There’s an age-old cliche in football: next man up. This phrase rings truest at the professional level, where the competition is fierce and the margin for error is zero — especially at the quarterback position. With this in mind, it makes little sense that Vince Young, a two-time Pro Bowler and NFL Rookie of the Year, remains unsigned in early November while journeyman veterans and unproven rookies take vital snaps in place of injured starting quarterbacks.
Over the last two years Young has failed to make the rosters of the Packers and the Bills. After they cut Young, each team experienced a rash of injuries at the quarterback position that season, but none of their replacements have played well. This begs the question: Why is Vince Young not in the NFL?
With starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers currently out with a fractured collarbone, the Packers have started Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien in the past three games — all losses. In two games, Wallace totaled a 64.4 quarterback rating, passing for one interception and no touchdowns. Tolzien, who has seen significant time in two games, struggled too, throwing one touchdown to five interceptions.
In his career, Wallace has thrown 31 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, passed for 4,947 yards, has an 80.8 quarterback rating and a 6-16 record. Tolzien did not play an NFL snap before this season.
Young, on the other hand, has thrown 46 touchdowns and 51 interceptions, amassed 8,964 passing yards and has a 74.4 quarterback rating. In addition, he has rushed for 1,459 yards and 12 touchdowns. While Young’s touchdown-interception ratio and rating are worse than Wallace’s, his mobility adds an explosive dynamic his counterpart lacks. More importantly, his 31-19 career record shows he’s a winner, which is the most important characteristic of an NFL quarterback.
Buffalo’s quarterback situation tells a similar story. Since cutting Young last year, the Bills signed Kevin Kolb, Thad Lewis and undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. Kolb has not played in a regular season game this season because of concussion issues, but his previous 9-12 record and 5,206 passing yards are underwhelming. Lewis and Tuel have combined for five touchdowns, five interceptions and a 1-4 record.
There are other examples of quarterbacks who have gotten opportunities ahead of Young despite inferior career numbers. Josh Freeman, who started the season with the Buccaneers, was signed mid-season by the Vikings, has a 24-36 record and a quarterback rating of 77.8 in five seasons, and his 37.7 percent completion percentage in his one start for the Vikings was the lowest in an NFL game since 2007. Josh McCown is 2-0 this season in place of the Bears’ Jay Cutler but had previously been unimpressive, amassing a 15-20 record while throwing 42 touchdowns and 44 interceptions.
Altogether Lewis, Tolzien, Tuel, Wallace, Freeman and McCown have a combined 3-9 record this year — all while Young has sat idly as a free agent. Though a number of off-the-field incidents have clouded some of his accomplishments, Young is equal if not above these quarterbacks in career statistics and athletic ability. More importantly, he has a better winning percentage than all of them. In the NFL’s win-at-all-costs culture, shouldn’t that be enough?