Monday, September 11, 2006

And a Few Thoughts on the Local Professional Football Collective

In its 2005 compendium of juicy information, the Pro Football Prospectus wrote that the Falcons win despite Mike Vick, not because of him. Yesterday was another illustration of this truism. The Falcons won yesterday because they ran over the Panthers in a manner almost absent from the NFL since the Chuck Knox era. They won because Warrick Dunn is the perfect running back for a zone blocking scheme and he always makes the right cut and then makes the first tackler miss. (He would have Hall of Fame numbers if not for having spent the first five years of his career in Tampa's neanderthal offense, suffering for Mike Shula's sins.)

Most likeable Seminole ever.

They won because Jerious Norwood is going to do a really good Dunn impersonation this year. They won because their front four embarrassed Carolina's offensive line, partly because John Abraham and Rod Coleman are great pass rushers and partly because the McKay regime has built up great depth at the position and thus, the Falcons' defensive line was fresh in the fourth quarter.

If I were Jake Delhomme, I'd also be steamed to be buggered like this on just about every passing play.

They won because the secondary had its way with Carolina's out-manned receiver corps. (I'm still waiting for Keyshawn to "physically abuse" DeAngelo Hall as he promised to Jay Glazer he would do before the game.)

The Falcons certainly did not win because their quarterback went 10/22 for 140 yards and then ran for 48 more. Vick did make some nice throws in the game, especially his first touchdown pass when he scrambled to buy time and then hit Michael Jenkins with a laser for a touchdown. He also threw a really nice ball to Jenkins over the middle earlier in the game. That said, he missed wide open receivers on at least three occasions (a totally uncovered Alge Crumpler comes to mind immediately) and also hit Julius Peppers in the hands with a screen pass that would have put Carolina right back into the game if Peppers could have held onto the ball and trucked his way to the end zone. Vick clearly knew he had goofed on that throw, as he immediately got to his feet to chase Peppers.

Facts be damned, Joe Buck credited the victory to "Mike Vick and the Falcons" when reading scores at the outset of the Dallas-Jacksonville game.

That said, there are a couple reasons to defend Vick after the game, both related to the pressure that his running ability puts on a defense. First, Vick has open targets because teams have to leave a spy to watch him and thus play a man down in the defensive backfield. Second, Warrick Dunn's oft-exploited cut-back lanes are so open because weakside defensive ends have to respect the bootleg and thus cannot crash down on the backside of running plays. In other words, I'm not sure that the Falcons would have won 34-6 instead of 20-6 with Matt Schaub under center.

Update: at least Joe Buck can say he almost certainly didn't see the game. Peter King allegedly did and here's what he has to say:

[Vick] was 10 of 22, but if you saw the game, you saw a guy who was the decisive factor for Atlanta.

Right, in a game in which the Falcons allowed the pre-season NFC favorites six points on their homefield and rushed for 250 yards, it was the quarterback who was the decisive factor. But wait, the illogical spewing continues:

I've vacillated about Vick because I think a quarterback has to give a team consistency. But consistency is not Vick's game. He's at his best when he's creating stuff on the perimeter, as he did on the scramble-and-throw that invented the 34-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins that, in essence, clinched this game. And if you neuter that, you might as well play Matt Schaub.

What on earth is he saying here? That Vick doesn't need to be a consistent passer? Why should he get a free pass when every other quarterback is graded on how good they perform over the long haul? On the other hand, if King is simply saying that Vick needs to be himself and not constrict himself by being a pocket passer, then he's right, but he's stating the obvious.


LD said...

You've hit on something key about Vick with the Falcons. I call it the "Opposition Opportunity Cost Factor". While Vick's passing and rushing yards might not be stellar (though Vick's rushing yards were at least good for a QB), the key is that the threat of Vick requires defenses to place importance on stopping him, thus opening up opportunities elsewhere for the Falcons' offense to exploit. I don't know if it's quantifiable, but in my mind the difference between the exertion of defenses in protecting against a long busted play by Vick cannot be made up by superior abilities throwing the ball by another QB in a more traditional pro style offense. (Though I can see the argument). When Vick has good days throwing the ball, I think he holds a supreme advantage. When Vick has a poor day throwing the ball, I think it's close.

Anonymous said...

The announcer said all you need to know about what Vick can do to a defense.

They interviewed one of the DB's and he said they have 3 EXTRA MEETINGS PER DAY to deal with him.

Warrick Dunn is a phenomenal back, but there is no way he is nearly as succesful without the DE's keying on Vick every play.

Doesn't anyone remember when some people thought we'd be better off with Doug Johnson (Matt Schaubb) in '03 when Vick went down???

All he did was lead us to the NFC Championship in '04 after winning 4 games the year before.

