One of the problems with talking about Michael Vick is that he is an incredibly polarizing player. His supporters will tell you that with better coaches around him and a better defense, Vick would have been a star QB in the last couple of years. His critics think he’s been exposed as an injury-prone turnover machine.
As is generally the case, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
The first thing we have to get out there is that Vick the elite franchise QB is gone. That player does not exist anymore. Vick was benched last year for rookie Nick Foles. Vick is competing with Foles and rookie Matt Barkley this year. If Vick was still the special player from the past, he would not be competing with these guys. This isn’t a criticism of Vick. Age catches up to 99 percent of players. Guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are freaks. Just look at Philip Rivers and how quickly he’s fallen from elite QB to inconsistent QB.
I do think Vick can be a solid starter. The problem, as I mentioned yesterday, is that you don’t know if you can trust him. I don’t mean this in terms of character. Strictly football. Can Vick stay healthy? Can Vick have consecutive good years?
Vick has only played 16 games once in his career. He is tough as nails, but his never-say-die attitude leads to him taking some big hits. I know that Vick’s injuries the last 2 years came in the pocket, but in 2010 he got hurt on the run. And there is no way to tell what kind of an effect the hits have in terms of wearing him down and making him vulnerable to the hits that do end up injuring him.
Trying to figure out how many “good” years Vick has had is tricky. 2010 was a very good year. Beyond that, very hard to say. Vick only has 2 years when he threw for 20 or more TDs. He only has 3 years when he had a QB rating of 80 or more. You do have to factor in running when discussing Vick since that is such a big part of his career. In 2006, Vick became the only QB to rush for more than 1,000 yards. The Falcons went 7-9 and finished 25th in scoring in the NFL. The Falcons got to the NFC title game in 2004. The offense was mediocre and so was Vick’s passing. He did run for 902 yards. The Falcons had a good offense in 2002, Vick’s first year with a rating above 80. Honestly, though, you can make the argument that Vick has never had back-to-back good years in the NFL.
How does a team commit to a player that isn’t likely to play all 16 games and they can’t count on to be good from year to year?
This is why 2013 is so critical for Vick. He has a tremendous opportunity in front of him. For the first time in his career, Vick gets to play for a coach that embraces the run game, but also has a history of developing QBs and knows how to run a good passing attack.
As a Falcon, Vick didn’t develop as a passer. Part of that is on the coaches he had. They settled for Vick making big plays and fell under his spell. Athletic QBs do this to coaches, whether Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, or E.J. Manuel. Just as big is the fact that Vick was more concerned about living a fun life than he was trying to be a good QB.
Then came Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. They developed Vick as a passer, but their lack of a balanced offense is very well documented. Vick learned a lot in his 3 years starting for them, but things did swing too far the other way. Vick simply isn’t meant to drop back 35 to 40 times a game.
Chip Kelly will figure out what Vick does well and stick with that as long as it works. Reid loved to talk about putting players in position to succeed, but too often didn’t take his own advice. Kelly will. He’s truly a flexible coach that will adapt his schemes and ideas to the talent he has.
Before any of this can happen, Vick has to win the job. And that isn’t a sure thing. Kelly will give the job to the player who plays the best. There is no loyalty to Vick, Foles, Barkley, or Dixon.
What about with the players? Vick has burned through some of the goodwill that he had built up over the years. This isn’t about character, just football. Fumbles, interceptions, and losses wear down everybody. There were more than a couple of guys who were happy to see Foles take the field last year. That would have been unheard of in 2010 or 2011. The Eagles only scored more than 20 points twice last year in games that Vick started and finished. Foles did that 4 times in his 6 starts. Vick just wasn’t right last year. We could see it in the preseason. I don’t know why, but even the players knew something was up.
Vick’s teammates still admire his toughness and like him personally, but they want to win and score points. If Vick doesn’t play well, the other players will gladly shift their support to Foles or even Barkley. The NFL is all about results.
I mentioned yesterday that Vick has the physical skills to play well for Kelly. Vick has a strong arm and can make every throw. He has a quick release. Vick still runs well and if he is the starter, Kelly can implement the read-option as part of the running attack. One thing you do have to understand is that no matter what, Kelly won’t be running the exact offense he did at Oregon. The NFL field isn’t divided into the wide side and the boundary side. That changes things. Oregon was a running team. They were 3rd in the nation in rushing and 72nd in passing. NFL teams are either balanced or pass more. The 2013 Eagles and the 2012 Oregon Ducks will be more cousins than twins.
Vick’s quick release may seem to be at odds with the fact he held the ball too much in 2012, but one is a physical skill and the other is a style of play. When Vick does see something, he can pull the trigger and get the ball out in a hurry. I don’t think Vick will hold the ball as much under Kelly since I expect more of a quick style of passing. That said, Vick must improve his pre-snap reads. We saw in that miserable Tuesday night loss in 2010 that Vick just didn’t make good pre-snap reads. Antoine Winfield seemed to catch him by surprise play after play. If Vick is going to get the ball out quickly in 2013, part of that is making a read at the line and having a good idea of where to go before the ball is even snapped. Vick is smart enough to do this. He is experienced enough to do this. I really don’t know why it has been such a poor part of his game.
Just how good can Vick be, if he does win the job? That’s really impossible for me to answer until I see him and the offense in action. We get too caught up in rankings anyway. We saw in 2010 that when Vick does play well, he can lead a team to a division title and the team can score lots of points. That was fool’s gold because the offense was too reliant on big plays and you just can’t count on them in the postseason. Kelly will embrace the run game more than Reid ever did so the Eagles won’t live and die with big plays in the passing game.
I think Vick can be similar to Jeff Garcia from 2006. That offense needed a strong run game. The passing attack was a mixture of efficient and explosive. Garcia was a fiery leader that the other players fed off. Vick has a stronger arm and is more mobile than Garcia, but Jeff was an expert at the WCO while Vick will be learning Kelly’s offense. Vick should have a good OL and he will have the best set of skill players he ever worked with.
If Vick can’t bounce back this year, it will likely be the end of his career. He’s got some very favorable conditions that should give him the chance to get back to playing well.
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I know some of you think I’m anti-Vick. That simply isn’t true. I want the Eagles to score points and win games. I don’t care if the QB is Joe Montana, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Pol Pot. Find someone to win me some friggin’ games.
I mentioned yesterday that part of me doesn’t want Vick to succeed…BUT…that is only because I want stability at QB and Vick is here on a 1-year deal and he’s about to turn 33. A good season from him means good things on the field in 2013, but another set of complicated questions once the next offseason rolls around. This is nothing personal. If Vick was 28 and could be part of the long term plans, I’d be all in on him.
I’m not going to pull for Vick to struggle. That’s not the way I operate. I cheer for everyone wearing Eagles green. I’m just saying it would be more convenient for Foles or Barkley to win the starting job and play well since they’re younger and have more of a future.
This isn’t personal…just football.
No matter what happens with Vick on the field in 2013, his time in Philly has been a success because of the changes he’s made as a person. Ron Mexico is a distant memory. Vick is now a player you can fully trust off the field, and that’s an amazing transformation when you think where he was a decade ago. Kudos to him and Andy Reid for that.