And with that rancid headline out of the way, Matt Winklejohn has an incisive piece in this morning's AJC on Mike Vick's struggles in the passing game. The article is noteworthy for a couple reasons:
1. While Vick has become an overhyped media monster in the past couple years, it's good to be reminded that during the 2002 season, he was a statistically proficient passer. The Football Prospectus noted this year that his 2002 season was, by their statistical measure, better than any of Tom Brady or Donovan McNabb's seasons prior to 2004, when both had career years statistically. Dan Reeves, who knows a thing or two about football and is as honest as the day is long, notes that Vick was very confortable throwing mid-range and deeper passes in his offense and was not comfortable with the types of passes that he's forced to throw now. We might have a classic case of coaches trying to fit their talent to a system, rather than the other way around. We also might have a classic case of coaches thinking that their winning results justify sub-optimal offensive strategies. (Paging Phil Fulmer!)
2. Joe Theismann makes some very intelligent points! Maybe he's better in print when he's not shouting for airtime with Patrick and Maguire or preening for the cameras with that blow-dried 'do that screams "Cheesy Notre Dame Guy!" Anyway, I've always thought that the West Coast Offense is a bad fit for Vick because it de-emphasizes one of his best traits: his insanely strong arm. The WCO (and when I use that term, I mean the Bill Walsh version that emphasizes short, accurate passes to backs, receivers, and tight ends) aids quarterbacks like Jake Plummer or Jeff Garcia who don't have strong arms, but are accurate enough to hit receivers in stride on shorter routes. Does that sound like Vick? It also puts a premium on good route-running. Does that sound like the Falcons' crop of receivers? Anyway, Theismann makes (or implies) the point that Vick's height is also a problem in the WCO because it involves a lot of low-trajectory throws through narrow lanes over the middle.
Jim Mora has obviously done a good job with the Falcons, as evidenced by the fact that only a second half collapse will prevent him from becoming the first coach in franchise history to lead the team to consecutive winning seasons. However, he's very defensive about the offensive scheme, which could mean either that he's mistakenly believing that the scheme for the passing game is fine and that the team isn't winning in spite of it, or that he recognizes that fact, but does not want to say so publicly.