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28 Jun 2005

Four Downs: NFC South

by Russell Levine

Also check out the previous edition of Four Downs: NFC South.

Atlanta Falcons

It's Not You, It's Me

Lord knows we here at Football Outsiders have been less than effusive in our praise for Michael Vick, especially the 2004 passing edition. As the author of the Falcons chapter in Pro Football Prospectus 2005, I'm hoping I won't have to go into hiding, Salman Rushdie-style, if the Vick-backers issue a fatwa calling for my head.

No matter how real the shortcomings in Vick's passing game -- and they are very real -- even I know that he's not the entire problem. He is hamstrung by a receiving corps that plays a #2 (Peerless Price) at #1 receiver, and has a bunch of #3 and #4 guys masquerading as #2 receivers. It seems now that even the Falcons recognize that the only thing #1 receiver-like about Price is his contract. To that end, rumors circulated this summer that Price was in imminent danger of being released, especially after the Falcons spent a first-round pick on a receiver for the second straight season (Roddy White in 2005, Michael Jenkins in 2004).

Those rumors turned out to be unfounded, but Price is not out of the woods yet. If Jenkins and White show in training camp that they are ready to play, Price could still end up on the scrap heap.

Given the typical output of rookie receivers, I wouldn't call out White's name anytime soon in your roto draft. Jenkins, who hardly played on offense as a rookie, is no safe bet either. It looks like 2005 will be another big year for TE Alge Crumpler as Vick's top target.

If I am in hiding this fall, I may have some company in the makers of the Blitz: The League video game from Midway. After being denied a license to use NFL players and trademarks when the league signed an exclusive game license with EA, Midway decided to pack their game with cartoonish violence and an Atlanta team quarterbacked by a guy named Mexico. We all know how powerful Paul Tagliabue and his league are in the sports/entertainment industry. See you in the bunker, fellas.

Carolina Panthers

A Trade, a Trade!

Fans who bemoan the loss of the player-for-player trade in a modern sports world divided between the economic haves and have-nots, take note. Since Four Downs last visited the NFC South, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos have pulled off a trade that may be unique in NFL annals. When was the last time two teams swapped punters as the primary figures in a trade?

Todd Sauerbrun and his steroid robot-powered leg was sent packing to the thin air of Denver, where he should be booming 50-yarders with lunch-hour hangtimes in the thin air. In return, the Panthers received Jason Baker, who will compete with Tom Rouen for the punting job. Sending either one of those guys out to kick at sea level is a significant downgrade from Sauerbrun. Carolina may enjoy not having a trash-talking, overweight, steroid and DUI-accused punter on the roster, but the team probably won't like the on-field results.

In other Carolina news, linebacker Dan Morgan is angling for a hefty new contract and the negotiations could be tricky. Morgan is entering the final year of his deal. When healthy, he's been one of the best linebackers in the NFL (check the Super Bowl XXXVIII film if you don't believe me). The problem is that he's rarely been healthy, and the team may expect a discount for that reason, while Morgan may insist on superstar money.

One player the Panthers did lock up is safety Mike Minter, a key man as the lone veteran presence in the secondary last year. Minter was signed to a four-year extension.

With Mark Fields's unfortunate relapse of Hodgkin's disease, rookie first-round pick Thomas Davis could see some action at one of the linebacker spots in nickel situations. Davis is expected to play primarily as a safety on early downs, and shift to linebacker in passing sets.

New Orleans Saints

Hakim Horked

Raise your hand if you recognize the movie reference. To indicate that the Saints "stole" Az Hakim seems apt after the free-agent receiver all but signed with the Chiefs -- even practicing with the team -- before bolting for New Orleans and signing a deal with the Saints.

Hakim may not have been worth the money the Lions gave him, but he can still be an effective slot receiver, which will allow Donte' Stallworth to play outside. No matter where Stallworth has palyed in recent seasons, he's been a Joe Theismann "girl with the curls," teasing the Saints and their fans with his ability while ultimately disappointing them when his contributions add up to not much. Does that remind you of another Saint? Those in the DVOA know are aware that Deuce McAllister is not the marquee back that he -- and the Saints -- feel he is. He puts up big numbers, but they don't do much to help the team win. A roster full of these guys is why the Saints are headed for another 7-9, 8-8, 9-7 year, maybe with a late-season surge to save the coaching staff's jobs thrown in.

