Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Sep 2005

Don Banks: Better off without Vick?

I post this not because anyone really cares who Don Banks thinks is going to win on Sunday, but because I was intrigued by this comment about the Falcons-Bills matchup:

I know it's heresy and I'll be excommunicated for suggesting it, but if the Falcons have to play Matt Schaub for the injured Michael Vick, they will improve offensively. Atlanta will be more balanced and feature a more potent passing game without Vick and his one-of-a-kind rushing threat. Remember, folks. You heard it here first.

Welcome to the club, Don. We at Football Outsiders have been saying for quite some time that Vick's passing game is seriously flawed. Just take a look at his passing DVOA from last season. That doesn't mean Matt Schaub is any better -- Schaub is Mr. August and has yet to prove himself in the regular season -- but it is nice to see that the idea that Vick isn't all he's cracked up to be is starting to catch on.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 24 Sep 2005

17 comments, Last at 26 Sep 2005, 10:23am by JonL


by Nick (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 12:25pm

What I've always found interesting is that per dropback these mobile QB's tend to take more sacks that the clasic dropback guys. Vick seems to go down whenever touched behind the line, I guess he thinks speed counters any need for pocket presence.

by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 12:26pm

The Falcons led the league in rushing last year despite getting absolutely no respect for their passing game. But Vick was responsible for a lot of those rushing yards, so the question is: Would Schaub's passing yards replace Vick's rushing yards? And, if so, will that make Dunn and Duckett more effective?

by Aaron (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 12:42pm

I would rather have a healthy Vick than a healthy Schaub, because his ability to run does have a lot of value, and it also changes defensive strategy. But if Vick's hamstring is going to limit his speed and agility, there really is no difference between Vick and Schaub. In fact, Schaub might be better because an unhealthy Vick who is trying to make things happen with his subpar legs is going to get sacked a lot and make some terrible decisions.

by Jason Isom (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 2:31pm

Everybody jumps on how good matt schaub is because he torches vanilla defenses in the preseason a prime example is Daunte Culpepper he looked like a God during the preseason but when the real defenses come out he looks like a scrub. If Matt Schaub had started for the past 4 years like michael vick he would be 10x the quarterback Vick is. I use to be a vick lover but the eagles game and seahawks game opened my eyes: This guy has no clue how to play QB. Culpepper and McNabb and Aaron Brooks and Steve Young all learned that you have to throw to be sucessful poor vick just won't realize it. Marcus Vick IMO looks like he gets it. His game high for rushing yards is only 43, we know he could run for a 100 yards a game, but he truly has the desire to be a QB unlike his brother.

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 3:30pm

Tomorrow is supposed to be rain/thunderstorm with winds 10-20 mph. In Buffalo we call this 'fall'. So there might not be much passing anyway.

I'm interested to see how the Bills run defense plays against such a heralded run offense in light of last week's beat-down supplied by Cadillac Williams.

It will be fun watching a dome team's special teams play in the Orchard Park wind as well.

by Steve (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 7:22pm

I agree that Vick is the most overrated QB in the NFL today. His footwork is horrible and it leads to a lot of bad throws. He has no pocket presence and can't read a defense to save his life. But the falcons without Mike Vick simply can't compete. When he went out for the 2003 season, Atlanta was one of the worst teams in the NFL. When he was healthy last year, they went to the NFC championship game. Even with the NFC being as weak as it was last year that turnaround is mostly because of Vick's presence.

by J (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 8:06pm


With all do respect, how can he be overrated, but be the key to his teams success?

Stats are normally a good indication as to what is going on (esp. DVOA), but not always. See the 2001-2002 NE Patriots, 2003-2004 Carolina Panthers, and Michael Vick.

He is not a great passer, but he finds a way to win. Atlanta with Vick is far better than without him...not just during the 2003 season.

Also, his WRs aren't exactly that great. Not saying Vick does not throw some bad balls, but having a good receiver certainly helps.

Is he the best QB in the game? No, but he does win. It is tough to argue with the results.

