Will Vince Young Be a Raider?
First, the Raiders have to make a decision on Kerry Collins, who would be due $8.5 million if the Raiders honor his contract – and would count $12.6 million against the salary cap.
With Collins’ contract, the Raiders have done what NFL clubs often do with veteran players, paying him a signing bonus which was pro-rated for cap purposes over the length of his contract, with relatively low salaries for the first part of that contract. This year would be like the balloon payment on a home mortgage, but the Raiders have always figured they’d re-negotiate collins’ contract when this year came up.
Now, that may be much more difficult. If owners cannot reach agreement with the Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement by Friday, the 2007 season would be an uncapped year, and the rules governing contracts would be changed. Most important: Salaries can only go up 30 per cent each year, so it would not be possible to have another contract with a low base year and a much higher one at the end of the contract, and signing bonuses can only be pro-rated over four years, not seven.
Under those rules, the Raiders could not sign Collins to another contract like his current one, and economics would probably dictate his release.
Collins is certainly not what the Raiders need, but he’s the type of quarterback, with a gun for an arm, which club owner Al Davis has always liked, from Daryle Lamonica, through Dan Pastorini, Jay Schroeder and Jeff George before Collins.
Trying to reverse the direction of the team last season, Norv Turner benched Collins and played Marques Tuiasosopo against the New York Jets, promising Tui that he would be the starter for the last four games of the season.
Tui’s season lasted only one ineffective game. Davis stepped in and told Turner to reinsert Collins into the starting lineup. Collins started the last three games, all losses, bringing his record as a Raiders starter to 7-21.
From what I’ve heard, Davis would still like to keep Collins. Davis has never liked Tuiasosopo, who was Jon Gruden’s choice. Andrew Walter, the record-setting quarterback from Arizona State, has the physical ability but not the experience; he was running the “Scout” team in practice last season until he was sidelined by injury.
If the change in rules forces Collins’ release, the Raiders would probably have to sign a veteran quarterback – Daunte Culpepper and Steve McNair may be available as free agents – to run the team until Walter is ready. Or, perhaps, Young.
IN THE AFTERGLOW of his great performance in the national championship showdown between Texas and USC in the Rose Bowl, there was speculation that Young might be the first pick in the draft. Now, it seems unlikely that he will even be the first quarterback picked - and he might be only the third QB taken.
Most pro evaluators have always preferred USC quarterback Matt Leinart, who won the Heisman Trophy as a junior. Leinart is much more the prototype for an NFL quarterback, a pocket passer and a good decision-maker. There were earlier questions about his arm strength, but the pass he threw to set up the winning touchdown against Notre Dame should surely have answered those questions. The expectation now is that New Orleans will take Leinart with the second pick in the draft.
The Tennessee Titans will also need a quarterback when they cut McNair loose, a virtual certainty because of his contract, which has a “balloon payment” which exceeds the Collins’ contract. But Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, under the radar for fans, is showing up big in NFL scouting, with comparisons to Brett Favre. Like Leinart, he fits the NFL quarterback profile much better than Young.
There’s another factor in the Young evaluation: the “Wonderlic” test which is given to NFL prospects. Young reportedly only answered six of the 50 questions correctly. (There since have been reports that he took a second test and scored in the 16-17 range.)
There are two things you should know about that test. One is that, like standard intelligence tests, it’s culturally biased. Black quarterbacks often score poorly on the test. In recent years, McNair, Jeff Blake and Cordell Stewart all scored 17 or lower.
And, there’s no guarantee that a high score on this test means the quarterback will succeed – or that a low score dooms him. Obviously, McNair has done well, after a low score. Even more telling: Dan Marino, who is, of course, white, scored only 16. That didn’t hurt his career.
Supposedly, the test gives coaches an idea how quickly a quarterback could learn a playbook, but it does nothing to predict his decision-making potential. “Football intelligence” is not necessarily related to standard intelligence. On any standard intelligence test, Steve Young would score higher than Joe Montana, but Montana picked up the Bill Walsh system faster than Young did.
This test is also an unpleasant reminder of the racism which infested the NFL when I first started covering the Raiders in 1967. Coaches and general managers realized the athletic ability of black players but they pigeon-holed the players into positions which supposedly did not require much thinking. There were no black quarterbacks, almost no black middle linebackers – though Willie Lanier with Kansas City remains as good as any I’ve ever seen at that position. Black quarterbacks were routinely shifted to positions like wide receiver or defensive back. James Harris was a ground-breaker as a black quarterback only because he was too slow to play another position.
SHOULD THE doubts about his intelligence or unorthodox passing motion cause Young to fall to the seventh pick, I’m sure the Raiders would pick him. From the start of his career, Davis has rejected the racism prevalent in his sport.
Davis also loves the truly athletic players, even if they’re not polished football players. As far back as 1968, he drafted Eldridge Dickey in the first round and took Ken Stabler in the second only because Ron Wolf pushed for him. Dickey was a very talented athlete who could throw the ball accurately for 50 yards with a flick of his wrist. He never quite fit the role of a pro quarterback, though, and trials at defensive back and wide receiver didn’t work out, either, so he’s now just a footnote in Raider history.
Young has played in a major college program, so he’s more advanced than Dickey at this stage, but he played in the spread offense in which a quarterback is more like the tailback in the old single wing than a quarterback in a standard pro offense
No question, he’d need a lot of work to develop into an effective NFL quarterback, but there’s also no question it would be exciting to see him doing it in a Raiders uniform.
LETTERS: I’ll be updating this with new e-mails later today.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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