McAllister is nonetheless looking for a long-term contract extension, as are Fakhir Brown and Mike McKenzie. McAllister's bargaining position has likely been weakened by the fact that Seattle and Indianapolis failed to give long-term deals to Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James, respectively. Not only that, but neither player was traded to a team that would pay. So both will be free agents next offseason, as will McAllister if he doesn't sign an extension this summer.

Not only do Saints fans have to pay to watch this frustrating bunch, but the city does as well. (Soapbox alert!) Thanks to a deal drawn up the last time the team threatened to bolt town, the city is looking to borrow roughly $9 million to make a guaranteed payment to the team. Last year, the city had to raid $7 million out of an economic development fund to satisfy its obligation to the team, money that has not been replaced. I'm all for honoring contracts, and I'm certainly in favor of NFL football. But for a city like New Orleans, which is not exactly in terrific economic shape, to make such promises to the multi-millionaire owner of an NFL team is ridiculous. Governor Mike Foster signed a 10-year deal with the Saints in 2001 that included $186 million in payments to the team. Worse yet, the payments don't guarantee that the Saints will stick around the next time they have the opportunity to escape their lease. The NFL is angling to fill the Los Angeles market, and the Saints have long been viewed as a prime candidate.

Ed. note: Recently reading Michael MacCambridge's America's Game I learned something interesting about the Saints. The NFL put a team in New Orleans as a quid pro quo deal with House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) to push through legal permission for the AFL-NFL merger in 1967. So the entire history of the team is tied up in political maneuvering. (By the way, you'll recognize a familiar name in the footnotes for chapter 25 of MacCambridge's book.)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

June 1 came and went, and the cap-strapped Buccaneers have yet to cast off any of their overpaid, underproductive veterans. Expect that to change in the coming weeks, however, as tackle Todd Steussie was excused from a recent minicamp and is likely to be released.

The Buccaneers are loaded with young, unproven linemen, names like Sean Mahan, Jeb Terry, Dan Buenning, Anthony Davis, and Chris Colmer. Depending on what the depth chart looks like towards the end of training camp, veterans Matt Stinchcomb and Derrick Deese could join Steussie on the scrap heap.

It looks like running back Charlie Garner may survive the purge, at least until training camp, after he accepted a pay cut to the veteran minimum in order to attempt to come back from a serious knee injury with the team.

Jon Gruden is never satisfied with his roster, and he'd like to add some more veterans before the season, but the cap won't allow it just yet. Ty Law told Peter King that he'd received an offer from the Buccaneers, but it's unlikely Tampa Bay could commit much more than the veteran minimum to Law. Law won't get the deal he's looking for this offseason, but he won't sign for the minimum either.

One veteran who won't be around for training camp is QB Akili Smith. Tampa Bay signed the former Cincinnati bust and sent him to NFL Europe, but Smith dropped to third on the depth chart of the Frankfurt Galaxy and was released. The Buccaneers are likely to go into the season with Chris Simms and Luke McCown backing up Brian Griese.

Next week: AFC West by Mike Tanier.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 28 Jun 2005

51 comments, Last at 17 Aug 2005, 9:11pm by Nev

Comments

1
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 1:52pm

I don't play video games, but I think Blitz naming the Atlanta QB Mexico is a stroke of genius.

2
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 2:16pm

Ever notice how often Ryans trys to drum up contreversy in his articles?

The Falcons are on my list of teams who won't repeat thier playoff appearances. I have Carolina winning this division, and the Falcons at a distant 2nd.

3
by Mike B. (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 2:39pm

Something in New Orleans tied up in shady politics? Say it ain't so...

I'd agree with the assessment of the Saints' talent. Especially Stallworth, who I was stupid enough to waste a fantasy pick on last year. Carolina's the class of this division - no way Atlanta has the same season running that they did last year.

