The Detroit Lions' coaches and front office are struggling with how to approach having a diva receiver. So far they have done the best that they can.
There is certainly a widely varying range of opinions on what the Detroit Lions should do with Titus Young. I have read comments that vary from releasing him immediately to just letting him play and dealing with his distractions the best that you can. As usual, both of those opinions are on the extreme limits of the options that the Lions can choose from. Sports fans are nothing if not passionate about their team. In my opinion, the coaches and front office have dealt with Young's immaturity the best way that they can.
The problem is that Young has an ego the size of ... well, something really, really, really big. Young's antics have reached a point that screams of a self-important, self-indulged, self-deluded, immature and stubborn piece of work. He has even transcended the diva attitudes of Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson. At least those players earned some of their ego with stellar performances on the field of play. To date, Young has had one standout game in his entire career. Since that game against Seattle, Young has argued with teammates, disrupted the huddle with his complaints and purposely lined up incorrectly for plays.
This is not something new for Young. He has repeatedly earned the wrath of the coaching staff with his immature decision making. He has been benched twice for childish personal fouls: once against the Saints last season and in the first game against the Rams this season. He was also guilty of sucker punching Louis Delmas, his own teammate, during OTAs this past offseason. That stunt earned him a trip home for a week.
The latest outburst by Young forced the Lions to send Young home once again. He has recently returned to practice, much to the chagrin of many Lions fans. There is a strong sentiment that Young should have stayed home longer, and that approach would be dead wrong in a case like Young's.
We have to remember that the first responsibility of the Lions is to put the best product on the field that they can. Whether that includes Young or not makes no difference. The Lions spent a second-round pick to get Young. They owe it to the fans and the other players on the team to salvage whatever they can out of the situation. So, the real question is what options do the Lions really have?
For the fans that think that the Lions should just get rid of Young as quickly as possible, that is just wrong. When a player is traded just after an incident, or released outright, the team gets a very poor value in return. In effect, the Lions would be conceding that selecting Young is a total loss. That approach screams of the very same impetuous decision making that Young is being criticized for. It might make you feel good to just boot him out the door, but that is not a professional approach to the situation. It is how an emotional fan reacts, not a coach or a general manager.
On the other end of the spectrum, if the coaches were to just tolerate Young's poor behavior and allow him to disrupt the team, it would send the wrong signals to all of the players. The Lions would become the same kind of locker room circus as the New York Jets. That might be entertaining in a demented way, but it certainly would not produce a quality football team. Such an approach would be ultimately self-defeating for the coaches and practically guarantee they are just waiting to be fired.
Understanding what the Lions are doing takes a bit of insight into the personality problems that Young is displaying. He is acting like an impetuous and immature man-child. Any person who has raised children through this stage of development knows that the worst possible thing to do is to just let them operate on their own cognizance. The nature of their dysfunction can only be fixed by guidance and oversight. Letting Young just stew at home is exactly the wrong thing to do. The value of that approach stops when he realizes that the coaches are mad enough to separate him from the team. A week is plenty of time for that realization to sink in. Keeping him away from the team for a longer time only serves to let him reinforce his own dysfunction by sitting in an echo chamber where he just thinks what he wants with no real helpful feedback. Immature people do not think they are wrong on their own.
The Lions have brought Young back to practice so that they can watch him and provide feedback. The important thing for the coaches and front office is to make it clear to him that he is at the very bottom now and he has to earn his way back. Since they had Young picking up trash at the facility, I believe that he is getting that message.
The Lions should not ask the coaches to watch Young at all times while he is in the facility. They should hire a guidance counselor that can help him learn how to grow up. They have to essentially do the job that Young's parents did not. It would also help if Young's parents stepped up to finally do the job they should have done long ago. It is very important that the people close to Young do not enable his dysfunction by telling him that he is being treated unfairly. It is time for some tough love.
The sulking by Young in front of the press is to be expected. Children sulk when they are embarrassed and forced to deal with it in public. It is yet another sign that Young has far to go. For now the Lions should have him practice and be part of the team, but they also must force him to prove himself. Young needs to learn humility and patience in a big way.
It is very possible that the Lions will not reach Young despite all of their best efforts. At some point it is on Young to accept that he has a problem that needs correcting. That may never happen. Some people just cannot be reached. Even if that is the case the Lions need to keep him quietly in the background until they can make a trade. The only time he should be put in the lineup this season is when the Lions have a deal on the table and the other team wants to see him play. Then it should be made very clear to Young that this is a showcase for him to salvage his career and he needs to play well, and as part of the team, to survive.
One possible trade scenario would be for the Lions to trade Young to Oakland for Rolando McClain. The Raiders recently expelled McClain from practice for similar disciplinary issues. It could be a way for both the Lions and the Raiders to trade problem children to give them both a fresh start. Since they are in different conferences they do not help an opponent they see often, and the Raiders still love fast receivers. The Raiders also have more tolerance for the type of issues that Young has. It could allow both teams to salvage some value from their draft picks.
If no trade is available, the Lions are going to have to be patient with Young. He should be forced to earn each and every step of his way back. Dressing him for a game should be the first step, but only after exemplary behavior for a couple of weeks. If he expects to get on the field, that should take even longer. Playing any kind of important role should take even longer still. Frankly, that should not even be in the cards to happen for the rest of this season. If Young is to work his way back from this then it needs to be done in a way that teaches him patience and makes him value every tiny bit of progress that he makes.
As fans, it is easy for us to spew opinions after considering the problem for only a few seconds. When the careers of a player, his coaches and the Lions' front office will all be impacted by the outcome, it demands a bit more reflection than that. You can rant all you want about Young and his problems; that is your right. Just don't be too upset if the people that actually make the decisions don't listen to you. They have to worry about their job and don't have the luxury of being impetuous like Young.