Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Sep 2005

Vick Must Think Pass First

Skip Bayless offers Michael Vick some advice on how to get to the Hall of Fame, which is kind of like me offering Brad Pitt some advice on how to land Angelina Jolie.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 07 Sep 2005

58 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2005, 9:06pm by Larry


by DJ Any Reason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:33pm

I'd say its more like you advising Brad Pitt on how to land a threesome with Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston, but your point is still clear

by andro (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:07pm

does skip bayless choose not to use his brain, or is it not there at all?

by Erik (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:08pm

Bayless' advice to Vick to look for a throw before he runs seems like just the kind of fresh, out of the box, idea that may have a real impact on how Vick plays this year.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:11pm

Another running QB's can't win article.

But Young rushed for 293 yards and 7 TD's in 1994 when he was supposedly busy becoming a pocket passer. He had exactly 11 fewer scrambling runs and 10 more passes in 1994 than in 1993 over the course of 16 games, resulting in 168 yards less offense.

In the playoffs he actually rushed more against Dallas in 1994 than in 1993 or 1992 (10 attempts versus 7 and 8 respectively). He rushed for 2 TD's in the first 2 playoff games while throwing only three.

The major difference was 0 interceptions versus Dallas in 1994, versus 1 in 1993 and 2 in 1992.

Young continued to scramble about his whole career, his biggest rushing year being his last in 1998 - 70 attempts, 454 yards, 6 TD's with another 9 attempts, 35 yards and 2 TD's in the playoffs.

Skippy Boy then compounds the error by bringing in Elway. Elway continued to scramble about every year at the end of his career just as much as he did at the beginning. He always each season had 35-55 scrambles for 100-300 yards and 1-6 TD's from beginning to end of career - he never let up. One of the most famous Elway Superbowl moments is him rushing for a TD against Green Bay (a game he won by throwing no TD passes).

The anti-rushing QB crowd simply does not know what they are talking about when they bring up these examples. It must really sadden them that Marino, Kelly, Bledsoe, Green, and Manning, all impressive pocket QB's, have managed such an unimpressive Superbowl record.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:17pm

Vick doesn't need to throw more, he needs to throw better. I noticed last year that his footwork is all wrong, and his feet arn't right when he throws the ball. I theorized it's because he takes too long to go through his progressions and ends up hurrying the pass. Either he needs to make quicker descisions, or they need to adjust the offense to have fewer receiver progressions on each play.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:18pm

re #4: great comments. Here's another one on Elway: in his first Superbowl win he had a below-average passing day and Terrel Davis was clearly the star.
But, Elway made three key runs in that game which made a huge difference. He set up the first Broncos TD by scrambling for a first and goal, scored the second TD on 3rd and goal on a run, and , of course, picked up a first down in the third quarter to keep alive a TD drive with that memorable dive-and-spin play. If Dan Marino was your QB, I guarantee at least one of those drives ends in a FG instead of a TD.
For the record, yes I agree Vick would be a more dangerous player if his passing was better, but give the guy some time and let him make plays with his legs in the meantime.

by Adam H (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:31pm

Yuck! Didn't realize who wrote this article before I clicked. Now I have Skippy Poo's web cooties. Must go shower.

by sippican (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:44pm

He could have stopped typing after "Vick must think."

He's a punt returner playing quarterback. It's amusing to see people saying that having Vick on the field is like an extra man. The modern game is moving away from fullbacks because they can't often afford to use two men in the running backfield. Atlanta decides to try three in the running backfield and no quarterback. That's what Vick amounts to.

If he could throw, and run like that, he'd be the greatest player that ever lived. He can't throw. He's unlikely to ever learn, because the scampering made him a star.

Teams win superbowls all the time with plodding but efficient quarterbacks. The Ravens did. The Bucs did. They distributed the ball and didn't blow it.

Belichick was on the radio the other day, and offered insight into what he's looking for in a running back. Since Vick so far amounts to a direct snap to a halfback, it applies here. He said to win, the back has to understand that improvisation yields big gains occasionally, but in general, broken plays lose games. The example he used was 2nd and two. If you hit the hole, but the play fails, it's 3rd and 2. 3rd and 2 he can deal with. If you bail because you see a problem, you might reverse field and run for twenty yards, but most of the time it's 3rd and 7, or 10, or 14 because you bailed. The highlight reel doesn't win games.

Vick wins the highlight reel. Quarterbacks that hand the balls to runners, throw the passes to receivers accurately, and run only because the opposing team must cover the receivers and RBs win.

Highlight reels and fantasy stats don't win football games.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:56pm

Re: #4

The rushing QB's can't win theory is something I've thought about for a long time.