4
by who's your daddy? (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 4:13pm

why dont the falcons cut warrick dunn and make vick a runningback?

what other team in this league would have warrick dunn as a starter? (he weighs about 180 lbs. when he's soaking wet with a brick in his pocket).

& if all QBs could scramble like Vick -who would be better, Manning or Brady?

5
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 9:17pm

Because Vick would suck as a running back.

Well, OK, that's probably not true. But he wouldn't be phenomenal. Hell, he's not that phenomenal of a running QB now - he's just "very good", though if he has another season passing like he did last year, his rushing days are extremely limited. When teams know you can't throw, they'll figure out a way to stop you from running.

I don't know why everyone fawns over Vick so much. He looks like a chicken with his head cut off in the backfield.

Oh, and Peytom Branning would totally rule.

6
by m (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 9:56pm

I think you underestimate Deuce. As a Saints fan, it's been obvious that the offensive line as a unit has declined rapidly the last few years (used to be one of the best units in the league). DVOA measures the running back + offensive line as a unit, so I'm not surprised by the low ranking.

I was happy the Saints seemed to get serious about improving their O-line this offseason, but we'll see if it translates into actual on-field improvement.

7
by Jim A (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2005 - 11:13pm

The Saints/Boggs/AFL-merger deal was also discussed in The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL by David Harris. The legislation Rozelle wanted was attached as a rider to an anti-inflation bill. There's an amusing conversation recounted between Rozelle and Boggs that occurred just minutes before the House vote. Boggs asked Rozelle if the New Orleans franchise was firm. Rozelle hedged, saying it looked good, but he couldn't make any promises until the other owners voted on it. Boggs called his bluff, telling Rozelle to go check with the owners and he'd hold up the House vote until he got back. Rozelle paused for a minute then said, "that's all right, Hale, you can count on their approval." A few minutes later the NFL had its merger exemption.

8
by Maynard (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 10:49am

(Not trying to start anything, just continuing on the Brady/Manning rushing QB theme)
Couldn't you see Peyton winning the rushing title only to lose in the playoffs when Brady converts a key third down to set up for the game winning field goal?
Then we could have the pleasure of watching Boomer Eisieson call Manning "this generation's Barry Sanders" on national TV while Sanders sits five feet away giving him dirty looks.

I miss football, does it show?

9
by Russell (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 11:21am

For my money, Boomer's labling of Dan Marino like that may have been the best NFL TV moment of the last 10 years. The look on Dan's face was priceless.

10
by gabe (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 12:14pm

Boomer's comment on Dan Marino was good tv. Not a scripted BS story pushing crap which they do every Sunday. That was pure stuff. And he was right on the money.

On Vick's abillity o throw. A great QB, and especially one that can buy time with his feet, can always find someone open. I remember a few years back when teh PATS went to SB 36 with 2 receivers who most teams considered number 3: T Brown and Patten. My point is that a good QB has the necessary vision to find someone open. And secondly it is a matter of bad coaching.....good coaching finds ways to get the ball to their receivers. In this case, the coaching staff just implemented a scheme regardless if it fits the personnel skils...

11
by Who's Your Daddy? (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 12:39pm

This Vick hype reminds me of Kordell Stewart. I can still remember being told that Kordell is the "Michael Jordan of football."
Where is he now? I can sum up Michael Vick and Stewart with one word: inconsistent. & so many people jump on these bandwagons immediately.

It was only a few days ago somebody posted on FO that Clinton Portis is the best runningback in history. Good grief. The guy had 1 good season, (his rookie year I might add), and we've got folks wanting him in the hall of fame.
It's perception vs. reality. I wonder if Curtis Martin made a lot of tv commercials and if he were more self promoting if people would finally give him the credit he deserves.

Oh well, I gotta go, I need to jump on the Jeremy Shockey bandwagon now -since Kellen Winslow screwed up again, and I already had him slotted for the Hall of Fame too.

