Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Can Run, Can't Pass = One Face of the NFL

I know that I will probably take some shots after this column…but I don’t care. I’m to the point where I need to get this one out. It’s like chewing on a big piece of Bubble Gum and blowing a huge bubble…it has to pop at some point. I’m not going to talk about the NFL’s MVP so far or the best coach…I’m writing about the most overrated player in all of sports: Michael Vick. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback is arguably the NFL’s most athletic player – but every week I read his stat line and I scratch my head, and then rub my eyes to make sure what I’m reading is true. He is just plain decent, and the marketing department of the NFL should be questioned for putting his face as one of the top players of today’s league.

When Vick left Virginia Tech after almost single-handedly bringing them to a National Title in 2000 people were saying that a star was on the horizon. The word was that he was going to change the way the quarterback position was played. His running ability and athleticism was going to change how defenses dealt with the ‘new age’ quarterbacks.

Vick can run like Darrell Green in his prime and has great moves, similar to a slashing-style running back. His passing however hasn’t gotten any better than his days as a Hokie. In fact, I would argue that he’s taken a step backwards in terms of his passing. We’ve all been waiting and expecting to see the kid that throws fastballs to become an effective passer…but it hasn’t happened.

I’ve seen enough of his games to know exactly what a good defensive coordinator coaching a good defense will do against him – use a fast linebacker or safety to spy him and take away the run because his passing is just too inaccurate, particularly in the pocket. He rolls out well because of his speed and can make things happen, but many times he doesn’t see guys that are open and even if he does he often misfires on his pass. But if a quarterback can’t make plays in the pocket on a consistent basis, defenses are just going to send the house and make sure the Falcons don’t run the ball. This means that Michael Vick is going to continue to take some hard hits. The hit that Eagles All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins laid on him in the 2002 playoffs is surely the hardest the young quarterback has had, but he has taken a lot of hits in his short career and will take more because he runs so much.

Vick has won more games than he’s lost as a starter. To date, Vick and the Falcons are 26-17-1 with him as the teams starting quarterback. His TD-to- INT numbers aren’t terrible, 44 TDs and 32 INTs. But I would argue that most of the Falcons success is because of their defense and running game with Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett. He’s thrown one touchdown per his 44 career starts. By comparison his cousin Aaron Brooks of the New Orleans Saints has thrown 114 touchdown passes in his 78 career starts.

Let’s also remember that Matt Schaub, Vick’s reliable backup, has the best game of the season at the quarterback position for the Falcons. On October 9th Vick sat out against the two-time defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. All Schaub did was throw for 298 yards (70 more than Vick’s season high) along with 3 touchdown passes (Vick has 2 TD’s twice). Dunn and Duckett ran for 83 and 30 yards respectively that game, so you can’t use the excuse that all they did was throw the ball.

Personally, I think he’s exciting to watch and can do some brilliant things on the field – but he’s average. I have a tough time having him crack the top ten at his position in the NFL.

If history shows us every year, the teams with a balanced running and passing attack are the teams that win the most. Vick running the football makes him a dangerous player. If he can overcome his passing struggles then he can still be one of the top quarterbacks, but until then, he’s just decent in my eyes…and on the stat sheet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mr. MVP A-Rod Says...

After winning his second American League MVP Award in three years, Alex Rodriguez said this of beating Boston's David Ortiz:

"I would certainly trade his World Series championship for this MVP trophy. That's the only reason I play baseball. It's what I'm consumed to do right now."