The best I can think of is the Run-First QB's have a tough time winning. I don't think Young or Elway were run-first QB's. They ran when all else failed.

For every "running" QB that has won a Super Bowl, I can probably name 10 "statues" that won Super Bowls. Kurt Warner, Troy Aikman, Mark Rypien, etc.

Anyway, I suspect that the reason has to do with the overall mindset of the offense. If the receivers know their QB is going to run at the first sign of trouble, maybe they don't make the extra effort to get open.

by PerlStalker (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 2:39pm

That's the real distiction. Not running vs. passing QBs but run-first vs. pass-first QBs. Young and older Elway are great examples of "running" QBs the didn't run just because they could but looked for the pass first. Vick and young Elway are in the second mold. They often would see that their first or second guy was coverred and take off even though they had plenty of time to check down (and still run if they wanted).

The difference I see between Vick and Elway is that Elway was generally pretty accurate. He didn't have a lot of touch early in his career often firing bullets to RBs in the flat which they didn't have the hands to hold on to. (Anyone rememer the "Elway Cross"? It was the impression of the ball he would often leave on his receivers.) Elway improved with time to become a pretty good QB. Vick, OTOH, doesn't have the accuracy yet. That takes a long time to develop. If he keeps getting hurt, though, he may never develop it.

by Racist (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 3:04pm

those "athletic, running" QBs won't ever do as well as those smart, well mannered traditional QBs

by benjy (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 3:20pm

Dear lord, will everyone just stop telling Mr. Mexico what kind of QB he "should" be? Please? Pretty please?

Vick is a unique talent and does what he does unlike anyone else. Maybe the "what he does" doesn't match your impression of what a QB should do, but that doesn't make it any less impressive or effective. Barry Sanders didn't fit the 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mold, but I hear he was a pretty decent runner. That's the biggest problem with the Falcons running the WCO passing game...Vick's not a WCO QB. Bring back the Run 'n' Shoot, baby!

One thing that DVOA doesn't take into account is a player's effect on his fans and the rest of his team...that wacky "intangibles" thing that stat-dorks cringe at. Vick makes the game exciting, making the fans excited, which pumps the rest of the team up. You can't measure that objectively.

Vick single-handedly made Atlanta football exciting again. In '98, 90% of Atlantans couldn't name more than 2 Falcons: Jamal Anderson and Jesse Tuggle. Now, the team is part of the city in a way that the Braves only wish they could be.

Does he need to learn to pass better? Absolutely. That would make him unstoppable. Similarly, if Manning learned how to scramble effectively, imagine how much better he'd be...but no one's whining about that. Maybe I've been breathing the smoggy air too long, but come on, people! Run, Michael, Run!

by jeff (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 3:42pm

"Highlight reels and fantasy stats don’t win football games."

True, but Michael Vick does (win football games that is).

by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:24pm

What I never understand with these articles and the comments is that they never make the direct comparison of Vick with the man most similar to him - Randall Cunningham.

Buddy Ryan unfortauntely never attempted to seriously coach Cunningham, and so wasted his talent by simply not harnessing it. He counted on winning by Cunnignham making 3 or 4 big plays, and the defense smothering the opponent. Jim Mora appears to be doing the same thing in Atlanta, tryign to foist the WCO on him while limiting his coaching to "go to it Mike". Vick doesn't need to be turned into a pocket passer to win (he already wins just like he is). He needs to have an offense tailored to his strengths and removing his weaknesses which will allow him to take his winning to the next level - winning in the playoffs.

The article notes his proclivity to throw to Alge Crumpler. Fine, why not get him another Tight End like Alge to throw too, instead of continuing to draft Wideouts? Philadelphia did well with Chad Lewis and LJ Smith playing at the same time - two big throwing targets and two good blockers for running as well. The article notes his proclivity to not look for his wideouts - well, maybe he needs speedy wideouts like Santana Moss or Todd Pinkston who aren't expected to produce much but who can zip downfield for simple quick long plays. Why complicate Vick's game with shortouts and crossing patterns and multiple checkdowns and long developing WCO plays and the like when that is clearly not his talent or strength?

As an aside, I wonder if Vick could punt like Randall could (BOOM - 91 yards down the field!)

by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:27pm

How many rings does Barry have? Oh yeah, ZERO. As exciting as he was to watch, The runs where Barry danced around for 30 seconds and then lost yardage hurt his team. Duece McAllister, anyone?

As a non-Lions fan living in SE Michigan, I loved watching Barry run. What he could do was phenomenal. However, I know some Lion fans that would have gladly traded him. They felt that his inconsistencies were holding the team back.