12
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 1:15pm

I think Carolina's the only team with a winning record this season and I think everyone else is clustered around 7-9 (with the Saints the lowest.) Just crystal-gazing.

I've been wanting to say this about Vick for a long time but haven't gotten around to it. He could be one of the greats, he could change the game, he has all the raw talent and the potential and that's what makes him popular. People aren't wrapped up in what he does on the field so much as they are wrapped up in what he has the potential to be and flashes from time to time (and the highlight mentality of sports reporting and reporting in general these days helps this along since he makes two or three great plays a game.) He has what I used to call the Culpepper effect - all the talent in the world but he keeps messing up at key moments. In Vick's case, he keeps messing up all the time, key moments included. Culpepper went and got really good and I think Vick could, too. I don't think it's the receivers. It is partly, but it's more Vick. Some of the throws he makes, his receivers could never get to, even if they were Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. Culpepper got good because he keeps working his tail off. I don't see that in Vick, the fact that they baby him in Atlanta, the owner pushes his wheelchair, he has a ton of advertising contracts, and he keeps an entourage following him around. Culpepper had to work to live up to Denny Green's faith in him and his high draft billing - the fans didn't believe in him at first, and I think he just has the drive to be good and win, he said all the right things and was always second banana to an asenine, loudmouth receiver who didn't believe in the team. I don't compare these two because they're both black or because they're both running QBs, but because my jury was still out on both of them a few starting seasons in - they both showed amazing potential but lacked consistency. It took last year to give me faith in Culpepper as one of the league's top QBs, and I think Vick could get there if people stop spoon-feeding and telling him he's great in Atlanta. If everyone is telling him he's one of the best, team included, then what does he have to work towards?

And on Portis, not that he has anything to do with the NFC South, he had two great seasons and a pretty good one, not just one good one as WYD? says. I think he could be one of the greatest ever (he's averaged 1,471 rushing yards a season) and he eventually will be but shouldn't be called that yet, but as WYD? also says, I have to agree that Curtis Martin is without a doubt the greatest career running back who's still active as well as one of the greatest ever. I'm done.

13
by charles (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 2:07pm

Rant Alert

Vick's winning percentage is .68
IMO, people bash vick because he would rather run out of the pocket and make a play on his own than follow what the coaches call. So the question is should vick follow the coaches calls or should he use his natural ability. Well, i'll ask you guys that, should vick trust peerless price, dez white, and that o-line to pass block or should he try to make plays himself when the game is on the line? Would you trust price, white, and that o-line to pass block? I didn't think so. People should admire how vick plays because he is one of the best qb at making plays when the play breaks down. I know people don't think that everything the coaches call will work during a game. Maybe alot of the things atlanta coaches call don't work. I don't remember too many times last year when vick broke a long run an announcer saying that was great but he missed a wide open peerless price.

I know maybe this year vick will do like peyton manning and wave his arms like a chicken before the snap and then run so people will think he expertly figured out the defense and found the hole for him to run through. Basically what i'm saying is vick took the falcons to the playoffs twice and they lost to the best team in the nfc (eagles) playing the way he plays. There's no shame in that the eagles were the better team both times. Let the team improve around vick so he doesn't have to take as many chances and then you will see he can be a superbowl winning quarterback.

Now, the panthers can't win the divsion, why the panthers can't beat the falcons, why because mike vick shreds the panthers great defense everytime he plays them. Vick has never lost to the panthers so why would it start now, did the panthers add some new people i didn't know about. Who in that division is going to stop the falcons from running for 150+ yards on the ground when they play? Book the falcons for 11 wins again next year.

14
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 2:34pm

What does his winning % have to do with anything? The reason I bash Vick, and I won't talk for anyone else, is the throws he makes. He's not an accurate passer. I beleive it's because he's rushing his throws, and he doesn't have the proper footwork, so he can't get the accuracy he needs to be a successful QB.

15
by charles (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 3:09pm

Your making my point for me, vick is already a successful qb he doesn't need to be accurate. If accuracy makes you a successful qb and lack of accuracy doesn't then brian griese is a better qb than vick. Am i the only one who thinks vick has been a successful qb? does anyone realize he has been to as many championship games as peyton manning.

