The Titans started 0-6. They replaced Kerry Collins with Vince Young. Now they are 5-6. Clearly, Vince Young is the reason why.
Not so fast, my friends.
Before ceding that Vince Young has single handedly transformed the Titans from the team that got waxed 59-0 by the Patriots to the team now threatening to bash their way into the playoffs, we have to look at the numbers. For the purposes of this article, we are only going to look at the Titans first 5 games for two reasons:
1. It’s easier to compare 5 games without Young to 5 games with Young. In addition, both sets of five games include the Jags and Texans, making the samples quite comparable.
2. The 59-0 loss to the Pats was so aberrant as to skew the stats to the point of unreliability. The 0-5 Titans are a better sampling of the ‘real’ Titans than the freak blizzard, ‘week before the bye week’ team that collapsed so completely.
There are four possibilities for the Titans’ sudden turnaround, and we need to investigate each as fully as possible.
1. The Titans defense has improved
2. The Titans are running the ball better.
3. The Titans schedule got easier.
4. Vince Young’s play has caused the turnaround.
1. Has the Titans defense improved enough to account for the turnaround?
Let’s look at the numbers:
|PPG||Yards Rushing||YPC||Yards Passing||YPA||Comp %||Turnovers||Opponent’s Passer Rating|
- The Titans D improved by 9.6 PPG over the first 5 games. That certainly will help.
- The Titans’ secondary clearly stepped up, posting massive gains in completion % and passer rating.
- Oddly enough, the Titans’ run D really dropped off the table in this stretch.
Conclusion: Whatever other causes for the Titans improvement we find, it is undeniable that the defensive secondary turned the corner in the last five games.
2. Are the Titans running the ball more effectively now?
Let’s look at the numbers without Vince Young’s carries included:
- Remember that these numbers don’t factor in QB rushes (for Collins or Young)
- The Titans are clearly running the ball at least a little more effectively now. It could be argued that Young’s presence is opening up the running game, but we’ll have to evaluate that argument after seeing VY’s numbers.
Conclusion: Chris Johnson had an insane month of November. He deserves some of the credit for the Titans turnaround.
3. Has the Titans schedule gotten easier?
Some times a team can go hot and cold just because of the opponents they play. Let’s check on the Titans schedule. We already stated they played the Texans and Jags in both halves, so let’s look at the other three games.
|First 5||22-11||10, 19, 2|
|Last 5||16-17||20, 26, 8|
- The Titans have clearly faced an easier schedule. Two of the three teams they lost two are better than two of the three teams they beat.
- Schedule can’t be the whole explanation because we already noted that both ‘halves’ contain two games in common.
Conclusion: The schedule has eased up a little. It’s not the whole explanation, but it has helped the turnaround.
4. Has Vince Young turned the Titans around?
Let’s look at the numbers:
|PPG||Yards Rushing (QB)||YPC||Yards Passing||YPA||Comp %||Rating||Turnovers||First Downs|
- Note that these numbers for Young do not include his mop up stats from the Indy and NE games.
- Total turnovers includes fumbles for both players
- Not only has VY been superior to Collins, but he’s playing vastly better than he ever has before at any period in his career. His previous career highs for YPA, Completion %, and rating are: 6.7, 62.3% and 71.1.
Conclusion: If Vince Young had played this well before he got benched, he never would have gotten benched at all. He has clearly played better than Collins did by every measure.
It’s a first! For once, the Vince Young Files actually vindicates VY. If I had to rank the causes of the Titans sudden turnaround, I would still start with the defense. The secondary has become respectable and it’s stabilized the team, allowed them to be more patient with both run and pass. When you aren’t getting blown out every week, you can afford to play a more controlled efficient game.
There’s no question that Johnson is running better than ever and that the schedule eased up a little, but more important a factor than either of those two issues has been the play of Vince Young. For five games at least, he’s posted “real live quarterback” numbers. Wins in and of themselves don’t mean a QB is playing well. We’ve shown that time and time again as we’ve chronicled how the Titans often won despite Young, not because of him. This time, there is no debating it: Vince Young is helping the Titans win games.
Don’t be confused. This spate of good play doesn’t mean that Young has arrived. It doesn’t mean “he never should have been benched”. It does mean that right now, he is actually playing well, and it is helping his team.
This is the first time in his career that has been the case.