I always felt that it was the Lions were held back by the inconsistencies of their QBs. . .

and coaches. . .

and front office

Two schools of thought on coaching:

1. Make the players fit the system
2. Make the system fit the players.

Many teams have been successful with option 1. I agree with Benjy that it may be time for the Falcons to pursue option 2.

by Fiver (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:29pm

" Barry Sanders didn’t fit the 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mold, but I hear he was a pretty decent runner. "

Yeah, but how many Super Bowls did Barry help his team win? How many playoff games did he help his team win?

There's a school of thought (espoused here at FO by those silly "stat-geeks") that Barry was partly responsible for the Lions overall lack of success during his time there. But how could that be, you ask? Well, a little statistical modeling will tell you that if your RB runs for 2 or fewer yards a lot of the time because he is always improvising and looking for the homerun (see Sanders, Barry), then your team will have lots of 3-and-outs, have trouble grinding clock when holding a lead, and have a tired defense that is constantly on the field. Meanwhile, a Running Back who reliably runs for 4 yards every down is more likely to help his team to victory.

So, yeah Barry was a spectacular individual performer, but his style was apparently not conducive to winning football games. Which is exactly what people are saying about Vick.

by marc (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:40pm

Barry Sanders wasn't ever on a single team worth a shit. His presence was the only reason those Lions teams won anything.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:50pm

There are more ways to measure greatness than winning, but that's really what it finally comes down to. Some serious questions must be asked with regards to Vick:

1) Can he lead a team to victory?
Well, he can lead to victories, certainly. But can a player of his mold beat the best defenses? Throughout his carreer, great defenses haven't seemed to have much trouble with Vick. Both the blitzing style of Philly last year and the more traditional two deep style of Tampa some years back both were able to limit his effectiveness, basically both turning Vick into a pocket passer. With most QBs, if you turn them into runningbacks, they lose. With Vick it is the opposite.

2) Can you tailor an offense to win with Vick at the helm?

IMHO, you cannot with today's athletes. If we were running the wishbone against teams with slow linebackers, Vick would be totally unstoppable. But nowadays, linemen can run sub 5.0 40s, and linebackers are very very fast. Vick cannot turn the corner consistently on designed running plays, which leads him to have to be able to throw the ball. Vick is not a good passer by any stretch. Of course, McNabb also used to be a poor passer, and has evolved into a top 3 QB by learning. If Vick does not learn to throw the ball, he will never beat the best defenses.

3) Is the problem just the wideouts? Maybe, but then again maybe not. All we can do is speculate at this point, but Peerless Price used to be thought of as a good WR, and now is considered a dog. I'm not saying he wasn't overrated before, but Vick certainly didn't make him look good.

4) What is Vick's future? All I can say is that unless he learns to throw the ball, he's doomed to be like his nickname, "The Freak." Freaks are interesting and amusing, but rarely are they seen as anything but an oddity.

One thought: I believe that the games McNabb spent watching quarterbacks of lesser talent winning with his offense a few years ago while his foot was healing helped to mature him from a scrambler into a thrower. When Vick went down, he saw his team lose and lose some more. Could it be that made him convinced that his scrambling style of play was the only way to succeede?

by benjy (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:53pm

RE: Barry
There's a reason they're called Football Teams, not Football Collections-of-Players. This isn't basketball, folks. How many rings does Marino have? Manning? Fouts? Kelly? And they had fantastic teams behind them. Payton only got his when Da Bears had the best defense in football. One man does not a team make. Um...Dilfer?

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:00pm

If your quarterback ranks below most of the other starting QBs (and some of the backups) in the league, those "intangibles" aren't going to make up the difference. Vick puts fans in the seats, which makes Mr. Blank happy, but his inability to throw the ball to his receivers is a serious problem.

The value of the top 15 or so quarterbacks is considerably greater than the value of the top 15 or so RBs or WRs. When your QB's passing game is as non-productive as Vick's, his running game simply can't make up the difference. Even a top-10 DPAR for his running doesn't put him in the top half of the league in terms of DPAR. Contrast that with McNabb, who runs well (and whose running DVOA was considerably higher than Vick's) but who also has passing ability (and TO).

So football is exciting again in Atlanta? Good for them. That's what we got out of Barry. Unfortunately, that's about all we got out of him. One NFC Championship appearance, a few one-and-outs, and several sub-.500 seasons. And that was at a less important position than QB. If that's what Atlanta wants, I'm glad to hear it ... and I'll be expecting to see it on Thanksgiving this year, just like it happened last year.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:10pm

He needs to have an offense tailored to his strengths and removing his weaknesses which will allow him to take his winning to the next level - winning in the playoffs.

