Monday, January 02, 2006

It's Time for Michael Vick to Grow Up

There I said it. Somebody needed to. There seems to be this notion that Michael Vick's game cannot be questioned. Anybody who says "he needs to run less and pass more" is some kind of idiot who just does not understand that Vick is The New QB who has changed the game. It's too old school to say that Vick needs to run less. Well I've been hearing this "wisdom" for several years and I just don't see it. The Falcons have been good at times during those years, but it's hard to argue that's because of their quarterback. No they've been good when their defense has been great.
The fact is that Vick has a career 75.8 quarterback rating. He's never passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season and he's never thrown for more than 16 touchdowns. Those numbers aren't going to produce championship caliber offense. Atlanta will have to go the Baltimore Ravens route if they want to win championships with Vick, or they will have to ask more from Vick.
Of course it's not really as simple as "pass more, run less." What is really needed is "pass better." Often that means finding open receivers when today Vick does not. That will obviously lead to more completions and less interceptions, but the side effect of finding open receivers is less running. It's not like all 102 rush attempts by Vick this year were designed runs. I would guess that very few were in fact. Some were bootlegs where he did not find an open receiver. Others were pure scrambles. Either way, if he finds more open receivers then he will wind up running less.
If you look at great QBs who could scramble, like John Elway, Steve Young, and more recently Donovan McNabb, you will see this trend. Look at Randall Cunningham's ridiculous season with Minnesota a few years ago. If you look at Brett Favre's first four years in the league, you see the same thing.
The only QB who has seemed to defy this kind of common sense was Daunte Culpepper in 2004. He seemed to run a lot, pass a lot, and pass really well. This may have been a single season anamoly. Either way, Vick does not seem capable of this. If he was truly a rule-breaker, a quaterback like none ever before, then his lack of passing production would be made up and his team's offense would still be great. This is just not the case. Atlanta was 12th in yards/game this year and 14th in points/game. That's middle of the pack.
However, it's entirely possible that a lot of people have no interest in seeing Vick improve. Why not? Well because Vick's style of play makes for very entertaining football. Maybe the Falcons will sell more tickets and the NFL will get better ratings with a scrambling Vick than an efficient Vick. Certainly it's got to be more fun for Vick to scramble than to become good at reading defenses. And that's why he has to grow up. He needs to do the hard thing instead of the fun thing. He needs to listen to critics instead of fans. He needs to stop "keeping it real" and start keeping it in in the air and off the ground. He needs to learn from some of the more succesful players who have half his talent (Tom Brady anyone?) They're not as cool and as sexy, but they're better quarterbacks.

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