Let me start this off by saying that Vince Young’s “tantrum” following Sunday’s loss to the Washington Redskins shouldn’t be applauded or encouraged. His behavior wasn’t that of a man in control of his emotions, but rather the actions of someone who often lets his emotions overwhelm his rationality. That being said, the reactions by both Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and the vast majority of television analysts show that they just don’t understand mental illness.
If you don’t know what happened last Sunday, you’re probably like a lot of people. I still don’t know exactly what happened, because the reports all seem to be rely on second- and third-hand information, but the gist of the story is that Vince Young, after injuring his thumb, was upset that he was not allowed to return to the game despite feeling healthy enough to play. After the game, he possibly threw his jersey into the stands (some reports paint it as an act of childish defiance, others paint it as Young simply giving his jersey to a fan), and then argued with head coach Jeff Fisher in the locker room following the game.
I’m not going to try and dispute whether something happened or not following the Titans’ game. What was more upsetting to me was the reaction of Jeff Fisher, Steve Young, and others in the aftermath of Young’s actions.
Really, all of the various responses have fallen along the same lines: That Vince Young needs to simply get his act together and fall in line if he wants to be an NFL quarterback. It’s the same rhetoric we here all the time from the NFL, and I’m not even going to argue that, in a lot of cases, this might be the accurate assessment of the situation. It’s just not the accurate assessment when it comes to Vince Young.
Vince Young has a history of mental illness. In 2008, he disappeared following a game and was widely reported to have been suicidal. He’s constantly been at odds with his coach and feelings of not being able to earn the trust of his team. Now, his statements following the incident on Sunday, that “It is not just me. It falls back on me, but I don’t know how to respond to it when it’s not just me. I’m outnumbered right now,” are the words of someone who feels as if everyone is against him. As someone who has struggled with depression myself, I can completely understand those words. Even when I might rationally know that the world is not falling apart, it is sometimes difficult to fight the feeling that it is. It takes years of work (and possibly therapy) to learn to cope with these feelings, and I doubt that Young, who was a star college quarterback and first round NFL draft pick, has ever been given the time to sort through his issues.
Vince Young’s behavior can be described as aggressive and childish. It can also be described as the behavior of someone who has never learned to cope with feelings of depression. Jeff Fisher is not doing Young any favors by refusing to even acknowledge that he has attempted to apologize for his actions, even if the apology was fairly clumsy. Fisher appears to be simply trying to show everyone who the head honcho is in the Titans’ locker room rather than actually trying to help Young grow as a person and try and overcome his emotional problems.
It’s possible that Young’s issues are serious enough that he won’t be able to be the super-star quarterback that many think he should be. In the long run, however, getting Young the help he needs to be able to handle his problems, whether on or off the football field, is more important than whether the Titans make the playoffs. Fisher seems willing to wash his hands of the situation and simply throw Young out in the cold. If that is what eventually ends up happening, I believe that would be the biggest tragedy of the entire situation.
Vince Young says he’s frustrated
Personal experience and opinions.