Fundamentally, though, a running quarterback is just more prone to injury - but perhaps more fundamentally, is more prone to aging. If the Falcons keep using him like this, in a high-school offense, I doubt he'll see the mid-30s as a QB in the NFL.

Now, one thing I'd agree with you is get another good receiving tight end, but get small and fast wideouts. Abandon the deep passing game, which is a shame, because Vick's got a good arm, and just do a few play-action short tosses to the wideout. You can't abandon the wide receivers - otherwise they'll just let corners go one-on-one and stuff the middle of the field.

by Theo (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:13pm

A park of statues is more fun when one decides to walk...

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:16pm

Of course, McNabb also used to be a poor passer, and has evolved into a top 3 QB by learning.

Ah ha - here's the interesting comment of the day!

Ask yourself this question. How well can you throw a pass to a receiver who's 5 yards away? What about 10 yards? What about 15 yards? 30? 50? A QB's accuracy has to go down with distance, for physics reasons - smaller margin for error in deep passes.

So now the question is: did McNabb get more accurate, or did he start throwing shorter passes, which require less accuracy?

Answer: Seems like it's #2. There was someone here who had a study on this based on the Stats Inc. stuff, but I can't remember who. So McNabb's still an inaccurate passer, but the playcalling - or his decision making, or recognition of his own skills - changed.

And that's likely the problem for Mr. Mexico. KC Joyner's book ranked Vick worst (I believe) in decision making among all QBs. So it's not that Vick's a bad passer, but he doesn't know where he accurately can throw to. Given that Vick passed pretty well in 2002, this makes a lot of sense.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:19pm

Well, if James Thrash is 5 yards away and TO is 30, I bet throwing the ball to the reciver 30 yards away is easier.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:22pm

Oh, I heard this quote on Car Talk last week, attributed to Ted Williams "If you don't think too good, don't think too much." Replace think with throw, and maybe throwing the ball more isn't the right solution for Vick.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:20pm

"Answer: Seems like it’s #2. There was someone here who had a study on this based on the Stats Inc. stuff, but I can’t remember who. So McNabb’s still an inaccurate passer, but the playcalling - or his decision making, or recognition of his own skills - changed."

So, McNabb isn't a better QB, he just makes better decisions? Ummmmm, ok. Whatever that is supposed to mean.

I think all QBs are better with short routes than long ones. McNabb can wing it out there with the best of them (take his bomb to Ownes in the preseason this year), but my whole point is that he's a much better decision maker than Vick, primarily because he's worked at it. I know Vick has a strong arm, but how many bombs did he connect on last year?

Look at the stats. Last year McNabb had a rating of 104.7, while missing Owens much of the year. Throw in his inarguable scrambling ability, and I don't care if you think he can't throw the ball accurrately more than 5 inches, that there is a good quarterback.

So, it's not that Vick's a bad passer, he just doesn't make good passes? What kind of tortured logic is that? I suppose that Peyton isn't that good of a QB, inasmuch as Vick can throw the ball farther than he can. Peyton only makes better decisions on where to throw the ball, that's the only thing keeping Vick from getting his due as a better QB than Manning, all right?

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:25pm

Okay, ignoring the problems with the NFL passer rating, since when is one game "much of the season?"

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:28pm

I wonder how Vick would perform in the "West Coast"/Bill Walsh offense. Because his problem is most likely making reads/abandoning those reads too quickly, it seems to me that he needs to be in an offense based on quicker decisions. If that means more passes to Crumpler or Dunn or whomever, that's fine. Just because he has a great arm doesn't mean you have to use it all the time.

by zach (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:46pm

So now the question is: did McNabb get more accurate, or did he start throwing shorter passes, which require less accuracy?

Answer: Seems like it’s #2.

not at all. the eagles' passing game has always been a short one, because, of course, the eagles offense is built around the short pass. given their unremarkable receivers, the long ball was virtually nonexistent before T.O. only last year did we start seeing 40+ yard pass completions on a regular basis.

in other words, in answer to your question, none of the above. mcnabb may have gotten more accurate, but mainly, he got a receiver who could make plays downfield. how much this would help vick is questionable, because mcnabb has always been more accurate than vick anyway.

on a side note, mcnabb and vick both from time to time will make a pass (especially into the end zone) that is so ridiculously perfect that you wonder why the opposing defense even shows up.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:46pm


You're missing the idea. The point is that completion percentage is not accuracy. So saying that McNabb got more accurate by learning may not be right.

Inaccurate passer does not mean a bad QB. It's just a trait. That's all.

How much of it is playcalling and how much of it is decision making is the debatable part. It's entirely possible McNabb's issue was not decision making, but talent around him. It's not that he became more accurate. He just was able to throw to receivers at distances that are more completable.

