will turn the ball over more in 2011. Whether you consider his past, the Eagles
offense’s past, or the past of players around the league as a whole, his 1.6
percent interception rate just isn’t sustainable. For reference, consider that
Peyton Manning’s never had an interception rate that low. Vick isn’t suddenly
going to throw 25 interceptions, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Vick’s
interceptions to double over the course of a full season next year. He was also
able to recover seven of his ten fumbles.
Football Outsiders Almanac 2011
Every once in awhile sports will prove you wrong – some of
us more than others of course (looking at you, Chronic Opinion). But make
enough proclamations about this team, or that athlete, and eventually you will
eat your words.
This is not one of those stories.
This is the first post in a two-part series, because I
discovered that I could not easily convince anybody that Michael Vick is and always has been a below average NFL quarterback without first dispelling the notion that he had
a great 2010. I mean the man was voted Comeback Player of the Year, and was
practically the runner-up for league MVP even though the voting swung
unanimously for Tom Brady. You would have to be a crazy person to suggest Vick
was anything less than tremendous! What about the Redskins game?
Let me backtrack for a moment. Vick did deserve Comeback
Player of the Year, and he did improve exponentially over the player he had
become in Atlanta – after two full years out of football at that. I’m not going
to sit here and tell you that he’s not a more refined passer than he was in
2006, or a better human being for that matter. He absolutely is both of those
Neither of which makes him an effective quarterback, even though
he managed to look the part for one season – or half of one at least, if we’re
being generous. Where to begin? Perhaps in Washington, at the undisputed high
point of Vick’s tenure with the Eagles.
Vick, who was given no chance to come back to the game by so many, now runs the
most dangerous offense in the game. The sheer improbability of this comeback
marks it as among the greatest in sports history, whether you like Michael Vick
Doug Farrar of Shutdown Corner after the Eagles
defeat Washington 59-28 on MNF
In a 59-28 romp over the NFC East-rival Redskins, Vick completed
20-of-28 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns, while also carrying the ball
eight times for 80 yards and two more scores. He looked simply unstoppable. Why
choose this, the game of a lifetime, you might ask?
Because it’s the great lie. We all fell for that performance
on some level. How could you not?
In a word, it was incredible – quite literally.
That was the game responsible for pushing positive Vick
sentiment over the top, with Steve Young and Trent Dilfer fawning all over him
on ESPN immediately after and the next day, describing the outing as “transformational”
and “the full fruition of the position.”
Prior to it, Vick had wins over a pair of sorry franchises
in Detroit and Jacksonville, which were bookended by his starting the season
number two on the depth chart and a rib injury that knocked him out of action
for a month. The only victory of any magnitude he had entering Washington came
one week earlier, a 26-24 clinger over the Manning-led Indianapolis Colts – a
quality win to be sure, but also one where the QB relied on his legs more than
you would have liked against the league’s worst pass defense.
The Skins were no exceptional foe either for that matter,
but after that it was too late to put the brakes on the hype train. Vick had
yet to commit a turnover at this point in the year, even though he hadn’t even
played in several contests, and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin pointed
out he had ample opportunity to do so. “There have been a lot of times when the
ball has been in [an opponent’s] hands. They haven't caught the ball.”
In other words, Vick had been extremely fortunate up to that
point, and had anybody been willing to open their eyes, it wouldn’t have been
up for very much debate. Loser opponents, lousy pass defenses, recovered
fumbles, dropped interceptions… that kind of luck was never going to hold up.
Vick … will always be Vick. That's never
been good enough before, and there's no reason to believe it suddenly is now.
Kulp on The700Level.com, September 16, 2010
Sure enough, it didn’t. Vick lost his first fumble of the
season the following week while posting his lowest passer rating (83.0) and
yards per carry (3.1) of the season thus far as the Giants blitzed the hell out
of him – yet since the Birds were ahead when the final gun sounded, those minor
details got buried. Next it was the Chicago Bears that smothered him, forcing
four fumbles, not one of which went to the other team somehow, but also a crucial
first pick of the season in helping Philly to a loss.
Vick would tread water against 6-10 opponents for two more
weeks until the most fraudulent moment of all occurred: the Miracle at the New
Meadowlands. For 52 minutes, this was the exact opposite of Washington. Vick looked
sloppy, out of sync, and barely able to complete so much as a pass. He was a
big part of the reason, if not the biggest, why the Eagles were trailing by 21
points in the fourth quarter to begin with.
Had the game ended in such abysmal fashion, the headlines
the next day would have read: Is the
Michael Vick experiment over? How many stories had to be scrapped or
rewritten on the count of that improbable comeback, the Eagles winning 38-31 on
a DeSean Jackson punt return as the final seconds ticked off the clock?
As it turned out, those eight minutes actually served as one
final showcase of Vick’s elite talent. Oh, we always knew he could run like the
wind, we know he can throw a pretty pass, and in the rare moments where he puts
it all together, he can have paralyzingly dominant nights like he did in
Washington, or eight-minute stretches of pure brilliance such as that comeback
against the Giants.
The problem has always been sustaining that level of play,
which he has never really been able to ever in his career, but especially not
since those supposed defining moments.
Those eight minutes weren’t a sign of things to come, the
first 52 were. With a postseason bye essentially on the line one week later, a
lowly Minnesota Vikings team blitzed Vick into submission on a Tuesday night.
He turned the ball over three times in the embarrassing 24-14 loss, his worst
game in an Eagles uniform up to that point. The next time he stepped on the
field, the Eagles fell in the first-round of the playoffs to the eventual world
champion Green Bay Packers 21-16. Vick would throw the decisive interception in
the fourth quarter.
Now tell me again, how sensational was Michael Vick in 2010?
He was a better quarterback than he was at any point during his time in Atlanta,
that’s for sure. He was good enough to supplant Kevin Kolb. He was good enough
to beat inferior opponents. And he was good enough to produce two of the most
memorable moments in Eagles history. He was the Comeback Player of the Year.
In this case though, legend is not reality. The flaws Vick
exhibited in 2011 and ‘12 were showing from the very beginning. He was always
holding on to the ball too long, not reading the blitz, taking too many sacks.
The turnovers and injuries were always going to catch up to him. They were
already there. It was inevitable.
Why is 2010 – 10-6 with a first-round playoff exit – still celebrated as some extraordinary season?
Because of two-and-a-half games, and the name on the back of the jersey. If any
other quarterback had the year Vick had, signing him to a long-term contract
rather than searching for a quarterback of the future would have come under far
more scrutiny. Because it was Michael Vick, a former first-overall pick who was
at one time the most dynamic athlete to ever play the position, because he is occasionally capable of doing special
things on a football field, it was mostly received as the right thing to do.
It was all an illusion. An extra INT here, one spoiled comeback there, and it would've been just another 8-8 season from the Birds featuring middling quarterback play. It never should have come as a surprise when Michael Vick fell back to earth.
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