Fantasy Footballhas done wonders for the over-analyzation of statistics. Look at winning percentage to determine a QB's value first. Yes, Vick had a down year last year but my god, does anyone remember the Falcons for the last 25 years like I do (minus 1998 aberration)!

p.s. take a stab at Schaub's winning %

Michael said...

Who ever thought that we'd be better off with Doug Johnson? The prevailing sentiment was that we were just hoping to survive without Vick. Keep in mind also that Johnson played after the 2002 season, which was Vick's best as a pro, and that Schaub is a better QB than Johnson. He was better in college, he's been better in the pros (admittedly in a small sample size), and he's a better fit for the offense.

Vick did lead us to the NFC Title Game, but that was in a watered-down NFC. Additionally, that Falcons team wasn't nearly as good as their record and got exposed in the game against Philly.

I completely disagree with winning percentage being the measuring stick of a QB. Is Trent Dilfer better than Peyton Manning because he's won a Super Bowl? Was Jay Barker a better QB in the SEC because he had a better winning percentage? Sometimes, an average QB looks good because of superior teammates and vice versa. For instance, the Falcons have been better under Vick, but that's also because the management of the team is much better now, from the owner on down, and they have better talent throughout the roster.

Anonymous said...

Doug Johnson was arguably as good or better than Matt Schaub in college and won a big road game against the Giants the year before Vick went down. Many thought he was a star in the making, and at the time his value as a back-up QB was huge around the league (a la M Schaub).

You can make all the excuses you want, Vick has won games everywhere he has been since High School because he changes the game. You can throw his completion % out the window. I'd like to see a statistic on how many of his scampers are back-breaking 3rd down conversion. There is no statistic that measure the morale-killing of a defense.

Last year was on the defense. 28th against the run and 22nd overall. The offense was 14th in scoring, a little better than average but not the major reason for our down-turn.

Dilfer has a career winning percentage of 53% - i would say that is solid. Just about what I would think of Dilfer - solid. He was a good playoff QB so I give him some extra points for that.

I wouldn't compare NFL and NCAA, they are too different.

Schaubby has started or played majority of snaps in 4 games for Birds. 4 L's.

Vick has a 63% winning percentage and many of those losses came last year when he was visibly trying to prove critics wrong that questioned his completion percentage.

Michael said...

Doug Johnson was a failure at Florida. He was significantly less productive than the other three QBs who started for a significant amount of time. He was so bad his first year that Spurrier played a noodle-armed Noah Brindise for half the snaps. He failed to complete a half the entire second half with a trip to the national title game on the line against Florida State in '98. Florida won in spite of him when he was there. Schaub, on the other hand, led Virginia to very good seasons, which, as it turns out, will the the highlight of Al Groh's time in Charlottesville.

Judging Johnson based on one win as a starter against the Giants (a game in which New York scored ten points, IIRC) just illustrates that: (1) QBs shouldn't always get credit when their teams win; and (2) you should take sample size into account when judging a quarterback. You might want to consider that when grading Schaub, who has started three games for Atlanta, and in only one of those games was he playing with first string starters around him; the other two were after the team wrapped up the #2 seed in the NFC in '04 and were playing back-ups.

Vick won in college because he was a great college QB. The Falcons won in 2002 because he was a terrific NFL starting QB. In '04, the Falcons won because of a defense and running game. Last year, they were 8-8 and had one of the worst passing games in the league. I agree with you that you can't grade Vick solely on his passing numbers. but by the same token, you can't give him much credit for a win in which the team ran for 250 yards and held the opponent to six points, except for the fact that his running threat makes life easier for Dunn and Norwood.

Anonymous said...

Ok, agree to disagree. I'll check back with you at the end of the season.

I'm predicting Vick throws for 120-150yds a game and runs for 40-80yds and the Falcons win 10 against a brutal schedule. Remember to analyze his running totals as well, you are allowed to move the team forward with your feet. I'm still looking to see how many of his runs go for 1st down. I know he had close to 900 running yards on '04 so to say they won with a running game like he had nothing to do with that is wrong.

Side Note: Doug Johnson was not a failure either. Spurrier loved the 2 QB system for competitive reason. He did shit the bed against FSU throughout but if I recall he had a 3 game stretch where he hung 300 yds on the Dawgs, close to 500 in his next game and 400 in the next one.

I never thought he was great, just trying to make the point of the oldest rule in football (that a lot of people in ATL seem to subscribe to): The BEST player on the team is always the back-up QB.

Anonymous said...

Bobby P-

GGB - glad that you recognize the effect of his bootleg on the zone. It's a huge factor in why Dunn is successful. And it doesn't just hold the backside defensive end, it has to freeze that linebacker for a second as well. That split second that the Lb has to hold up, combined with the fact that the weakside d-end cant crash down on the offensive tackle allows that tackle to get upfield and get onto that LB.

But I agree with you to a point. Vick is definately going to get an inordinate amount of praise for any win.