If Vick's issue is decision making (which Joyner thinks it is) that may be unfixable.

In other words: just because McNabb got more accurate doesn't mean that it was necessarily through him. It could've been just that the receivers he was throwing to at the high-completion percentage distances sucked. The receivers he was throwing to at those distances were primarily James Thrash. Next year, it was Owens.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:47pm

Comparisons to McNabb are interesting. McNabb never got up to 60% completions or up to 7 yrds/attempt until last year. So, maybe all Vick needs is a few more years of experience or a Pro Bowl calibre receiver before his passing numbers break out.
It took Steve McNair until his fourth full season before he was above 60% and 7 yds/ too. Again, I'm not arguing that Vick is a great passer, just that his passing might still improve with time. If he keeps his playmaking ability while this happens things could be interesting in Atlanta for a while.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:57pm

not at all. the eagles’ passing game has always been a short one,

Not according to the stats I've seen. ESPN's splits for 2003 are missing, just to be fun. But from what I've seen, McNabb's "adjusted accuracy" is about the same. It's just that the passes he's been throwing adjusted significantly.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:58pm

So, maybe all Vick needs is a few more years of experience or a Pro Bowl calibre receiver before his passing numbers break out.

Nono - that's where B's comment comes in. It's entirely possible that McNabb knew that it's better to throw to Thrash, but Thrash just couldn't get open or couldn't catch the ball.

Vick might not have any idea where to look. That's a completely different problem.

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 7:12pm

1. Vick's arm strength keeps the DBs a little deep.
2. His threat of rollouts forces the defence to spy him and takes a little bit off of the first step off of the LBs, because they have to make sure it is the right one. (The price is so much larger in this case than, say, Marc Bulger, easer to recover) This clearly opens the running game. It lets his TE slip behind the coverage.
3. Vick has 2 and a half seasons.
4. Is there any reason to believe Vick will not improve this year, as it is the coaching staff's second year, the second year in an offensive system, his physical skills have not diminished but he is young enough (25!!!) to be on the upslope of the learning curve.
5. He has thrown for 6619 yards, thrown for 2223... uh, very unusual stats for a runningback...

44 - 20+
9 .- 40+
478 attempts

35 - 20+
8 .- 40+
321 attempts

Thats McNabb pre-TO and Vick last year. As has been noted on this site, McNabb's numbers didnt really improve throwing to his old recievers, but in '04 he threw for 50 20+ and also TWENTY of 40+.
7. What I think about the offensive scheme: the short timing routes are designed to give Vick a simple read and place to throw the ball. It means he practices to work on his greatest weaknesses, making quick reads as well as short pass accuracy. The thing is he has the POTENTIAL to throw those passes better than is even POSSIBLE for other quarterbacks. And he is the most dangerous quarterback running with the ball, ever.

If I had to lay $$$ down, I would put it on Vick improving each year. As his recievers are also very young, it might well be that they 'get it' as Vick matures, and that he developes very very good chemistry with them over time.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 7:23pm

Folks, I recall the game in which McNabb broke his foot a few years back. He threw for about 300 yards and 4tds in the first half, without the ability to scramble. Now I know that one game is just one game, but the man can throw well, espicially over the last couple of years.

True TO was a big help last year, but McNabb got to the Superbowl without him. In the three games after TO went down,(including the playoffs against supposedly good teams) his QB rating was 156, 111, and 111.

All I'm saying is that McNabb went from a run first QB to a pass first QB, and I believe that his injury had a lot to do with that. Just my 2 cents, folks.

by Jeff F (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 9:06pm

pawnking - If you look at the DVOA numbers for 2004, you'd see that the Eagles did not have to face one good team through the playoffs. Had they played San Diego, New York, Indianapololis, or Pittsburgh, they would have had a much tougher time, particularly without TO. The best team they faced was Atlanta, which had a nearly league average DVOA. Philly was so much better than the next best in the NFC that it wasn't funny.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 9:19pm

Jeff, you do in fact have a good point.

by jebmak (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 9:42pm

I'm with Marc on #17. It seemed that the reason Barry had to dance around and try to find somewhere to run, was because when he got the handoff, there was always at least one defender in the backfield.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 9:52pm

Thank God Skip Bayless was here to give such well-thought insight into the problems facing Mike Vick and the Falcons. "Vick's absurd talent is his strength, and his team's weakness. His legs will keep Atlanta in every game -- as long as he avoids the hell-bent, downfield collision that ends his season. But Vick's arm will keep Atlanta from becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender." Thank you Nostradamus. The one thing that separates the throwing QBs that win and the ones that struggle is the quality of the receivers. Steve Young had Jerry Rice and T.O. John Elway had Shannon Sharpe. Even Randall Cunningham had Keith Jackson. Until the Falcons develope better receivers or land one in free agency Vick will continue to struggle.
As for Barry Sanders, are we to believe that if the Lions had Emmitt Smith rather than Sanders they would have won a Superbowl? With Scott Mitchell and Eric Kramer at QB? The only other player of mention on those Lions teams was Herman Moore, and he ran into injury problems that shortened his career.

by Tally (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:10pm

Uh, Vick's team doesn't win because of him; they win in spite of him, at least they did last year.

