Going into the off-season, the Buffalo Bills made no secret that they wanted to add depth at quarterback. So it wasn’t a surprise to see the Bills acquire a proven, veteran quarterback to back up Ryan Fitzpatrick. What was a surprise was who they ended up with.
Vince Young was drafted third overall in the 2006 draft by the Tennessee Titans, and came into the NFL with amazing credentials and a ton of hype. Young led the Texas Longhorns to a BCS National Championship and he was a two-time Rose Bowl MVP. He was named the 2006 AP NFL Offensive rookie of the year, and eventually graced the cover of the Madden ’08 video game.
After struggles on and off the field, Young lost his starting job with the Titans to veteran Kerry Collins, only to get it back in 2009 after Collins led the team to a dreadful 0-6 start. Once again the starter, Young led the Titans to an 8-2 record in 10 games.
Young ended his time in Tennessee with a 30-17 record as a starting quarterback. Without Young in the line-up, the Titans were 15-18. Despite this, Young’s tenure with the Titans finished in spectacular fashion during the 2010 season after an altercation with then head coach Jeff Fisher following a loss to the Redskins in Week 11.
In 2011, Young was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles to serve as back-up to Michael Vick. Young quickly gained infamy when he dubbed the Eagles the “Dream Team”. There were no sweet dreams in Philly for Young, Vick and the rest of the Eagles as they ended up with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs.
Out of work and looking for someone to give him a chance, Young signed a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills on May 11.
I caught up with Young after their Organized Team Activity on Tuesday and found him to be a humble and polite young man. Certainly going from a Pro Bowler to a back-up quarterback will humble a man quickly.
If Young isn’t happy about backing up Fitzpatrick in Buffalo, he’s doing an amazing job of hiding it. So far he’s saying and doing all the right things as he adjusts to life with his third team in three years.
After his stints in Tennessee and Philadelphia, Young has been impressed by the level of talent he’s seen in Buffalo.
“A lot of respect. I mean I always had respect my previous years down in Philly as well as Tennessee when playing these guys. Very quick, very fast and once you get out here and to be a part of the team you definitely see why because guys get into their positions and their assignments quicker. There are some respectful guys on our team as well as our tight ends. I got a lot of love for those big guys.”
Young has fit nicely into the “team first” culture the Bills have built under head coach Chan Gailey, and is doing all he can to be the best quarterback, and more importantly, the best teammate he can be.
“Coach Gailey is very detailed with the decision-making and ball placement, giving our guys a chance to run with the ball after the catch. Coach (David) Lee is very detail oriented with footwork and where my lower body is pointed so you make that accurate throw," Young said after taking snaps with the second-team offence during practice.
"Where I am at in my career right now I’m very happy about it. I just want to keep working. Just bringing it all together so when it’s time to get out there and play I want to keep the same tempo as Fitz has going.”
Although it is only the second week of OTAs, Young is excited about the potential of the Bills offence.
“You get through your one, two, three reads and make a play. If it’s not there, check it down. If not, get the ball into our hands. We got some great concepts to get guys open with the different formations and things like that to get guys open. So it’s pretty good.”
Young says he has no illusions about his role with the Bills. To that end Young is prepared to do whatever Gailey asks of him.
“Whatever my role is, I just want to make sure I’m ready. Make sure when I break the huddle and guys know where they’re at and I know where my reads are at. That’s my whole thing right now. I’m not trying to look too far ahead.”
For a man who was viewed as a rising star in the NFL, Young’s status in the league and within his own team is anything but that of a star. However, Young is happy with his current situation and happy living in Buffalo.
“A lot of people know my game and have seen me play against them before. They know that I can help out with the team as well. But honestly, from realtors to different people helping me find a place to stay right now. Great places to eat, been at the Chop House, SoHo Burgers. Just enjoying the city and letting my face be seen. I have a foundation as well, so I want to do some things in the community. Anything I can do to help little boys and girls clubs or football camps. I just want to be involved.”
While the plan is for Ryan Fitzpatrick to play all 16 games, having a back-up like Vince Young waiting in the wings is a nice option for Gailey. Young is only 29 years old and he’s still an imposing physical specimen. But until he’s needed, Young will be asked to listen, learn, work hard and patiently wait for a chance to lead the Bills’ offence.
Young may not get that chance this season. If that’s the case, he claims to be content as a part of a team that gave him a chance to keep doing what he loves.