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 8:08pm

The Falcons offense didn't improve that much from '03 to '04. There was far more improvement, in terms of overall ranking, on the defense and special teams.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 8:29pm

I'd be very interested to see Schaub play, because I agree that the Falcons aren't a great passing team, but I'm not yet prepared to accept that this is all on Vick (but would re-think this if Schaub torches a good Buffalo D) In the first two games this season, Vick has taken sacks when he's been in the pocket, not when he's been scrambling. This has to be put down to poor pass protection (3 of 4 sacks by Philly were by defensive backs who blitzed completely free and got to Vick before he'd even finished his dropback.) Also, the receivers don't appear to be great yet, as evidenced by Michael Jenkins letting a long ball go right through his hands against Seattle.
Anyway, a comparison of the Falcons passing game with Vick versus with Schaub in a meaningful regular season game would be interesting.
A final thought: if we buy that the Falcons would actually be better off with Schaub, then are we saying Jim Mora is clueless as a head coach?

by Jay B. (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 9:20pm

Ryan Mc #9: even if the Falcons O is better off with Schaub, there is a huge economic incentive to play Vick -- he's one of the most popular players in the league, and draws fans like crazy. So, Mora might not be clueless. He might be under directive from above.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 9:44pm

Everyone trots out the "Falcons won with Vick and lost without him, so he's teh best!!1!" You can't just say that. Look at his replacements - Doug Johnson and Kurt Kittner - that's a huge difference. You're not comparing the Falcons without Vick to the Falcons with a league average QB, you're comparing them to the QBs they had on the roster in '03 who were incredibly bad. I don't think that's a good way to look at it. So they won a lot of games last year and Vick wasn't horrible - what if the Falcons had a bettter backup?

We can't tell, but I think it's a fallacy to just say the Falcons without Vick suck and the Falcons with him win, there are more variables to consider. At least say the Falcons with Doug Johnson suck and the Falcons with Vick win.

by J (not verified) :: Sat, 09/24/2005 - 11:05pm


Due to revenue sharing, there is not much benefit for a team in playing a player due to popularity. It benefits the NFL, but most of the revenue he generates is divided by 32...all teams get an equal share. Maybe when you said "under directive from above" you were talking about the NFL; not the Falcons management.


I agree his backups were not great, and he is not the best.

He does have an X factor that changes oppositions defensive schemes, which opens the field for his other offensive players.

I suppose an argument can be made both ways, with no real way of knowing.

IMO, he is not overrated. He is not the best QB...see Manning and Brady. I do not know many people who would say Vick is the best QB. He is good in a unique way.

by peterB (not verified) :: Sun, 09/25/2005 - 3:03pm

re #7
With all do respect, how can he be overrated, but be the key to his teams success?

Just want to point out that saying Vick is overrated does not mean that one thinks that Vick is a bad QB. Heck, one could think that Vick is a very good QB and, given some of the press he gets, Vick would still be overrated.

Just sayin'

by Rich (not verified) :: Sun, 09/25/2005 - 9:17pm

re #12.

Only revenue from certain things is shared. Luxury boxes are not, so there is BIG incentive on bringing people in. There is also the merchandise thing. Who do you think sells more jerseys?

by George (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 1:24am

Does FO have articles on total plays or real time of poessession. The longer the offence is on the field, the better the defence will play. I don't think it's a coincidence Atlanta plays so well with Vick. Coincidentally, did the Colts and their hurry up offence have a hand in the team's poor defence? Atlanta was probably eating as much real time in one series as the Colts did in two last year despite having an anemic passing game.

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 4:37am


There are drive stats listed under 'Just the Stats' but they do not contain time of possession. I think the closest you are going to get is looking at the game stats on nfl.com where they have drive charts. Here is the link to the Falcons at Bills game;


by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 09/26/2005 - 10:23am

On a somewhat related note, Marcus Vick looked really good on Saturday. He seems to be better in the pocket than his brother, although people have been saying that for three years.