Bringing Vince Young to Canada never really made much sense. A 34-year-old quarterback who was dumped by five NFL teams and last played in 2011 shouldn’t exactly be considered a CFL phenomenon-in-the making.
It wasn’t his fault he was perceived that way. Until he was cut by the Saskatchewan Roughriders when CFL teams had to declare their 46-man rosters, Young had misguided supporters believing he could immediately step into a 12-man, three-down Canadian offence and take control like he had at the University of Texas. Young’s amazing college career and successful early NFL years with the Tennessee Titans were often cited as reasons why he would succeed; Saskatchewan head coach/GM Chris Jones regularly noted Young’s impressive 30-17 record as a starter with Tennessee was the main reason he invited the quarterback to join the Roughriders.
Young’s arrival generated huge hype. Details of his contract, as reported by 3DownNation.com, showed there wasn’t much risk or greed involved — Young could have made $200,000 (about normal for a backup) and didn’t receive a signing bonus. It showed he was sincere about making a comeback and the Riders weren’t gambling too much if he didn’t pan out.
Much like their Canadian counterparts, American magazines and sports networks trumpeted Young’s attempted comeback, pondered his future after he tore a hamstring midway through training camp, and dutifully announced his release. At one stage, Jones joked with reporters that he wouldn’t mind a little less attention being focused on his big-name acquisition.
Young apparently followed an intensive workout regimen in the months following his signing, but he wasn’t in playing shape when he arrived at training camp in early June. He could throw the football, but he didn’t grasp the intricacies of a CFL offence — unlimited motion, a wider field, an extra player, a 20-second play clock, the importance of being in second-and-short situations — and fell behind Saskatchewan’s other quarterbacks. If Young had shown an innate ability to comprehend a CFL offence, or at least shown marked improvement during workouts, perhaps it would have been worthwhile to keep him around. But there’s little sense in retaining a QB without a rising-star future.
Since dealing away Darian Durant in the off-season, the Roughriders acquired 38-year-old veteran Kevin Glenn to be their starting quarterback. Young was competing with returnee Brandon Bridge, former Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice-roster player Bryan Bennett and late arrival Marquise Williams to be the backup.
Bridge played exceptionally well in the first preseason game while Bennett, who had been earning accolades during camp, faltered in both contests. Williams showed an impressive work ethic and improved rapidly, so he made the initial roster as the third-stringer behind Glenn and Bridge. Bennett was released the same day as Young.
After injuring himself on a running play during a training-camp workout, Young was diagnosed with a torn hamstring just days before Saskatchewan’s first of two preseason games; the injury was expected to take 4-6 weeks to heal. The Roughriders could release Young despite the injury because he is considered a CFL rookie.
There had been speculation Young might be placed on the six-game injury list, where CFL teams often stash prospects while paying their salaries (which are not then included in the $5.15 million salary cap). Following Young’s injury, Jones said he would discuss potential rehabilitation plans with the quarterback before making a decision.
Young never showed he could play in the CFL. With his injury, there was a gracious exit available for everyone involved, so the Roughriders and Young took it, without anyone having to admit it was a mistake.