Unfortunately, subbing one player in for another (i.e., Manning for Vick or Emmitt for Sanders) and trying to predict the outcome is hard to do outside of a vacuum. How would Emmitt have done without that o-line of his? How would Manning do without three receivers who could be #1 options on many other teams?

Frankly, I just want to see what happens with Vick in the coming years. I predict that he'll end up like Cunningham, and I don't mean that he'll end up throwing to two HoFers like Carter and Moss.

by Vince (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:10pm

I just wanted to say that I am so damn ready to stop arguing hypotheticals about Michael Vick and just watch the man play.

Actually, that goes for all teams. I'm salivating as I type this.

by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:14pm

The title of the article is wrong. You want Vick rarely thinking pass because he stinks at it (kinda like trying to make Manny Ramirez bunt). Atleast a 4 yeard run is better than an incompletion. So far VIck has not shown any signs of improvement in regards to playing qb, in fact it could be argued that he has regressed

by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:13am


On Donovan McNabb. It definitely was a talent issue at Wideout. Last year, for example (including the playoffs), he had a QB passer rating of something like 125 both to Owens and Westbrook, 114 to Chad Lewis, 100 to Pinkston, 95 to Greg Lewis, 84 to LJ Smith (misleading, since this number was dragged down from 95 by 2 INT's in the Superbowl), and just 73 to FredX. Both Westbrook, Smith, and Greg Lewis were not around in 2000-2002, and were just starting to develop in 2003, and Owens is of course new, and Staley, though good, was not the receiving threat Westbrook is. OTOH, FredX definitely was around, as was Thrash, and as were some other no name receivers. I haven't had a chance yet to go back and see just how bad they were, but my guess is that they stunk just like FredX did in 2004.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:39am


I agree. Pinkston is a deep threat. That's what he does. That's what he always has done. In 2001, 2002, and 2003, he always was receiving 80-100 passes. In 2004, it was down to 60 passes.

In 2004, McNabb finally had short-field threats. That's what he's better at throwing, and I think he knows it.

The interesting question is what Vick looked like in 2002 in terms of passing. Is his pass distribution pattern any different now than it was then?

by Ruben (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:48am

One of the forecasts on Vick's improvement is that as long as he has happy feet, the team will never need or want to draft quality OLs, and this creates a downward spiral of him continuing to run. My response would be: Would that lineman really help?

I remember reading a pretty interesting article in SI (I think...) on Jonathan Ogden's play during a single drive against Seattle. While discussing his shut-down of whatever speedy end-rusher the 'Hawks were playing, it also went through his hand movements and foot-shuffling...

OF PARTICULAR NOTE was Ogden's frustration that then-Ravens QB, Anthony Wright, would leave the pocket too quickly, preventing the league's best Tackle from effectively protecting his Quarterback (Jeff George disease?). So, say the Falcons DO land a seasoned veteran OT/OG, or draft a blue-chip first-rounder...would that help the passing situation at all??

by Ruben (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:58am

Sorry for the double-post, but I have two seperate thoughts here:

I assume many of you have watched Vick play...anyone else notice that he never sets his feet when he passes on the run? He's using his SHOULDER muscles on every 40+ yard heave-ho. Even the average high school QB knows you throw with your legs and hips, not your shoulder. But Ron Mexico is flinging passes the length of the field, while his toes are pointing toward the sideline and his trailing foot is in mid-stride.

This CANNOT be healthy for him, and probably affects his accuracy greatly.

And a summary of today's posts: he can't make check-downs on his receivers, his ability to read defenses is questionable, and the heat he brings on short passes means many of them are dropped...does this make him John Navarre with a 4.2 40 time...?

One was drafted 1st overall, the other is buried on Arizona's depth chart, the scourge of Michigan Stadium.

Just some thoughts...

by Moe (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 7:04am

I am imagining Skips takes on some of the other great issue confronting our time...

Middle East Peace - stop blowing people up and putting settlements on land that doesn't belong to you.


by MarkB (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 3:38pm

Jay Glazer has the Falcons winning the Super Bowl - over the Colts.