16
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 3:19pm

If a QB's success is measured by winning %, does that make Craig Krenzel one of the top QBs in the league? If it's measured by losing a championship game, does that mean Shaun King is?

17
by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 3:25pm

Great info on the Saints... especially on their founding. Fascinating, and it makes me feel a bit more for N'awlins fans (as they're just pawns in political games).

As for Blitz the League... as someone who talks with Midway, they're loving every second of the attention about QB Mexico. It's tons of free publicity for them, and Midway is not a company to shy away from a fight (keep in mind, this is the same company that releases the Mortal Kombat games - they're no strangers to courts or making money). They can go for a protracted fight, if the NFL wants one. And given that football itself is public domain and Midway can probably proclaim protection under parody, the NFL would likely lose any lawsuit brought up.

That, and the NFL knows that any lawsuit would be a publicity bonanza for Midway, and will likely just focus their efforts on promoting EA's latest claptrap. I'm just waiting to see what happens when Midway tries to buy ads during the regular season.

18
by charles (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 3:43pm

Re: 16
Yeah, krenzel kept starting until he got hurt. And king won the starting job the next year over dilfer. The bucs only got brad johson because they won less games the next year. So to answer your question yes winning percentage determines a successful qb. AJ Feeley became a starter in miami on the strength of the eagles record at the end of 2002 season. Why did Bulger replace warner, because the rams were winning games under bulger even though warner was throwing for more yards with the same completion percentage. Why didn't Tommy Maddox take roethlisberger's spot back when he was healthy?
You play to win the game. HELLO. You play to win the game

19
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 4:08pm

Charles, if AJ Feeley is a succesful QB in your ranking system, then I can't argue with Michael Vick being one.

20
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 4:14pm

Re: 17

How much attention is the Mexico thing really getting? Sure die-hards like the folks here are aware, but I haven't seen anything mainstream. I'll bet the average fan has already forgotten the 'Mexico' episode (if he ever heard about it in the first place).

Best of luck to the folks at Midway though. I'm not a fan of the NFL's 'exclusive' deals.

21
by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 4:14pm

Re: #6, the Saints are ranked 3rd, 4th and 5th in "10+ yards" in the last 3 years, so you could be right that the OL is the problem not Deuce.

22
by Who's Your Daddy? (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 4:23pm

Hey Charles - are you quoting Herman Edwards?

I don't mean to "bash Vick", I am just trying to make the point that some of these guys need to accomplish things before they are categorized as superstars, and future hall of famers, etc.

And sure, Vick has played in playoff games, let's give credit where it is due -but you're not going to convince me that they led a very strong division. If Vick was in the AFC East - (or in the AFC, period) well, I have a feeling his production might not be the same.

Just win baby!

23
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 4:29pm

That's been Duce's reputation though, right? He gets stuffed at the line alot and then breaks out for big yardage plays. I don't know how much of that is the line's fault, but considering how often Aaron Brooks is running for his life, I'd guess a considrable portion. Either way, I don't see the Aints' fortunes changing anytime soon.

24
by Johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 5:14pm

Using that QB logic the Dolphins were fools for drafting Dan Marino when they were already winning with David Woodley. You may play to win games but that doesn't mean every player on the winning team was an equal contributor to the wins.

25
by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 5:14pm

Well, mawbrew, I get to see the issue about video game football from two angles: that of a pigskin fan and that of a member of the video game industry (although admittedly not a prominent one).

For sports fans, I think most know of it by now. It has been mentioned a few times on the big sites (CNNSI, ESPN), and certainly was fodder for quite a few jokes on talk radio. Most sports fans, who are the primary audience for the game, are at least aware of the move.

As for video game fans, the story has been getting some attention. Most of the big sites and blogs about video games have picked up on the Mexico QB story, and many video gamers are running with it - EA of late has gotten a very negative reputation amongst video gamers and quite a few are looking to celebrate any attempt to take them down a peg.

