Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NFL: Back to the Future - Vince Young to Randall Cunningham

By Dustin Hockensmith

Look at Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young next to former Philadelphia Eagles great Randall Cunningham, and just one glance should reveal their similarities. Both are 6-foot-4 or better and stand that way in the pocket, but they can also tuck it and run with the best of them in any instance of a breakdown. The difference between the two is mental, and you'll watch in the not-so-distant future as Young and the Titans (or whoever else) succeed in the playoffs where Cunningham and the Eagles (and Vikings) failed.

There's obviously no mistaking just how talented Young is on the exterior, but what he has shown over the Titans' surprising three-game win streak is the inner toughness of a champion. Not that it should come as a shock, Young single-handedly carried his underdog Texas Longhorns to a win in the 2006 national championship game.

Young's heroics have continued as a pro quarterback, which is arguably the hardest position to learn in all of sports. A little erratic as a passer thus far, Young has thrown five touchdown passes and two interceptions over the last three Titan wins. If he keeps minimizing his mistakes through the air and making timely runs, there's no telling how successful he can be.

Cunningham had similar accuracy troubles as a young QB, but grew and put up big numbers his entire career. He had his best season as a pro in 1988 when he finished second in the NFL with 30 passing TD's and ninth with 942 rushing yards. Cunningham was a Pro Bowler that season and took his team to the playoffs for three straight years (1988-90), but he threw zero touchdown passes and five interceptions in three straight Eagles losses.

I simply have a hard time believing that a Young-led team would whimper like that and get dominated in the playoffs.

Of course there's still projection and you can never account for the kinds of injuries Cunningham suffered, but you get the sense now that Young is destined for a brighter future. Considering he's beaten both Manning brothers in back-to-back weeks, the future might just be now.

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