Running Game Explosion: Yes, VY Deserves Credit Too

When watching NFL Live yesterday, Trey Wingo was going through the highlights and was complimentary towards Vince.  Merrill Hoge, the idiot clown that he is, clearly was displeased that the Titans won with VY starting, sarcastically noting that the reason the Titans ran so much, and so well, was because Vince was in (implying that the Titans didn't trust him to throw).  It is also worth mentioning that when Wingo noted that even Hoge would have to compliment Vince's touchdown throw, Hoge remained silent, while Dilfer agreed that it was a great throw.

This post, however, is not about Hoge per se, whom we all know is a moron regardless of how you feel about VY.  This post is about the running game and some people's, including Hoge, inability to see the positive impact Vince Young has had, and can potentially have, for Tennessee's ground attack.

Vince Young critics commonly disparage his winning record by pointing out that the Titans are a run-first team with a very unimaginative offensive philosophy (for good or for ill).  In other words, Young is "hidden" from the gameplan because he is a liability and the Titans avoid using him by simply running the ball, and running it again.  What they fail to see is that Vince Young's very presence has a positive effect on the run game, and if used more effectively by Fisher, can be even more so.

This attitude can be seen in many people's reaction to the Titans' win over the Jags.  Even those in the national media were trying to minimize Vince Young's effect on the game because Tennessee ran for over 300 yards; basically, any quarterback can win a game when their team rushes for 300 yards, right?  What this fails to notice is that Vince Young was one of the reasons why the running game was successful on Sunday.  Consider Chris Johnson's two long touchdown runs:

1.  On third and 6, Young sidesteps the pressure and finds Kenny Britt for a big third down completion.  Shortly after, Chris Johnson runs for a 54 yard touchdown.  With another quarterback, like Collins, this is a sack and that run never happens.

2.  As noted by me on the live game thread and Superhorn's post, Johnson's 89 yard touchdown run was influenced by Young's presence as a runner, causing several Jacksonville defenders to pause for a split second.  While Johnson obviously deserves the majority of the credit for this play, there's nothing controversial about pointing out that the defenders' hesitation aided his cause.

With Collins in, that 54 yard touchdown doesn't happen and the 89 yarder might have just gone for the first down, and who knows what would have happened then.  That's 143 yards rushing and two touchdowns that Young's mobility helped produce.  It is way, way too simplistic to look at the box score stats and think, "Well, Chris Johnson exploded for 228 yards, so even Collins would have won that game too."

Back in 2006, when his critics said the same things, they failed to realize that the Titans' average rushing output more than doubled when Vince Young took over the starting job.  While the college game is different, all of Texas' runningbacks enjoyed a healthy boost in their YPC when they were playing with Vince, and it's not like Travis Henry did anything after leaving Tennessee (granted, a lot of that had to do with his off-field stupidity).

I don't think Vince Young will ever be a QB like Manning and throw for bunches of yards and touchdowns.  He will still make his mistakes, and I actually expect somewhere around the neighborhood of ten interceptions on his part before season's end.  However, Fisher would do well to expand his thinking and take full advantage of what Vince can open up in the run game.  I often call Fisher the Jim Tressel of the NFL; a successful coach who unfortunately has an outdated offensive philosophy (I encourage you to read Chris Brown's evisceration of Jim Tressel's poor use of Terrelle Pryor against USC).  If he's willing to take more advantage of Vince's mobility, such as using the read option and getting Vince outside on boots, Young can make that Tennessee rushing attack even more dangerous.

And what does a better rushing attack give you?  Well, it can also help make your defense look better; that was one of the few things Hoge said right on Sunday when talking about the New York Giants, saying that they needed to get back on track with Jacobs and the run game to help out their defense.

I've discussed the NFL's false sense of "pure football" and their close-mindedness regarding different offenses before, which is another topic altogether.  Even given that, Fisher would be foolish to avoid the read option as a viable play in certain circumstances.

The Titans are not finishing better than 6-10 in my estimation (sorry), but if there's a silver lining, it's the opportunity to create a coherent offense that accentuates VY's influence on the run game.

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