If the NFL is smart, they'll sit on their hands and just deal with people cracking Ron Mexico jokes for a few days in October, when Blitz the League finally comes out.

26
by db (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 5:27pm

Lets recap for those not keeping track at home:

Vick is 22-9 as a starter ever since his rookie season.

Atlanta made the playoffs in 02 when vick was healthy, got spanked all season long in 03 when vick got hurt(5 wins total, and vick went 3-1 when he started the last 4 games), then vick comes back with the same taem the next year and they win 11 games and get into the playoffs again.

In 02 he became the first QB ever to win a game in the playoffs at Lambeau field, effectively destroying the Lambeau mystique in the process.

Then crushed the Rams in the playoffs last season, not that thats an acomplishment, but it happened.

And both times he lost it was going on the road to the best team in the Conference with the best D possibly and losing.

Yet there is something very wrong with Micheal Vick?

Not only that, but this is happening with those crappy WR and all the other excuses being made for him.

Compare that to Culpepper, much better according to Basilicus.

Culpepper has a .500 winning percent for his career.

the most wins he has had in a season since his first year starting is 8.

In 03 when minnesota did win 9 games, they started 6-0 and it took a colossal choke from culpepper just to stay out of the playoffs.

AND....culpepper has had the greatest WR in the game on his team the whole time, HOF chris carter when he was actually doing good and a good oline and great running game the majority of the time.

So my point is, if you look at the actual facts, instead of those phony facts then you see who the better player is.

also, culpeppers make or break year is this year, he had moss carrying him all those other years, now he has to do it alone, i dont think he can do it.

27
by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 5:31pm

I remember another running QB that came into the league a long time ago. He was a big, strong QB who had no fear when he ran. He was the 2nd leading rusher on his team a couple of times, if I recall correctly. He was often described as having a canon for an arm but had problems early in his career reading defenses and it took him a couple of years to learn that he didn't have to throw bullets to guys in the flat. Heck, the guy lined up under the guard a time or two in his first couple of years.

As his career progressed, he learned that he didn't have to run all the time and could put a little touch on balls to his short receivers. He was regularly listed in the list of top 5 QBs in his day. He retired after winning back to back Super Bowls and five years later, John Elway was a first ballot HOFer.

I see Vick the same way as I saw Elway. He's young and given enough time (and effort on Vick's part) he might be able to get his feet under control and figure out how to throw an accurate pass. Until then though, he's just another extremely gifted athlete in a league of gifted athletes.

In some ways the Vick and Kordell Stewart comparisons are interesting. I remember hearing many people talk about how the Steelers took a gifted WR and turned him into a mediocre QB. Perhaps it's the same with Vick.

Then again maybe next year he'll be on pace to break every record that guy in Indy set only to have his season cut short by a dibilitating syphilis outbreak.

28
by Russell (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 5:46pm

Apparantly, Vick is aware of this debate. Click my name for a look at the cover of the latest issue of SI.

29
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 6:01pm

db: If you think wins are the only way to measure a QB's performance and all other stats are phony, you need to find a website that's more suited to people of your mental capacity.

30
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 6:04pm

nice link Russel. good points db.

31
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 6:05pm

Okay, I apologize for my last statement, what I should say is if wins are your only way to measure a QB, then you must be the president of Trent Dilfer fan club.

32
by m (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 6:16pm

Deuce's reputation of getting stuffed at the line often is because he rarely has any holes to run through. If you watched the Saints games last year you would see defenses routinely breaking down the Saints bocking schemes.

Runs up the middle routinely ended up with all 5 blockers getting collapsed in a scrum right behind the line of scrimmage. Runs around the end would be strung out with no hole along side. Yes, this sort of thing happens to all running backs with regularity, but it happened much more often with the Saints last year (and it had been steadily increasing over the last few years).

I think if you watched Saints games closely, you'd come to believe that most starting NFL backs would get stuffed at the line even more often than Deuce has. His reputation is hurt because people look at running statistics without thinking hard about what contributes to those numbers.

