NEW YORK - Thanks to Steve McNair, the Tennessee Titans have been watching Vince Young since he first attended their quarterback’s football camp in Mississippi.
“Steve said, ‘Hey, I’ve got the next quarterback at some point in time,”’ general manager Floyd Reese recalled Saturday night. “The chances of that working out are virtually zero.”
On Saturday, McNair’s prediction became reality.
The Titans had their choice of quarterbacks and selected the younger, faster version of the man who has been their starter for the past nine years.
McNair has been something of a mentor to Young in recent years. That relationship may not continue though — the team wants to rework McNair’s pricey contract for relief from his $23.46 million salary cap number.
Young said during a news conference at the team’s headquarters that it was strange being on the same team. And thanks again to McNair, he also knows it might not last.
“I just know that he’s behind me, just like my father figure, and he’s going to protect me if he’s there or if he’s not there. We’re still going to be very close and still going to be the best of friends,” Young said.
With the third pick, the Titans had three outstanding quarterbacks to choose from. Matt Leinart had worked under Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow at Southern California, and Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt was the sentimental pick locally. They later picked up USC running back LenDale White in the second round.
Reese said Young’s upside was the deciding factor.
“People want to make him out to be a Michael Vick. He’s not that. He’s different,” Reese said.
“This guy, he led the nation in college as a junior in passing efficiency. This guy is special. Now we have to get him special in the NFL, and that’s why it’s going to take a little bit of time. And we realize that. It’s a big jump.”
But the Titans have experience gambling on athletic ability — they made McNair the No. 3 pick overall in 1995, then watched him take the franchise to its only Super Bowl and two AFC championship games.
That helped lead them to make the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Young the choice.
He is faster than Leinart or Cutler, running the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds. The crowning moment of his Longhorns career came Jan. 4 in the Rose Bowl when he passed for 267 yards and ran for 200 more, including an 8-yard scramble on fourth down for the winning touchdown and the national championship.
If McNair eventually is released, that leaves the Titans with backup Billy Volek and Matt Mauck. Reese said they will resist the pressure to rush Young into a starting role, and they were very patient with McNair who didn’t become a full-time starter until 1997.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen with this kid.”
Chow said he still loves Leinart, the quarterback he coached to the Heisman Trophy in 2004. But he loves Young’s ability and skills, which he called “so unusual.”
“Last night, Jeff and I were already scripting plays that could fit his style,” Chow said.
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