Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mike Vick Speaks!!! Someone Get the Kremlinologists Out of Mothballs!

Our fearless leader has spoken on the Falcons' (and his) disappointing 2005 season. Get ready for some real hard-hitting analysis! The reasons why Vick struggled are:

1. I was injured!

His right knee was banged up after the fourth game. I have little sympathy for this excuse. First, most or all NFL players play banged up after the first 1-2 months of the season. Tom Brady, for instance, played most of the season with a sports hernia and still had one of his best seasons statistically. Vick exposes himself to more hits than the average quarterback and he's not the most durable of players, so if anyone needs to learn how to play at less than 100%, it's him. This has been a criticism ever since his glacial return from the broken ankle in 2003. Second, reduced mobility should have been a spur for Vick to emphasize his passing skills. The fact that he was unsuccessful when doing so is a cause for concern, since the rap on him right now is that he's a great athlete who doesn't understand how to play the quarterback position properly.

2. My teammates aren't that good!

I just love hearing this from the leader of the team:

"I can't really just take over a game by myself. I can step my game up to another level and encourage guys and try to make plays but those other 10 guys around me have to do their jobs too. Same thing goes for the defense. The point I'm trying to make is I can't do it all by myself."

No, but is it too much to ask that you finish higher than 25th in passer rating or 26th in yards per attempt? I guess it must be the fault of your teammates that the team went 8-8.

3. We don't run the West Coast Offense properly!

"I thought the West Coast offense was supposed to be a lot of quick, dink-and-dunk passes and it's not being run that way. I'm not saying it's because of coach Knapp, but he's calling the plays. My perception of the West Coast thing is starting to change too. We're not doing what I see Seattle doing or San Francisco doing or Green Bay doing. We're not doing those things. I don't know if it's Knapp changing those things around but as far as I know, it's not the West Coast system as far as the way we run it.

"We're not dinking and dunking the way it's supposed to be done. It may be hurting me. It may be hurting the offense. I'm a little lost right now."

This is true. The Falcons don't run the timing routes that are a staple of the Bill Walsh WCO. Could that be because our quarterback isn't that accurate? In Vick's defense, the offense also requires precise route-running, and the team's young set of receivers aren't ready to meet that challenge. Michael Jenkins and Roddy White were both raw coming out of college and they have a combined three years of NFL experience, so trusting them to get to the right spot at the right time would be a dangerous gamble. Generally, I agree that it's hard to figure out what the Falcons are trying to accomplish on offense. They don't threaten opponents down the field, and yet they aren't running a classic WCO, either. The routes mostly seem to be "run 12 yards and cut."

4. The Running Game Didn't Save Me!

"The only thing I need to do is get with Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, work with them and stay healthy. If I can do that then I got a shot, we've got a chance. Offensively and defensively, we've got to come to play. Everybody has to do his job. Offensively, that starts up from with the running game. Going down the stretch the end of the year our running game fell off. We couldn't do the things we wanted to do.

"Teams were keying on what we were going to do, our blocking schemes and everything that goes into it. It just didn't work and it hurt our offense. I've just got to be healthy — and confident."

Not to blame everything on Vick, but again, do you think that the running game fell off because the team did not have much of a passing threat? In fairness to Michael, there might have been a cause-and-effect phenomenon between his lack of running and the diminished production of the running game generally. The Falcons' running game has been successful for the last three years because Vick's running ability forces opposing defensive ends to stay at home and it terrifies linebackers and safeties of bootlegs so they can't take a good first step towards a running play. Assuming that opposing defenses figured out that Vick wasn't the same running threat, they could have committed quicker to stop Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett.

Interestingly, nowhere in the article does Vick say "I need to get better as a passer." In sum, Vick illustrated all of the major criticisms of his play in one article, not unlike Forrest Gump compressing every major event and social trend over a 30-year period into one maudlin movie.

One more caveat in favor of Vick: his answers about his brother were mature. Specifically, he admitted that Virginia Tech had to kick him off of the team:

Q. You have been loyal to Virginia Tech. Has the school's dismissal of Marcus changed your feelings about Tech?

A. "No. Absolutely not. That was a situation where after he did what he did in that game (stomped on Louisville's Elvis Dumervil in the Toyota Gator Bowl) it embarrassed the school. A lot of people wanted to see some type of punishment. He deserved what he got. Marc shouldn't have done what he did. I was the first to ask him, 'Why did you do what you did?' "I'm not bitter at all. They made their decision. What can I say?

"They've given Marc so many chances. They've dealt with a lot. It came to a point where they couldn't take any more."


Ski said...

grits, you don't cover the falcons nearly enough. keep these kind of columns coming.

Anonymous said...

Which of these excuses account for his 4-12 with an INT in the Pro Bowl?

The Falcons already peaked with Vick. They will never go anywhere with an offense that requires him to make plays (and decisions) as a passer. As a Panthers fan, I couldn't be happier.

Michael said...

The Pro Bowl is a platform on which one would expect Vick to succeed, since the defenses are very basic. Then again, his accuracy issues impact him no matter what defense he's facing.