All running statistics are heavily influenced by the quality of blocking the runner receives and the quality of run defense he opposes. DVOA is a big step forward in that it attempts to remove the factor of the opposing defense, but it can do nothing to quantify the quality of blocking.

In the future, I suppose, we'll have a committee of people making Dr. Z-like game charts assigning some kind of quantitative numbers to help untangle these factors. For now, though, we all need to be a bit more cautious in taking individual DVOA numbers as the final word of how any player ranks in the league.

On the other hand, DVOA may be the 'final word' in comparing one team's offense to another's, or in comparing two running backs who have a statistically significant number of carries for the same team (with the same set of o-linemen + quarterback).

33
by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2005 - 10:16pm

According to FO's stats, Vick was an excellent QB in 2002 -- very efficient passing and very effective running. But he was terrible in 2004. Terr-i-ble.

Yes, Atlanta won more games in 2004 than the previous year, but you have to look beyond the wins to see WHY Atlanta improved so much. The main reasons are the defense and special teams. Offensively, the team wasn't much more effective than when Doug Johnson was the QB.

That said, Vick is still young and he has time to put it all together. As mentioned, it takes time for QBs that rely so much on their athleticism to harness their game and bring it under control. So although I wouldn't list him as one of the top QB's right now, in a year or 2 he might be scary. Or not. We'll have to see.

34
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 12:01am

Id just like to add that whenever I've heard Vick in interviews he's always sounded very mature and focused. The only demeanor that I've gotten from him is a hard-working one, and it seems fair to say that Mora has been very successful in his coaching career, so I trust that Vick's game will improve.

35
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 3:04am

Before I argue against him, I'd like to reiterate my stance: Vick has the potential to be great but his inconsistency makes him in my eyes merely a decent QB, not in the top 10 by any stretch, but with the potential to be the best ever.

But by the winning logic, Indy should dump Peyton Manning and trade a second to the Jets for Jay Fiedler.

Jay Fiedler's career winning percentage in games he's played in: .643. Peyton Manning's: .589. Yes, Fiedler is apparently better than Manning. Whoda thunk? Really, we should ban silly Manning/Brady debates. It should be Manning/Kramer and Brady/Fiedler.

Also on the 2003 dip in the Falcons record: does anyone think their defensive collapse has anything to do with it? You know, going from 8th in the league in defense in 2002 in points allowed to 30th in 2003 back down to 14th in 2004. Or 29th in rushing defense in 2003 to 9th in 2004. Or dead last in pass defense in 2003 to 22nd in 2004. I must have missed Mike Vick's defensive stats on pro-football-reference. Anyone have a link to them?

36
by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 10:17am

not that this is really on topic, but a few people were talking about video game football...

I just want to make sure that everyone realizes that the NFL decided to sell exclusive Video Game rights to the highest bidder. So EA absolutely had to buy them, at whatever price, or else bury one of the biggest video game franchises of all time.

So, does it suck that EA has sole rights to make NFL video games?
Yes.

But the NFL is more the cause of this than EA is.

37
by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 10:34am

Well, not all of us are really all that into Mike Vick, the player. We have to talk about something.

Zip, you're not that familiar with how Electronic Arts operates, I see. EA pursued the exclusivity deal with the NFL, not the other way around. They've done it with all of the leagues, in fact. It was quite notable in video game circles when the NBA turned EA down for a similar deal.

EA has rightfully earned a reputation as a substandard developer that tries to use brand names and market clout to overwhelm competitors. They're also aggressive in their attempts to expand their business, and they've been caught trying at least one hostile takeover (of UbiSoft). They also are being investigated for unfair labor practices.

I'm not saying that the NFL is blameless, but EA is the primary bad guy in this one.

38
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 11:06am

Vick in '04 wasn't as bad as Doug Johnson in '03. If you combine his passing and rushing value, he was mediocre, around Josh McCown or Jeff Garcia levels.

39
by charles (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 11:17am

Patrick Kerney said in an interview that the reason for the defensive improvement was because the team had the lead more during games as opposed to 2003. I can't argue that vick has good passing stats especially last year, but people have to realize that the falcons players play harder when vick starts. Unfortunately there is no stat for effort.