Nuff said.

by Moses (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 7:53pm

The knock on running quarterbacks has to do with their mechanics and their decision making process. Not that they run. Unfortunately people, even on this board, tend to comingle the issues and start flinging examples rather than understanding the complexities of the issue.

Steve Young was a great running QB. Vick is a bad running QB. Vick is a bad running QB because he's a bad QB, not because he runs. His list of non-running flaws include:

Vick has bad mechanics and frequently throws off his back-foot. He's slow to get into his drops and this is probably because he struggles to read defenses and, in the WCO, each step requires a read. He tends to spend too much time running around in the pocket and not getting set to make the throw. His ball-security fundamentals simply don't exist and he's had unforced fumbles by just dropping the ball.

He seems to be afraid to throw to marginally covered WRs and tends to scramble to get them open instead of "throwing them open" like good QBs do. Yet, he'll force balls into coverage because he frequently loses sight of linebackers that are in coverage. If he is blitzed, he tries to use his legs instead of the hot receiver to beat the play. Because he's short, teams will sometimes flood the gaps on sell-out blitzes and Vick has no response.

I think his not seeing the field very well, to some extent, explains why Crumpler gets so many "broken play" passes. I think it also explains a lot of his running around in the pocket.

He doesn't make good decisions when he has the ball and tends to do the Favre "heave ho." He also holds onto the ball too long.

If the backside DE stays home on stretch plays, Vick becomes very limited and ineffective as a runner. Tampa did this and they shut Falcons out.

Most of Vick's flaws can be corrected. And if they're corrected, he could be the QB that people think he is. But right now, like someone said much earlier: He's a punt returner playing QB.

by Moses (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 8:22pm

This is a classic fallacy:

True, but Michael Vick does (win football games that is). The argument is "Vick is a great QB because the Falcons win." Which can be re-stated as "(QB X) is a great QB because the (Team A)s win.

FACT: Jay Fiedler has a better winning percentage coming into this year than Michael Vick.


"Jay Fiedler is a great QB because the Dolphins win."

Which we know, empirically, is not true.

So, unless you're willing to say Jay Fiedler > Michael Vick, even though we know that is not true, you have to recognize the fatal and uncontrovertible flaw in the argument. If you're not, then I suggest MORE TINFOIL for the hat.

Anyway, I think the Vick HYPE and ADULATION needs to drop a few notches. This might help Vick focus more on becoming a great QB, something I think he's capable of achieving but won't until he matures and stops showboating.

Plus, it might allow some WELL DESERVED credit to the Falcon defense. Which has, in the majority of "Vicks" wins held the opponents to 17 points or fewer. Plus, in many contests where they gave up more than 17, they either provided points directly (TDs) or outstanding field position giving them an easy TD/FG. For example, last year they provided FOUR TDs by interceptions and one by fumble. Something that just two teams exceeded - Baltimore & Chicago - and a few tied.

And, for the record, I don't blame Vick for being an over-hyped QB because he's exciting (yet inefficient and error prone). I blame fans and the media for over-hyping a relatively unskilled QB (as a QB) long before he should have been hyped as "great."

I don't think anyone could live up to Vick's hype and, to a great extent, I don't think, to some extent, it's completely fair to criticize him for that aspect. Especially a QB that came out too early with about 300 college passes to his credit and has suffered from poor coaching and coaching changes.

by tim (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 8:59pm

i believe i had read that it takes about 3-4 years for a quarterback in the modern west coast offense to adjust to the reads and the playcalling, and i presumed McNabb's improved performance was due to this more so than the arrival of TO. is there anyway of seeing if this is accurate or not?

by jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 10:39am

"So, unless you’re willing to say Jay Fiedler > Michael Vick, even though we know that is not true, you have to recognize the fatal and uncontrovertible flaw in the argument. If you’re not, then I suggest MORE TINFOIL for the hat."

Yes, insulting people adds a lot to the arguement. You're a jerk-off. See, nothing added.

While I understand that wins are not the best measure of QB, they do count for something. I do not believe that the Falcons win despite Vick. I think that he has an intangible quality that is not easily measured that helps his team win football games. It doen't show up in the stats but I see it with my own eyes.

