SAN DIEGO - FILE: Quarterback Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans drops back to pass against the San Diego Chargers in the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on October 31, 2010 in San Diego, California. According to reports July 28, 2011, the Tennessee Titans are expected to release Young in the wake of coming to an agreement with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and choosing quarterback Jake Locker in the first round of the this year's draft. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
We're still only four days removed from the end of the 2012 NFL Draft, but instead of re-digesting the Buffalo Bills' nine draft picks again, we're talking about the implications of veteran free agent quarterback Vince Young working out for the team tomorrow.
There are a lot of discussion points with a story like this, and all of them have been properly touched on: the prospect of Young working with mobile-quarterback-friendly head coach Chan Gailey; the team's desire to ramp up competition at quarterback; Buddy Nix coming forth and steadfastly supporting Ryan Fitzpatrick; and the potential distraction of the whole ordeal, and its possibly derailing the progress of a productive and exciting off-season.
It is this last point that deserves the most attention, we think, but not necessarily for the obvious reason. Why, exactly, would the signing of Young be a distraction? The short answer: it might not be. Not to the people that actually matter, at least.
We can argue the merits of Young in comparison to current backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen all we want; in the end, it's not really relevant, because Thigpen is currently employed by the Bills while Young isn't, and if Young eventually is employed by Buffalo, the only merits that will matter when it comes down to deciding between the two is how the two perform in direct competition this summer. End of story. These discussions we're having may be fun to the participants, but they're really a moot point. (And frankly, I'm not sure which side I'm on; Thigpen has only attempted eight passes in Buffalo, after all. But that's beside the point, as again, it's moot.)
The potential distraction is the most interesting point, and there's no doubt that signing a high-profile quarterback like Young would be distracting - mostly to casual NFL observers who'd scream Young's name every time Fitzpatrick threw an incomplete pass, but also to Bills fans who are intimately aware of how important this coming season is, and how much is riding on Fitzpatrick's shoulders. Fans have every reason to be squeamish about the idea of Young proverbially looking over Fitzpatrick's shoulder for a year.
Here's the thing, though: would Gailey let that happen? Nix came out and said unequivocally today that Fitzpatrick is the guy, and that's the truth. Gailey's offense is built around Fitzpatrick's strengths, and no one else's. Fitzpatrick has the contract. The organization, for better or worse, has staked its fortunes to Fitzpatrick's right arm. They trust him, and if we've learned anything about them through three off-seasons, they're not typically a group to make rash personnel decisions, particularly at quarterback. We seriously doubt that Gailey would feel any heat from the fan base to make a switch if things went south - or even if he did, to act upon said heat. It's not his style.
Then there's Fitzpatrick, who has survived three seasons in Buffalo amidst seemingly constant threats to upgrade the position, emerging on the other side with a fat contract and absolutely no immediate worry that his job is in jeopardy. His play on the field suggests a demeanor that, while not really bulletproof, is well-trained to handle repeated adversity. There is plenty of evidence to believe that Fitzpatrick's psyche would be wholly unaffected by Young's presence on the roster. This is Fitzpatrick's team, and everyone in that building knows it. Young would know it, too.
In the end, distraction doesn't always permeate into team headquarters. Fans might freak out about the prospect of a former No. 3 overall pick backing up the scrappy bearded gunslinger from Harvard, but nobody at One Bills Drive would. The pecking order is clear, and only extreme, difficult-to-fathom levels of adversity would have a shot at changing that fact. In that light, doesn't it make sense for the team to kick the tires on Young, regardless of how we may feel about the player and the prospect?
Then again, maybe the Bills are putting too much pressure on the improved environment in team headquarters. Maybe this is precisely the type of PR test the team should try to avoid until the culture shift effected by the current regime leads to results in the win column. Perhaps this idea is the epitome of tempting fate. We'll know soon enough just how far the Bills are willing to take the gamble.