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« This Scheduling Thing Just Won't Go Away | Main | Last Word on Neuheisel? »
Wednesday
Mar092005

Vincent Young

In his new blog (premium content) on ESPN.com, Bruce Feldman had a brief discussion about the running and throwing abilities of Texas quarterback Vincent Young.

Feldman says he is on Young's bandwagon, noting the obvious athletic skills, but hits on something I'd like to discuss a little more.

However this Dallas Morning News writer says it's time the rest of us acknowledge what Young and his coach Mack Brown are asserting: Young can throw the football, too. Actually, it's not time just yet. Spring drills don't prove that. And while he may have a better completion rate (59%) than Major Applewhite and Chris Simms had, Young's 12-11 TD-INT rate is downright mediocre. Good passers usually operate at a two or three-to-one clip.

One of the most poorly used statistics out there today is completion percentage. It means nothing without context. In Vince Young's context, he rarely throws the ball, often dumping it off while on the run and rarely within a sophisticated set of plays. Young's 11 interceptions on just 222 attempts is staggering.

Simplistic and ball control offenses tend to have much higher completion percentages compared to  the more sophisticated and risky offenses, making completion percentage such a pointless stat without context.  Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell threw at a nearly 60% clip three years in a row, without much deviation, yet until last year he really wasn't much of a quarterback.  A much better thrower, USC's Matt Leinart, has a career completion rate well over 60%, yet in the Orange Bowl completed just over 50% of his passes.  Yet he also had the game of his career, tossing four touchdowns and throwing several unbelievable passes, most notably to tight end Dominique Byrd and receiver Steve Smith for touchdowns.

It is unrealistic and asinine to place Young's throwing percentage as comparative to a guy like Leinart, who although making a lot of easy throws, has the legitemate throwing skill to complete difficult throws on a consistent basis and yet still keep his interception rate low.

When writers and pundits get into these comparative statistics games, they have to be smart about what they are saying and not trick the audience by misuse of available statistical measures.  The Dallas Morning News writer tried to be a homer and loses with us, and the esteemed Feldman also caught him in the act.

That said, we have some very good things to say about Vince Young, the athlete.  Well before his breakout game against Michigan in the Rose Bowl, a veritable coming-out party before the second-largest televised bowl audience last year, a good source of ours said, "Vince Young is the best running quarterback since Michael Vick".  That source is dead-on.

One quick explanation on that quote.  There are option quarterbacks and there are running quarterbacks.  Michael Vick was a runner, so is Vince Young.  To this point in his career, Young had been an inconsistent but incredibly talented runner, and Texas has changed itself into a 1-dimensional  run attack to hasten his development and take advantage of his and Cedric Bensons' run abilities.  That sacrifice paid off big time in the Rose Bowl, as an overmatched Texas squad basically lost to Michigan but Vince Young dominated the Wolveries.  He had several breathtaking improvisation carries and shredded a fairly unathletic but overall highly skilled defense.  Nobody will ever question his run skills after that.

Keep in mind the quote wasn't directly comparing Young and Vick.  They are two different quarterbacks, and two significantly different runners.  Only in the context of "running quarterbacks", Young is in Vick's class---clearly.

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