass, whatever it takes to win a ballgame, that's what I'm going to do. At the same time, it's not all about me. I know the rest of the guys are going to make plays as well."

--Vince Young, NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2006, discussing his focus on his role, blocking out the opposition's defensive schemes, and the importance of execution and teamwork.

Head Coach Jeff Fisher says he never lost faith that Young would become the team's franchise QB.

“He’s won a lot of games for us with different teammates,” Fisher said. “I think, yeah, it’s fair to assume [he’s the guy long-term]. We drafted him to be our franchise quarterback and never lost sight of that. Just because there was an interruption of his starts, we never thought he wasn’t going to be the guy we drafted him to be.”

So, what has Young and the Tennessee Titans done to develop him as their starting quarterback and bring about his recent resurgence.

Deliberate Practice: Touch and Mechanics

The Titans accepted Young’s unconventional throwing motion when they drafted him. But when Mike Heimerdinger took over as offensive coordinator in 2008, he said there were mechanical adjustments for Young’s feet that would have a bearing on his arm.

In his five-game comeback, Young has shown he can throw just about every pass in the NFL quarterback repertoire effectively. His completion percentage this season (62.9) is up nearly six points from his career number coming into the season.

“His footwork is tremendous right now and his ball placement [in his dropback] is very good,” Heimerdinger said. “And when his ball placement is right and his feet are right, he can wing it. It’s just having his feet underneath him and not all spread out, his arm above his numbers instead of out [extends his arms like an airplane to illustrate] like he used to, which caused him to push it.”

Mastery: Study, Preparation and Commitment

“I think his work habits have been great. He’s been spending the time, he’s been studying it. If I put something in new on Wednesday and he struggles with it, he comes back Thursday and has it down cold. He’s really working at it,he’s doing the things that you are supposed to do.

“He’s got to be taking it home and studying it. If I’ve got a real wordy formation and play, he has it down cold the next day. The stuff I always wondered if he’d do, he’s doing.”

--Mike Heimerdinger.

“I think he realizes more now what it takes to get ready to play during the week and to go out and do it on Sunday. A lot of that has to do with the amount of time he’s putting in whether it’s here or at home. That’s what it takes to be a great quarterback, and I think it’s showing in his reads, it’s showing on Sunday.”

--Kerry Collins, veteran and former starting quarterback for the Titans.

Increasing Maturity and Emotional Resilience

Young has a history of moodiness. There were rumors of depression and suicidal thoughts. This year he is more relaxed and comfortable, particularly in the spotlight. His body language is more positive and confident.

“Last year he was [moody],” Heimerdinger said. “I’ve not seen him moody this year.”

“I think he’s taken this opportunity more seriously than other opportunities and that to me is a signal of growing up and maturity,” Collins said. “… I think he carries himself more maturely. I think he’s handling different situations more maturely. He’s just growing up.”

“He’s been able to handle the adjustments on the run,” Fisher said, of his on-field maturity.

Handling Pressure, Failure and Adversity

Young won offensive rookie of the year in 2006 but followed up with a shaky second season. He started well as a rookie, winning and showing some highlight reel moments. However, many opposing teams found ways to make things far more difficult, he didn’t handle it well, he didn’t find a way to adjust and respond. In a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the start of his third season, he got so frustrated he asked to leave the game.

So far, in his return to the starting lineup, Young has bounced back from his bad moments. “He could have easily gone in the tank at halftime and did not,” Heimerdinger said, after some difficult moments (fumbles and interceptions)during games against Buffalo and Houston this year.

“He worked through it. At halftime, he was very attentive. He was right on top of everything we talked about and the adjustments we made.”

Collins said he expects Young will show himself to continue be much more resilient.

“When you play this position, there are always bumps in the road, there is always a bump looming,” he said. “It’s a humbling position. All signs indicate he will be able to handle it and maybe better than he has in the past. And that’s part of the growing-up process as well.”


“He’s got a lot more confidence playing in the pocket,” Edwards said. “In this league, you’ve got to have a quarterback that can play in the pocket. Because it’s built that way. The rules are set up that way, it’s all for the quarterback to play inside the pocket.”

Consistency and Longevity: Questions about Young Linger

The Tennessee Titans have a big decision for the off-season. Do the Titans pay Young a roster bonus of $4.25 million and carry a cap number of over $14 million for him in 2010?

“We’ll find out in five more weeks,” Heimerdinger said. “He’s been consistent. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. But a great quarterback does it every week -- protects the ball, does the things you are supposed to do and stays within the system. He’s played very well in the five games we’ve had. I don’t have a lot of things to correct him on. But we’ve still got five more weeks.”

At least for the moment, Vince Young is back.

Excerpts from (December 4, 2009).

For more on mental conditioning and peak performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

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