Philadelphia Eagle’s coach, Andy Reid, recently made the announcement that Michael Vick would be the starting quarterback for the Eagles for the remainder of the season. This comes after Kolb suffered a concussion in the season opener.
People are quick to point to Vick’s two performances this year as proof that he should be the guy. But wait. Two games? And he threw all of 16 passes last year after spending time in prison. Before that, Vick’s best season came in 2006 when he sported a very average passer rating of 75–the highest of his career. Someone like myself, who grew up reading statistical guru Bill James’ books on baseball probability knows that two games means nothing. We should go with Vick’s previous 5 years if we are to make an assessment of his possible future performance. In almost every year, Vick’s passer rating was very average–in the 70s, with a high of 75. To give him credit, his interception percentages in those years were quite good, with 3.7 being his worst year.
Ah, a Vick fan may point out, Vick’s the best running QB in NFL history. 4.3 speed from the QB position makes defenses quake in their boots.
While a QB who can run is undoubtedly an asset, let’s consider the ramifications. Generally speaking, QBs who can run tend to run more than those who can’t. Of course, they want to do what they’re good at. But, QBs who run are doing almost all of their running in passing situations, which means long yardage situations. Let’s say it’s 3rd and 10. The running QB drops back, and decides to take off. He makes it 8 yards. He now has an 8 yard rushing average–simply awesome when you consider the mid 4 yard averages of some very good running backs. But it’s still 4th down and time to punt. Play calling is contextual. Not all play calls have the same value under different conditions. Yards to go is just as important as matchups, maybe more so.
There are three types of running QBs: Those who prefer to run, those who hate running, and those who run when they have to. Usually, those who prefer to run are young and very athletic. In college, they got by on athleticism alone. It is possible that Vick may get better as he ages. Perhaps time and Andy Reid have encouraged him to make adjustments. There are examples of running QBs who got better with age. Steve Young didn’t become the 49ers starter until he was 30. John Elway won two Super Bowls when he was older and less athletic. Randall Cunningham had his best years at the end. Running became their backup weapon instead of their primary one. Vick lit defenses up in the first two games of this year. But teams weren’t really prepared for him. In todays NFL, the linebackers are the best athletes on the defensive field. They run like some wideouts. They’ll figure Vick out and then we’ll see if Vick has truly evolved.
A problem though, is Vick’s inherent inaccuracy. Will that improve with age? He’s certainly shown no propensity to suddenly becoming the sniper that the West Coast Offense thrives on. Starting in 2006 and going back, his completion percentages were as follows: 52, 55, 56, 50, 54, 44. No Steve Young he. This was while Atlanta was running a West Coast style offense.
What about Kolb? He’s 26 years old, and if we are to be fair to Vick in stating that 2 games is not a big enough sample to make an assessment, we’d have to say the same about Kolb. But, in the two games he started last year, he was spectacular. He is the only QB to ever throw for 300 yards in his first two games. 390+ in his first game. He was highly regarded all through college. Now he lost his job because he got hurt. I believe there’s far more upside for the Eagles in letting Kolb play. And they should’ve been satisfied that they had the league’s best backup in Vick. Starting Vick for the rest of the year does not advance the future of the team, and it only marginally–if history means anything–increases the team’s ability to win games now. Is Vick better than Donovan McNabb? McNabb’s going to the Hall of Fame. Vick could go back to prison if he so much as walks into a pet store. So it’s a step back from last year.
Oh yeah. There’s that character thing. I’d like to say that people change. And of course they do. But they don’t usually make 180 degree changes in short periods of time. They usually continue to be pains in society’s rear until they’re old. There’s a litany of NFLers and NBAers who simply could not stay out of trouble. I can see Vick slowly breaking down over the course of the season as adversity builds. And it will build. It always does. Has he ever proven to people that he’s the type that they should want to follow? This is not a personal attack on Vick, merely a pragmatic observation. He has more proving to do than 1.75 games this year and 16 passes form last year. Kolb was the future. Highly regarded, positive, patient. You worked him for the spot all off-season and all preseason. Then you cast him to rumored trade winds when he takes a big hit. You stick in a guy who hasn’t won anything big but media adulation prior to his lock-up.
Reid made the wrong choice here. Kolb should have at least been given the chance to fail. Instead, Reid made a potential mess out of things. If Vick falters, the Eagles will have to turn back to a QB who was kicked to the curb.