Vince Young's Failed Comeback Attempt in Green Bay

Quarterback Vince Young very optimistically announced plans to return to the NFL this week, though it’s not clear if there’s a team that will facilitate that return.

There was a team in the not-too-distant past that tried to help Young on his last comeback attempt. That team was a Green Bay Packers.

A long history of Packers connections

Young signed with the Packers on August 6, 2013, but his connection to Green Bay actually began seven years earlier. General manager Ted Thompson was on hand for Young’s pre draft workout and was uncharacteristically effusive with his praise.

"That was a hell of a workout," Thompson said at the time. "What impressed me the most was his velocity on all his throws. And he's just so smooth in everything he does.”

"Usually, when you're scouting a player, you think to yourself, 'He reminds me of so-and-so,'” Thompson continued. “But in this case, Young doesn't remind me of anyone. He seems to be one of a kind. The more I watch him, the more I just scratch my head and wonder how he did that."

The Packers held the fifth pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, and to hear Thompson talk you wonder if Young would have been an option for the Packers if he’d slid down the draft board, Aaron Rodgers notwithstanding. Young didn’t last that long, heading instead to Tennessee, who drafted Young third overall.

Six years later, Young was released by the Buffalo Bills after a short stint in training camp. The Packers were considered a potential landing spot for young, but Thompson stood pat, not even giving Young a cursory look.

Thompson and Young finally connect

One summer later, though, Young was in Green Bay for a tryout, signing a contract with the team the next day, just a few days before the Packers’ first preseason game.

Top backup Graham Harrell was underwhelming in training camp and 2012 seventh round pick B.J. Coleman wasn’t doing any better. Young’s experience and athleticism figured to breathe some much needed life into the Packers’ backup quarterback situation.

On August 9, the Arizona Cardinals came to Green Bay for the Packers’ first preseason game. Young was in uniform and figured to see some playing time, despite his extremely limited exposure to the playbook.

The Heisman trophy winner did, in fact, see action, but the returns were very limited. In 12 plays over two possessions, he completed one pass on three attempts, ran twice for 12 yards, and was sacked once. The Packers didn’t score on either of his two possessions.

Still, head coach Mike McCarthy was not discouraged. 

"My goal with Vince was to get him about 10 to 12 snaps," McCarthy said. "He's only been here a couple of days. I just wanted to get him where he can go play quarterback. 

If there were any shortcomings to Young’s performance, McCarthy said it was not the quarterback’s fault. “I didn't think I did a very good job of giving him things that he's comfortable with. We were able to spend some time this morning and iron out a package for him. I thought he did some nice things.”

None of the Packers’ three backups distinguished themselves in the second exhibition matchup. Coleman was the best of the bunch, but his performance came late in the game against mostly deep backups.

In the third game, however, Young broke out. Playing against much of the Seattle Seahakws’ starting defense, he completed six of seven passes for 41 yards and a touchdown and ran three times for 39 yards. Young’s pass was the Packers’ only touchdown of the night, and he was the only backup quarterback who moved the offense at all.

It wasn’t all good, though; Young’s old habit of forcing passes into coverage nearly reared its head in disastrous fashion. His one incompletion of the night probably should have been an interception, and had the defender caught it, it may have been returned for a touchdown.

Young stumbles in a two-man race

Shortly after the the third preseason game, the Packers released Graham Harrell. The weak-armed Texas Tech quarterback hadn’t shown enough to merit a serious competition with Young and Coleman, and heading into the final week of the the exhibition schedule, the battle for the Packers’ top backup job was now a two man race. Young, who had joined the Packers only three weeks earlier, seemed to be the odds-on favorite to be the top backup.

But in the Packers’ final preseason game, Young fell apart. On the road in Kansas City, Young completed just 14 of 30 passes, only managed 12 yards rushing, fumbled twice, and produced just three points for the Packers. 

The field goal itself was a defeat for Young. The Packers’ intercepted Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel deep in Kansas City territory, and despite starting on the Chiefs’ 35-yard line, Young didn’t move the offense at all. 

After the Packers’ first preseason game, a reporter questioned head coach Mike McCarthy about Young’s chances for making the roster. 

"I don’t know," he answered. "I don’t know if I've been through one like this, where you bring in a guy this late. I’ve been part of situations where you sign a veteran quarterback at the last cut, but Ive never brought one in three days before the first preseason game."

McCarthy’s words turned out to be a very accurate bit of foreshadowing.

The Packers released Young in the final roster cutdown and, just as McCarthy predicted, they turned to a veteran quarterback to serve as Aaron Rodgers’ understudy. Seneca Wallace took Young’s spot on the roster, and he’d be forced into duty just a few weeks later due to Rodgers’ broken collarbone.

Young, meanwhile, spent the 2013 season out of football. He had signed with the Cleveland Browns in May 2014, but was released less than two weeks later. In June 2014, Young announced his retirement from the NFL, saying only a “guaranteed offer” could bring him back to professional football.

Now, with no apparent guaranteed offer available, Young is trying to resurrect his career, just a few short years after missing his chance to do just that in Green Bay.