Friday, November 19, 2010

Would you take Vick now, if you knew – ?

I was listening to SportsTalk 980 the other day, and they had listeners call in to answer the question, if you had it to do over again, knowing what you know now, would you have picked up Michael Vick this offseason?

Vick's only leading the league in passer rating, having thrown 11 TDs to 0 INTs, with a yards-per-attempt figure that's 3rd in the league (behind Troy Smith and Philip Rivers). He also has 4 rushing TDs, to go with 57 rushing yards per game (7.8 per attempt). He was the most electrifying player in the league 4 to 6 yrs ago; a rare, unbelievable talent. Now he is again. Oh, and the Pheagles are 4-1 when he plays the whole game (vs 2-2 otherwise).

On the call-in show, there were a predictable number of callers who
said no way, they didn't want that killer on their team – at least one wished Vick actual harm, saying I hope he gets injured this week etc etc. Not cool. And on the other side there were a number of callers who knew Vick had this kind of performance in him, somebody just needed to give him a chance. One guy said that Washington would have been a great destination for Vick (980 is a DC-area station), because of the huge population of Virginia Tech grads, who would have been fans of Vick's since college.

(You can listen to the whole show here – go about 2/3's in to get to the part where they take callers.)

I think the question misses an important point. The Vick we are seeing now, of the 63% completion rate and the 8.8 yards per attempt, not to mention the infinite TD-to-INT ratio: this is a Vick that has never existed before. Vick was never much of a passer in the old days. He was an electrifying talent in Atlanta, sure, but he was not a good passer. He never had a completion pctg higher than 56 before, never had a yards-per-attempt much above 7, never had an INT pctg below 3.

Signing this Vick was not an option that was available to most teams. Most teams would have gotten old Michael Vick, completing about 55% of his passes for ~2400 yards, 6+ yards per attempt, maybe 17 TDs to 13 INTs (and then rushing for another 6 or 8 hundred yards). And it's reasonable for a team not to be super interested in that Michael Vick, particularly at age 29 or 30, with the questions that would come along.

The Eagles were able to get this Vick, because they took time and worked with him. The Eagles are one of the top 5 organizations in football. They have a tremendous coaching staff. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg are masters – I'll make fun of Mornhinweg as a head coach as much as the next guy, but he's been an excellent offensive coordinator for a long time. The QB coach is James Urban, who I've never heard of. This is just his second year in the position; but remember that Kevin Kolb had that terrific start out of the gate last season.

I'm not going to say that the Eagles coaches "made" Michael Vick. He was a great player before he got to Philly; and a rare talent. But Vick has always needed some polish on his passing game, and now it looks like he's got it.

I give a lot of credit to Andy Reid, for seeing an opportunity that other teams didn't see. Last season was probably an unusual window, in the sense that Vick was probably more receptive to coaching than at any time in his career. (I've never heard Vick was "uncoachable", that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying, Vick was probably more willing to do anything, including make changes to his game, than he'd ever been before. Desperate to get back into the league.) And last year was a great situation for Reid to be able to keep Vick off the field. He had McNabb! Vick was going to stay on the bench, and like it. There was also a quality #2 ahead of Vick. Just a great opportunity for him to keep his head down and work on his game.

I don't know how it's going to turn out. But Andy Reid and the Eagles staff deserve their share of credit for Vick's incredible performance. And Cap'n Andy deserves applause for spotting an opportunity and seizing the moment.


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