So, for the record, Vick is obviously over hyped by the mainstream media. Just as obvious, Vick is under rated by folks around here.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 11:08am

Tim #51:

McNabb's first really good year offensively was 2002, his 4th in the system. After a shaky start in the first few games of 2003, he has been on cruise control nearly every game since.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 11:19am

In 2003, Jay Fiedler had a DPAR of about 11. In 2004, Vick had a DPAR (rushing + passing) of 11, so I could make an argument that Fiedler is as good as Vick. Of course this kinda falls apart because the offensive talent surrounding Fiedler in 2003 was better than the talent surrounding Vick. Back in 2002, Vick was considerabally better than Fiedler. Guess I should take off my tin-foil hat now.

by carl s (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 2:05pm

I agree insulting people it stupid, and just because you think Vick brings something extra to the table doesn't make you a criminal. There are all sorts of evidence about what a football player does for a team, and what you see personally is an important tool to evaluate them.

I guess my real question would be how you would explain why Vick does not show well in the statistics. I'm sure there are reasons, like a total dearth of talent at the WR position and a crappy line. But still, there are other guys who have the same problems and still have better stats. I think people would understand your position better if you gave specific examples of what you think Vick's intangibles improve.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 4:24pm

carl s #55:

Perhaps some of what Vick brings to the table is hidden in the running game stats.

Vicks line for 2004 - 181 for 321, 2313 yards, 14 TD's, 12 INT's, 120 rushes for 902 yards and 3 TD's wasn't spectacular.

Compare McNabb in 2003 - 275 for 478, 3216 yards, 16 TD's, 11 INT's, 71 rushes for 355 yards and 3 TD's.

Now look at runnign backs for both these teams.

2004 Falcons - Dunn and Duckett - 369 rushes for 1615 yards and 17 TD's

2003 Eagles - Westbrook, Staley, Buckhalter - 339 rushes for 1618 yards and 20 TD's.

Both these teams had almost all their offense out of the backfield and from the Tight Ends, (the Eagles balancing throwing between the two groups, the Falcons favoring throing to Crumpler). 2004 Falcons got only 1322 yards and 7 TD's from wideouts. 2003 Eagles got only 1728 yards and 5 TD's from wideouts.

With that sort of offense, is it surprising the QB's don't look like Peyton Manning statistically?

Trent Green doesn't have as good of statistics as Peyton Manning since the Chiefs tend to let Priest Holmes and Co run the ball into the end zone. Does that mean Trent Green isn't as good, or that his team does things differently?

Sometimes, a lot of the complaining about Vick reminds me of complaints about defenses that give up yards but not points, as if piling up a bunch of yards passing, or preventing yards defensively always wins games. Obviously it doesn't, since we keep score by points, not yards.

As of now, Vick is no better or worse in what ultimately counts - providing offense to win enough games to win the Super Bowl than is Manning, for example. Maybe it would be different if Vick were throwing to Randy Moss, like Culpepper was. Maybe the biggest difference is that Vick hasn't had the lightl bulb suddenly go on like McNabb had on 10/26/03, where he has been consistently very good ever since, with only a single off game here or there. Or maybe its that Vick is simply not the guy to pass for 3+ TD's per game (he's never done it).

by Trevor (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 6:59pm

Being a former ATLien, i've seen plenty of Falcons games these past couple of years. A couple of things:
- Mike Vick has terrible footwork, and I think it's gone backwards since that year long injury. This makes sense, he had to relearn throwing motions and such, and he learned wrong patterns.
- I'm not trying to make a knock on his intelligence, but they need to reduce the number of his reads. Option 1/Option 2/Run or throw the ball away. The clock in his head isn't there, he's waiting too long for recievers to get open, and that's why he gets sacked so often.
- His throwing mechanics seem fine, except for not using his legs. Who taught him that, his brother throws the same way down at VT.
- SLIDE MAN SLIDE. They need to have him go to the Braves and learn from Furcal and Giles on how to effectively slide. That kamakizee trash he does trying to get down will get him injured. Don't be a hero, buddy.
Most of these are correctable, it's just up to him whether he wants to be OK or to be great.

All of this said, watching Vick play in the GA dome is still a blast. They might break the 40 yr. streak of back-to-back winning seasons this year.

by Larry (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 9:06pm

The discussion of Vick reminds me very much of my frustrations with McNabb early in his career. A seeming excess of sacks, indecision, holding the ball too much, happy feet, inaccuracy and the possibility this was all the fault of an inadequate receiving corps. I doubt there will ever be a way to figure out if T.O. was the answer or if something clicked with McNabb. I was hoping that KC Joyner's analysis might give me a clue into whether McNabb holds the ball too long looking for receviers to be wide open. But, I couldn't figure out how to read his data with that question in mind and there was no earlier stuff for comparison.

I suppose I'd like to think the flaws with Vick are different and won't be corrected (because I'm an Eagles fan), but it seems pretty similar. The one major difference is McNabb has never made lots of dangerous throws or fumbled excessively. Vick seems to have that problem. Significant? I don't know.