Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Titus Young Sr.

I intended to just send this to you on Twitter, but it was impossible to say in just 140 characters. So, I'm resorting to something a little broader, and, sadly, less likely to be read. If you read it, I hope you take it to heart, if not... Well, whatever.
First of all, thank you for what you did do as part of the Lions, that benefited the team. You are an excellent receiver and were a dangerous receiver to ignore. Whenever Calvin was being double or triple covered, you were a prime target for Matthew's throws, and, more often than not, you made the reception and picked up the yards. Hell, I'm still amazed by that hail Mary last year that you caught tipped off the other players and scored on! So let me say again, thank you for what you did do for the team.
But you obviously have some problems accepting that you're part of a team, not the star of it. Some teams are built around individual players and their abilities, some are ensembles of stars that work together to perfection, and some are just patchworks that barely function at all. I watched, along with the rest of Detroit and the nation, as the Lions fell from the second one to the third as injuries took their toll and some players just decided to piss their careers away. Guess which one you were?
I didn't get up this morning with the intention of writing this letter. In fact, the Lions weren't even on my mind until I stumbled across an official Lions post on Google+ that was discussing your tweets from earlier this week. Until then, I had been reasonably indifferent about your situation; I had hoped that you and the team would work out your differences and that you'd return in the Spring, Summer and Fall,and everything would just go on. This isn't the first time a NFL team has had a problem with a player.  So I visited your Twitter feed to see what you had been saying for myself, and while I didn't see the tweets mentioned by Mike O'Hara, the ones I did see inspired this response to you. So, here's the real meat of what I wanted to say to you...
No Player Gets The Ball Every Time
In the text of my original tweet to you, I was going to say that even Barry Sanders didn't run on every play. In his time with the Lions, there were two great receivers as well, Herman Moore and Brett Perriman, that set records of their own. Even when Barry was in the back field, he was often used as a decoy to open up the receiver corps as he was to actually run the ball. But I decided that while that spoke to my point, it was better to use terms that are more pertinent to your situation.
Calvin Johnson was, by far, the best receiver of the 2012-2013 season but even he wasn't thrown to on every single play. There were games in which he was only thrown at 5 or 6 times, while you or another teammate picked up the slack. Some say Matthew should have always thrown to Calvin, regardless of how many people were covering him, but that's not how you play the game. You more often than not play the percentages; if Titus Sr. has fewer people covering him, he has a higher chance of success, so throw to him instead. And that happened a lot. That's the advantage of playing as an ensemble: when the "star" isn't available, the others on the team are capable of making up for him. In the case of football, that means that the team has a better chance of winning because they can put the ball into the hands of their other stars, such as yourself. You were a promising part of the team, and I was just as happy to see you catch a ball as I was Calvin. Actually, probably more because that meant we actually had a team, not a few stars playing with a team.
But then again, you started lining up for routes that weren't yours. Passes that were thrown to where you should have been went uncaught or were intercepted. You weren't playing as part of the team, you were playing for yourself. I saw someone on Twitter call you selfish, and that was true. You did get to be selfish and started acting childish. I don't even know why you started lining up in the wrong place when you were being thrown to more than Calvin... That just made no sense. Ultimately, you benched yourself. The coaches don't want a player that's not going to play as part of a coordinated team. You should know this by now! How many years have you played football? Years in college certainly, and I presume the same in high school... So why are you not understanding that the team comes first? Are you suffering from a Messiah complex? Do you think you can single-handedly save the Lions? I think the only person that stands a reasonable chance of doing that is Jim Schwartz, but even then, that's not a high percentage chance in my book...
The team was really looking good at the start of the season, but through injuries and a lot of heartbreak, it fell apart towards the end. Ironically, some of the best teamwork of the season was in the last few games where heart mattered more than the score. You weren't there because you put yourself out. You could have made the difference in those games, but you were too busy thinking about how great you are. You are good. You were Calvin's Perriman to his Moore, but you really don't deserve to play with him any more. As badly as the team did last year, you don't even deserve to play for the Lions any more. We --- the fans, the team, the City of Detroit --- believed in you, and, at least for now, it seems that was misplaced. You decided you didn't need to be a team player, a part of the ensemble. So for now, I wish you luck in finding that NFL franchise that will build a team around you and your abilities; I wish you a lot of luck and success. As for me, I want a team built on an ensemble, exactly what Schwartz had built and is continuing to nourish. Right now, I can't see you being a part of that.
Barry Sanders isn't remembered because he was given the ball on every play; he's remembered for what he did with the ball the few times he did get it, and especially for his humility. I suspect Calvin will be remembered in the exact same way. You could learn a lot from them.