Saturday, August 25, 2007

Falcons Better Off—and Maybe Even Better—Without Vick

I’m starting to feel bad for Michael Vick. Mainly because ESPN and other TV news outlets continue to show—over and over and over—the same footage of the erstwhile Atlanta Falcons quarterback walking from a courthouse, accompanied by lawyers and sporting the serious look of a once-pampered and -acclaimed athlete who is realizing that this time the hand of fate means business.

Honestly, I’m starting to find sympathy for the guy. It’s pathetic that he was involved in dog-fighting, a pursuit that would probably elude even many hardened criminals. Something dark and weird in a soul that wants to partake of that.

It wasn’t that long ago, 2004 to be precise, when Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game. Including the playoffs, the Falcons were 12-6 that year, and it looked like Vick had established himself as a force for the future.

There’s been plenty of media reflection of late about how tough it will be for the Falcons to recover from the blow of losing Vick, who’s set to do jail time and will incur league reprisals as well. The team’s obviously still reeling a bit from letting backup QB Matt Schaub go in the offseason to Houston. In his limited playing time, Schaub looked like a guy with potential, though realistically he still has much to prove.

But in losing Vick—the QB with the studly bod and the lightning speed and the elusive moves—what have the Falcons really lost? Well, a quarterback with six years of experience, in whose time the team has compiled a 47-48-1 regular season won-loss record. Vick’s completion percentage overall is 53.8. Average—maybe less so. (Gus Frerotte, A. J. Feeley, Joey Harrington, Rex Grossman, J.P. Losman, Kyle Boller, David Carr, and Charlie Frye all have better career completion numbers.) Vick’s thrown 71 TD passes and 52 interceptions. Again, mediocre. Vick’s career passer rating is 75.7. That’s respectable, I guess. But Byron Leftwich’s is 80.5. Brad Johnson’s is 83.1. Jake Delhomme’s is 84.0. Mark Brunell’s is 84.2. Matt Hasselbeck’s is 85.1. And never mind getting into Brady, Manning or Favre territory in this statistic. Vick’s a novice in comparison.

For all his swagger, speed, accumulated rushing yards and occasional highlight-reel antics, Michael Vick has in fact been a mediocre NFL quarterback. If he were anybody but Michael Vick, his team would’ve brought in stiff competition for him every year since he entered the league—in search of a QB who could lead their offense with consistency and balanced efficiency, and win 10 games minimum every year.

I was pretty excited about Vick in 2004. I thought he was the quarterback that it turns out Vince Young has a real chance to be instead. But Vick has only proved to be an improv actor in a role that demands Shakespearean chops. The current understudies are Joey Harrington and Chris Redman. Not much to crow about. But either seems fully capable of leading the team to a 7-9 record, which was about Vick’s speed.

So the Falcons are forced to move in another direction, but it’s my guess that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Running their offense with more conventional mechanics might work a whole lot better in the long run than having Vick “being creative” and making things up as he goes.

Should be pretty interesting to watch.

No comments: