Young shows Texans what they missed

Vince Young returned to his hometown of Houston and showed the Texans what they missed by passing on him in the draft, writes Gene Wojciechowski.

Updated: December 11, 2006, 11:24 AM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans saw the future Sunday, and it wasn't Mario Williams, the guy they took with the No. 1 overall pick in last April's NFL Draft. And it definitely wasn't David Carr, the guy they kept instead of taking the hometown guy who beat them here in overtime on a 39-yard touchdown run so sudden, so electrifying and so effortless that your goose bumps needed a few moments to compose themselves.

It's early -- 10 games early into the starting quarterback career of Vince Young -- but we could be entering Sam Bowie-Michael Jordan territory here. If Young's blossoming rookie season with the Tennessee Titans is any indication of what the next 10 seasons might look like, the Titans will remember April 29, 2006, as the day they lucked out. Meanwhile, the Texans will remember that afternoon in New York City as "The Day the Booing Began."

It wasn't just that Young beat the Texans on Sunday at Reliant Stadium; it was how he beat them. He beat them with the kind of athleticism that Carr -- and almost every quarterback in the history of the league -- will never know. He beat them with charisma, with elegance, and with the easy confidence of someone who understands he's simply better than the players trying to stop him.

Vince Young
Thomas B. Shea/US PRESSWIREVince Young and the Titans have won four straight games.
If you missed the Titans' 26-20 victory against the Texans, you mostly missed four quarters of yawns, followed by 10 seconds of overtime brilliance. But those 10 seconds were more than enough to remind everyone what greatness can look like. And why Texans fans could be wearing black mourning armbands for a long, long time.

Third and 14 from the Texans' 39-yard line. Exactly 11:24 remaining in overtime. The rookie quarterback terrified, right?

Nope. Young cracked jokes in the huddle. He cracked so many one-liners that left guard Jacob Bell pleaded with him to get serious. What Bell didn't understand is that Young was serious. When it comes to proving the Texans wrong (and to a lesser extent, the New Orleans Saints -- who chose Reggie Bush with the No. 2 pick), Young is as serious as PBS.

Young called the play and dropped back into the shotgun formation. The announced crowd of 70,760 (more like 60,000) did what it could to shake the stadium's closed roof. The Texans' defense prepared to unleash a blitz.

And then it was over.

Young caught the soft snap, took a step or two back, saw that his first and second receiver options were covered, and then bolted. I was standing at about the 15-yard line when he swept past like a powder-blue blur. USC fans across America had Rose Bowl flashbacks.

"I never heard of a walk-off touchdown, but that's what he did," said Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck.

Carr couldn't have done that. Carr will never be able to do that. You could put him on the Harley parked in one of the Reliant Stadium tunnels and he still couldn't have gotten to the end zone any faster than Young.

"That was a great play call from our offensive staff on the last play," said Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who tried not to roll his eyes.

All Fisher really wanted was eight or 10 yards, "kick the field goal and go home." Instead, Young gave the Titans 39 yards, a touchdown and their fourth consecutive win (six out of their past eight).

Moments after he crossed the goal line, Young tore off his white Titans helmet and pranced and posed in front of the hometown crowd. Young was born in Houston, became a high school legend at Madison, and won a national championship at Texas. Not surprisingly, the hometown crowd soaked him with cheers.

Texan defensive players stared at the turf in disbelief. Long snapper Bryan Pittman walked toward the Houston locker room, stopped, and hurled his helmet hard against the ground. One of the ear pads caromed far and long.

Young's teammates swarmed him. Moments later, Williams and Young hugged at the 21-yard line. It was the closest Williams, who finished with two tackles and zero sacks, got to him all day.

The Titans' quarterback was summoned to the sidelines for a television interview. As he waited for the interview to begin, Carr jogged past him. As he disappeared into the nearby tunnel, Carr was greeted by a mixture of boos and cheers.

Young took his time leaving the field. He paused to toss his sweatbands to Titans fans. He blew kisses to the crowd. Local kid made good? More like local kid proves Texans screwed up.

Titans owner Bud Adams, who years ago moved the then-Houston Oilers to Tennessee, caught Young in the Titans' locker room.

"What were you thinking when you were running on that last play?" said Adams, who must have loved every second of Sunday's game.

"I felt like my mom was chasing me with a belt," said Young.

Maybe it was coincidence, maybe not, but Young arrived at the postgame interview wearing a pinstripe suit and a Titans' powder-blue vest. He said he didn't have any hard feelings, but the vest said something else.

"Nah, I don't want to get into that, man," Young said. "I don't want to get into conflict with them guys."

Everybody said the right things after this one. Fisher said Carr is a "capable" quarterback. Young said Williams "is a huge, beautiful defensive end ... he ain't going to do nothing but get better and better." And Kubiak said Young's TD run was "off the charts."

But Young was 19-of-29 for 218 yards and added another 86 rushing yards. He has earned his team's trust. Carr finished with 17 completions in 23 attempts for 140 yards and no touchdowns. The Texans are 4-9 and, once again, headed nowhere.

"I think David did his job, but as players and coaches sometimes you've got to do a little more than your job," said Kubiak. "And that counts for all of us."

Translation: the Texans will likely be looking for a new quarterback next year, which is too bad, because they could have had Young.

But that's a bit of revisionist history. When Williams was drafted No. 1, the criticism of the Texans had more to do with bypassing Bush than Young. But this much is for sure: Williams isn't playing like the No. 1, 2, 3 or even 4 pick in the draft. He's playing hurt, and he's playing like a guy who has been lapped by Young and half-lapped by Bush.

Williams has a Superman tattoo on his upper right arm. But Young is the guy who deserves the cape. I'll admit it: I thought his funky throwing motion would be a problem.

"At the end of the day, its still football," said Bulluck, speaking the essential NFL truth.

So Young left his hometown with a victory and the Titans somehow remain in the AFC wild-card race. It wasn't the most memorable win of his career, but, said Young, "It ranks pretty high, pretty high. At the same time, I got a long future in front of me."

Yeah, that's what the Texans were afraid of.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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