Sunday, November 29, 2009

Enter Vinny

Today in great moments of NFL Ticket History: I arrived home from the Meadowlands, by way of the NJ Transit train line, just in time to see the once and future future of NFL quaterbacking march his titans down the field for a game-winning score as time expired.

By the time I'd gotten home, poured myself a glass of water, and peeled off my kelly green sand knit Ronnie Lott jersey, by then, the games being shown on CBS and FOX were decided. It was hours until the Simpsons started. And the Knicks hadn't yet begun to lose their uphill battle with Orlando. So I went to the Red Zone channel.

It is while tuned into this wondrous portal into the eye of the NFL hurricane that I learned that Vince Young is a manimal. There should be Discovery Channel documentaries about his true manimal nature. Thus far, I've deduced that his habitat is the gridiron and that he hunts during the waning moments of regulation play. But I am still unsure about his diet, predators, and how he has adapted to man-made changes in temperature and topography. I also have very little information on his line of smoked and cured meats.

With 2:37 showing on the clock, Young was poised when he took the field, the ball sitting on the one-yard line, with Tennessee trailing Arizona by four points. Backed up against his own endzone, he found receivers, most notably Rutgers product Kenny Britt, on first down, on second down, on third down and on fourth down. And then he did it again. And again. And then once more to arrive at the opposite end of the field.

He took most snaps out of the shotgun formation.He did most of this with Chris Johnson, the all-world dreadlocked speedster responsible for most of the Titan's offense on most occasions, on the bench or on the field as a decoy because Jeff Fisher was conserving his club's timeouts, thus wiping out running plays and passing routes that weren't leading receivers to the sideline. With one hand and Johnson's maybe-fastest-ever feet tied behind his back, Young just moved the ball. Each yard was picked up by his arm or with his feet. He really only threw one ball into needless risk. And that was a shot at the endzone. He was in total control. A sight that Cardinals quarterback of necessity, Matt Leinart, had to remember from his final collegiate contest.

With the timeouts used and the fields' bounty of first downs already harvested, Young and his team had one play to score a touchdown. Or to lose. Of course, the clock would have ended the game had the circumstances not demanded a conclusion. Young shifted, moved, as the Cardinal defenders picked the QB pocket established by the Titans' offensive lineman. Young stepped up and lofted, well not lofted but aimed a dart towards a point in space high above the back end of the endzone not too far to one side of the goal post. Bullseye. Catch. Touchdown. Clock.

This was the sort of performance that we all thought/hoped Young would be capable of producing at the pro level. Until he was shirtless and tequila sodden. Until he was depressed. Until he went Kerry Collins on us. Until he had his job expertly filled by Collins himself. But he's back. And it's awesome. So awesome, in fact, that Young is no longer a "Vince" to me. Like many (OK, maybe just one) greats (or, at least very goods with arguably the greatest-ever uh-oh face in the history of interceptions) before him. Young will now be a "Vinny." With Vinny Young at the wheel, the Titans have won five on the trot. Young has also won his last 9 starts. Now, I'm not saying that he's ready to invest in a chain of Australian-themed steakhouses with John Madden or that he'll someday find himself with 46,233 passing yards on his resume or that he'll throw a touchdown pass in 21 consecutive seasons, but I am saying that he is starting to look like the real deal, like a guy who could appear in two AFC Championship Games (and probably more if not for that damned Achilles injury in 1999).

Congratulations, Vinny, welcome to the club.