40
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 11:22am

Of course, a big part of Atlanta's defensive improvements might be that they hired Green Bay's defensive coordinator.

41
by Had to do it ! (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 11:30am

...who could make a better video game... Tom Brady or Payton Manning?

42
by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 11:31am

Vick was better than Johnson (what an endorsement!), but the Falcons were 26th in offensive DVOA in 2003 and 24th in offensive DVOA in 2004. A modest improvement.

43
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 11:32am

Is not Will Witherspoon a UFA at the end of the season for the Panthers as well. If I was the Panthers I would make him a priority over Morgan.

And I always compared Vick to Elway as well. Hell they both were coached by the same guy when they first came to the league.

44
by posy (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 11:39am

Wasn't Boomer just the pot calling the kettle black? Last time I checked Boomer had the same winning percentage in Superbowls as Marino did. And at least Dan didn't ever have to play for the Cardinals.

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 3:01pm

Of course, a big part of Atlanta’s defensive improvements might be that they hired Green Bay’s defensive coordinator.

Yah. What's amazing is that he got the same results. Great performance for most of the year, yet falls apart in the playoffs against the Eagles.

(rimshot)

46
by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 3:04pm

Re #37:

You obviously know more about this than I do, I was just repeating something I'd heard in the context of the "EA is evil for locking up NFL rights" debate.

If EA proposed the exclusive rights deal, then that's just another feather in their evil cap.

Just out of curiousity, do you have links talking about how they pursued the deal? Everything I found on google seemed to ignore who initiated the deal.

47
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 06/30/2005 - 3:17pm

Pat, what's amazing about doing the same thing twice? It would be more unexpected if the Falcons got different results.

48
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 07/02/2005 - 1:37pm

B:

Beat a joke to death, will you? :)

49
by grl (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 2:36am

Somebody compared Vick to Kordell Stewart in his early days. I don't think you can do this. Their arm strength and accuracy are comparable (Vick may have the edge on arm strength, but Stewart's last second heave against Michigan was pretty impressive). Vick is far more elusive, much quicker, and much faster. If Vick can learn to make better decisions and improve his accuracy (both big ifs I'll admit), he'll be uncanny. If he can't, the years will start taking their toll on him, he'll slow down and eventually he'll fade away.

When I think of Vick, I can't help but think of the second Carolina game last season. Everybody on the field knew he wanted to run on the last play, and somehow he got in anway, by diving like six yards, the last three with his entire body inches from the ground. Amazing. By the way, that game was incredible. The most entertaining game I watched last year. Jake Delhomme rules too. Someone on these boards called him extremely underrated, and I agree. Speaking of sick athletes, how about Julius Peppers...

50
by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 07/20/2005 - 7:02pm

Re #27:
I do not think you can compare Vick to Elway. When you look up the 3rd year stats of each at pro-football-reference.com, the two do appear to be similar numericaly... but the numbers are deceiving. You have to compare the numbers with other quarterbacks of that same year. When you do that, you see that in Elway's 3rd year, he was No. 1 in pass attempts, No. 2 in completions, No. 2 in passing yards and tied for 7 in passing TD's. If you look at Vick's 4th season (his first season was only 8 games and his third season was only 5 games), about the only catagory he might be listed in the top 10 in is rushing and sacks.

That is not to say that I do not think highly of Vick because I do. I just don't think Vick can be compared to Elway.

And also, going on the past, it would not be surprising to see Vick sidelined with another injury this season. Just a guess.

51
by Nev (not verified) :: Wed, 08/17/2005 - 9:11pm

as a panthers fan i'm looking forward to seeing a finally fully fit d with the additions of lucas and davis flushing vick out the pocket on every other snap and peppers chasing him down and leaving him in a crumpled mess. vick is not as good as everyone says he is, i predict a losing season for the falcons and people to finally realise that if u'r passing is inconsistent and inaccurate you're plain and simple not that great a qb....