When the Tennessee Titans travel to Indianpolis for their highly anticipated bout with the undefeated Colts this Sunday, we will all find out if this whole Vince Young Era 2.0 is indeed a legitimate upgrade.
Given the 2006 third-overall pick's intriguing storyline this season - miraculously leading a team that was mired in utter failure at 0-6 back into playoff contention with five straight wins - it is no wonder that sports reporters, Cinderella sweethearts, and anyone who just likes a feel-good story are all rooting for more magic. Without a doubt, beating the unblemished Peyton Manning this weekend would prove Vince Young's magic is real. Even without the dramatics of a 99-yard drive and time-expiring touchdown, it would be his greatest trick to date.
Without a crystal ball, we wait with one question in mind: is Vince Young's success merely an illusion?
Four touchdowns against one interception, a solid 90.2 quarterback rating, powerful poise under pressure, and of course, five straight wins, suggest that the Titans have indeed witnessed a franchise savior born again. Look past all the headlines ahd hoopla, and the incredible "Invinceable" Young may just be all smoke and mirrors already.
In Tennessee's first six games, they played on the road four times against four of the football's best teams - at the time. While the Steelers and Jets have plummeted back to mediocrity, does anyone truly think Young would have actually throttled Ben Roethlisberger and at-the-time stud rookie phenom Mark Sanchez in weeks 1 and 3, respectively? Indianpolis has overcome every mistake and challenge so far this season - why would Week 5 have been any different? And was it really Kerry Collins fault that his defense completely melted down during that 59-0 shelacking on New England's frozen field?
Kerry Collins lost to both Houston and Jacksonville - both solid teams this season also in playoff contention. Vince Young beat both Houston and Jacksonville, but he needed the Texans' always-reliable Kris Brown to shank a 49-yard potential game-tying field goal as time expired to escape from Reliant Stadium with that win. Would Young have swept both season series?
I doubt it. Young's solid but less-than-stellar numbers have been put up against three teams severely reeling - San Francisco, Buffalo, and Houston - and an Arizona squad without Kurt Warner, a game the Titans barely emerged victorious from. Three of those games were played in Nashville, two can be seen as more fluky wins (if you look at the glass half-empty), and only one contest was a decisive victory: a 41-17 triumph over the Bills, just two days before their head coach Dick Jauron was fired.
If Vince Young had started every game since Week 1, I do not believe the Titans would be in a better position today. In fact, I would suggest that Tennessee would be even worse position if that had been the case. At best, Young would have posted a 2-4 record - hardly reason to approach the next five games with any level of confidence. Cries to restore Kerry Collins (who led the Titans to a 13-3 regular season record just last year) would have been answered - and he would have played average football. Unlike Young, Collins would have felt pressure from last season's success, and would not have approached each game with an 'I-have-nothing-to-lose' attitude. Collins' insertion into the starting role would not have electrified his teammates, and the Titans probably lose on Monday night in Houston and again to Arizona. Tennessee's record in this scenario: 4-7, and not in the playoff picture.
If the Titans emerge victorious this weekend, I will be happily proven wrong - I love the underdog more than anyone I know. In the meantime, I will watch the Vince Young show with a skepticism, waiting to be truly blown away with some hocus pocus that I cannot possibly explain.