Vince Young Favors The WRs Because The TEs Simply Aren't Good

David Boclair wrote a column pointing out that Vince Young isn't throwing the ball to the TEs as often as did Steve McNair and Kerry Collins, and is proposing some possible reasons why, including the nonsense idea that Young does so because he can't read defenses (when the truth is that it is the QBs who struggle reading defenses and going through their progressions that are more likely to go to the TE-RB "security blanket" and are hence given the title "captain checkdown"). However, the truth is almost certainly that the WRs are better than the TEs, or more simply that the TEs aren't very good. That is what was missing from Boclair's analysis, and it shows just how unwilling the Nashville media is to criticize how the Titans are constructed, because that would mean confronting the guy most responsible for constructing the team, Jeff Fisher.

The truth is that Vince Young is throwing to the better players, the guys who can make plays, and that is a good thing. Moreover, Steve McNair did the same! The difference is that for most of McNair's career, the TEs like Frank Wycheck and Jackie Harris were pretty good while the WRs (i.e. Chris Sanders, Joey Kent, Willie Davis, Yancey Thigpen, Carl Pickens, Eddie Berlin, Justin McCareins, Kevin Dyson, Drew Bennett, Tyrone Calico etc.) were terrible. (Don't protest about Dyson, McCareins, Bennett and Sanders ... I realize those guys may have had a good season or two but that was all ... other than Derrick Mason, McNair never had consistently effective players at WR.) People claimed that the WRs were actually good and McNair was holding them back, but when those guys left in free agency and did even less (again with Mason being the only exception), it was obvious that McNair was actually making them look better than they actually were.

Boclair claims that McNair began favoring the WRs later in his career because he was no longer a mobile QB. While it is true that spending his career in an offense that lacked downfield passing threats caused McNair to wear down physically, the truth is that McNair was still plenty mobile and willing to scramble right up until the very last one or two seasons of his career. The real reason why McNair began favoring the WRs over the TEs is by that time, the WRs were better. Jackie Harris was long gone, Frank Wycheck was past his prime and retired after the 2003 season because of concussions, and Erron Kinney also had his productivity and career shortened by injuries. On the other hand, Derrick Mason was a Pro Bowler at WR, and WRs McCareins and Bennett put up some of the better numbers of their careers during this time.

Similarly, Kerry Collins might have utilized Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler a good bit, but who did the Titans have at WR back then? Justin Gage, Brandon Jones, Justin McCareins, Eric Moulds, and people like that, right? So like McNair back in the day, Collins didn't have much choice. In 2008, the TEs were as good as or better than were the WRs, so getting the ball to the TEs gave the Titans the best chance to win. (Incidentally, it is fair to mention that Young seemed to get Scaife involved more in 2007 and 2006 than he is this year also, and for the same reason ... who were the WRs in 2006-2007? Bobby Wade, Roydell Williams, and guys like that.) Now the situation is different. Kenny Britt would be on his way to being a #1 NFL WR if Jeff Fisher would only allow it. Nate Washington is also a capable NFL WR, even if he isn't a starter on most teams. Damian Williams has real potential, as does Marc Mariani, and Justin Gage shows up from time to time. Not the best group of WRs in the division (let alone the league) obviously, but when you compare them to the TEs, it's obvious that the WRs need to be the focus of the passing game.

Bo Scaife: a guy who fell to the 6th round because of a lack of speed due to shredded knees, and of course if you come into the NFL with bad knees, over time you get even slower. Also, at 6'3", 249 lbs, he is undersized (he is the same height as Britt and shorter than Gage, and 10-15 pounds lighter than most TEs, and is practically tiny as compared to the 6'5" 277 lb. Erron Kinney). With all due respect, Scaife isn't quick or fast enough to separate from defenders reliably, and isn't big or strong enough to overpower them. Boclair needs to write columns asking why such a mediocre talent was able to get $10 million from the Titans' organization the past two seasons when he would have had difficulty getting more than the minimum salary elsewhere (unless, that is, the GM who gave Brandon Jones that $15 million contract is still employed!) and challenging whether Scaife should be on the roster after this season instead of asking why Vince Young isn't throwing him the ball more.

Craig Stevens: well, let's just say that the Titans used a 3rd round pick to draft a blocking TE who showed no potential whatsoever as a pass-catcher in college (Stevens had 51 receptions in his college career, and was a 3 year starter!) when most teams pick up players like that as undrafted free agents. Try to find anything on what Stevens did catching the ball during his college career at Cal. A typical blocking TE, Stevens isn't particularly good at getting open and doesn't have reliable hands. Again, Boclair should be asking why the Titans passed up guys who can actually catch the ball in the 2008 draft (Mario Manningham was available!) to (again!) address a need that most teams fill with CHEAP free agents instead of pressuring Vince Young to throw the ball to a glorified offensive lineman. 

Jared Cook: the guy appears to be a great athlete who has yet to figure out how to be a good football player, and this was true of his college career also, where everyone talked about his "potential" for his entire career. Comparing Cook to the bust Ben Troupe is indeed unfair: to Troupe. Lest we forget, Troupe had 88 catches for 859 yards and 5 TDs in his first two seasons. Were Jared Cook giving anywhere near that type of production - instead of 11 catches for 96 yards so far - everyone would be absolutely thrilled. Again, the pressure should not be on Vince Young to get Cook the ball, but on Jeff Fisher to explain why he passed up guys like Mike Thomas and Brian Hartline (who unlike Cook are actually playing and catching the ball) in the 2009 draft, or for that matter whether the Titans could have used any number of great players with the 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft that the Titans traded away to get Cook.

Incidentally, the problem isn't just Scaife (who actually is performing great for a 6th round pick), Cook and Stevens or even Ben Troupe before them. The truth is that the Titans have been horrible at drafting TEs during the Jeff Fisher era (i.e. 3rd and 4th round picks for guys like Shad Meier and Michael Roan). Further, other than guys who came cheap like Crumpler and Wycheck (whom the Titans got after the Redskins cut him), the Titans don't address the position in free agency. So, as bad as the Titans' history is with WRs under Fisher, the truth is that except for getting lucky in finding a Pro Bowler on the waiver wire in Wycheck and also the brief time that Jackie Harris passed through the franchise (and the Titans let Harris go in free agency despite having ample money to retain him!) their TEs have actually been worse. Right now, it would be difficult to identify a worse group of TEs in the NFL. That's why a column on why Vince Young isn't throwing to the TEs is so absurd. Instead, there needs to be a "the Titans need a better TE!" column.

Indeed, because TE is #1 need position in the offseason. This is not to say that there aren't other needs, of course, but rather that TE is the main one, and since the Titans' appear to have covered all their holes in the starting defense and on special teams in the last two offseasons (good ones for a change, even with the Jared Cook and Ryan Mouton draft picks) there are no excuses. A big time TE would do wonders for this offense. The reason is that the need to defend the running ability of both Chris Johnson and Vince Young forces defenses to leave open the middle of the field. They have to use some defenders to either spy Young or keep him in the pocket, and play the rest at the line of scrimmage to stop Johnson. A TE with good hands that can get down the field quickly like a Brent Celek, Zach Miller or Jason Witten would do major damage.

So, right now Vince Young is sticking with the WRs because he has the football smarts to get the ball to guys who are actually capable NFL athletes who can make plays. Get guys as good as are Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, Damian Williams and Marc Mariani at TE, and Vince Young will throw them the ball also.

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