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I am a quarterback

Postby Ironhorse75 » Wed Jun 29, 2005 3:07 am

SI's latest cover story on Vick.

By Michael Silver

The pocket collapsed as quickly as a sand castle at high tide, and Michael Vick had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Before Vick, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback, could draw on his famous flight instinct, he found himself toppled in a heap of humanity as two dozen prepubescent pursuers playfully piled on. Vick, his left shoulder already aching from a cortisone injection earlier in the day, winced. In an instant, however, his grimace turned into a grin. "Damn, you kids are strong," he said, pulling up the gray cargo shorts that had slipped below his waist. "What are they feeding y'all these days?"

A few minutes earlier Vick had arrived at his football camp at the State University of West Georgia in Carrollton, where more than 250 kids ages eight to 18 spent several days last week getting up close and personal with the NFL's most electrifying player. His hourlong drive from Atlanta delayed by medical business at the team's facility -- an MRI on his sore passing shoulder came up negative -- Vick apologized to his awed audience and gave a brief motivational talk before instructing the campers to "bring it up." A few seconds later some of the younger ones brought him down, albeit only in a literal sense.

"Getting to be out here with these kids reminds me of why I play football," Vick said a few hours later. "This is why you work so hard to try to be the best. Being here gives me a chance to reflect on what the game really is. It's not just the fundamentals, going out there and trying to throw an accurate pass. Football is bigger than that. It's about team building, friendship, leadership and learning how to win. I was able to grasp that at an early age, and hopefully these kids can start to do that here."

That these elements are essential to football success seems obvious to Vick, and he finds it perplexing that some of America's leading gridiron minds have refused to take them into account when critiquing his breathtaking but sometimes choppy play. Never has a quarterback achieved so much in so little time while being routinely ripped. Visit any NFL press box -- or, for that matter, any fantasy-football chat room or personnel meeting -- and someone will opine that Vick, for all his scintillating skills, isn't really a quarterback. Vick is sick of it.

"The commentators can say that all they want," he says, "but tell them to ask any defensive coordinator in the league this question: 'Do you game-plan for Michael Vick in the passing game?' I guarantee you 31 coordinators will say, 'You're damned right we do.' I don't care what my numbers say; that's a quarterback."

Falcons owner Arthur Blank certainly agrees, as evidenced by the 10-year, $130 million extension to which he signed Vick last December. It was an acknowledgement that in four NFL seasons Vick, the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft, had helped lift the Falcons from the dregs of the league to its upper echelon. In the two campaigns in which he started more than four games, Vick guided Atlanta to the 2002 NFC divisional playoffs (in the wild-card round the Falcons handed the Green Bay Packers their first postseason loss at Lambeau Field) and to last season's NFC Championship Game, which Atlanta lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10. His winning percentage as a starter is 65.3 -- Atlanta is 9-19 without him -- and he has been selected to play in two of the last three Pro Bowls.

Yet after watching some of the Sunday pregame shows, the same fans who gobble up Vick's jerseys (the league's second-highest sellers in April and May, behind only Oakland Raiders wideout Randy Moss's) might wonder whether he is as lacking in fundamentals as most of the kids at his camp. Indeed, even one of those kids, 12-year-old Brant Moore from Peachtree City, Ga., declared, "I think he should be a running back instead of a quarterback."

"A lot of football people rightfully question his credentials as a pocket passer," one AFC general manager said last week. "You can't criticize any other part of his game, and maybe at some point he doesn't have tobeat you from the pocket, but that's the only [unknown] -- can he deliver the medium-to-deep balls when he's not on the run? People have figured out that it's best to rush him down the middle, and to be a great player in this league you've got to be able to make adjustments. We'll see how he adjusts this year."

Last October, Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson called Vick "the most inconsistent quarterback in the NFL." Other critics have dismissed him as a glorified running back who is overly reckless with his body and the football. Last season Vick fumbled a league-high 16 times and was sacked once for every eight drop-backs, the worst rate in the league. He also was well down on the league's statistical charts in passer rating (78.1, 21st), passing yards (2,313, 26th) and completion percentage (56.4, 27th). Vick did run for 902 yards, the third-highest total by a quarterback in league history.

He spent last season assimilating first-year coach Jim Mora's version of the West Coast offense. Vick insists that he's adjusting to the timing-based scheme, that he can chart his own progress based on his off-season sessions with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. "I wish I could have started my career in this system," he says. "It's still a learning process, but the difference between this year and last year is a complete 180. I make mistakes [in practice] now, and before the words are even out of my coach's mouth, I know what I've done wrong."

Falcons safety Keion Carpenter, a close friend of Vick's since their days at Virginia Tech, says his teammates scoff at those who cite statistics as a measure of the quarterback's inadequacy. "This man is one of the most unselfish teammates you'll ever see, because he truly doesn't care about his numbers," Carpenter says. "As long as I've known him, every time someone says he can't do something or sets up barriers, he leaps over them."

His critics, Vick claims, "have me and my homeboys sitting around and laughing all the time." Yet Vick hasn't been able to brush off the criticism so easily. "I hear people saying, 'Mike Vick can't throw from the pocket,' and I'm like, What are y'all looking at?" he says. "What do all those passing yards mean at the end of the year if you don't win? I know who every one of those critics is; some of them have never played the game and don't know what they're talking about. Eventually I'll earn their respect because I'll continue to work hard. But in the meantime I advise them to keep doing what they're doing because it helps motivate me."

Vick, once blissfully devoid of public trepidation, has grown accustomed to feeling like a target. "There's always someone knocking on your door or getting in your face, trying to get you to start a business or to get something from you," he says. Though he declines to discuss it in detail, Vick is clearly troubled by the lawsuit filed against him in March by a Georgia woman who claims that he gave her herpes. "It's a serious issue," Vick says. "[Having to deal with] stuff like that is a part of being me. But I've got a strong legal team by my side that's ready to handle its business."

When Vick was a 10-year-old growing up in Newport News, Va., he had a brush with fame that would shape his behavior to this day. While attending a football game at Hampton University, Vick was walking outside the stadium when he noticed a rottweiler peeking out of a parked SUV. "I was like, Damn, whose dog is that?" he recalls. "I heard a door slam and looked back, and it was [Buffalo Bills All-Pro defensive end] Bruce Smith. I thought, That ain't Bruce Smith. My heart was beating like crazy. But I yelled out, 'Bruce!' and he said, 'What's up?' and threw me the peace sign."

It wasn't quite a Mean Joe Greene moment, but Vick felt enough of a connection that he vowed to reach out to the younger generation if he were ever to make it big. At last week's camp he made a point of injecting himself into drills, playfully pump-faking before unleashing spirals and high-fiving receivers after catches. One day on the way to camp, he also made a surprise visit to an Atlanta radio station to meet with an eight-year-old boy who'd been wounded by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said 12-year-old camper Carlo Barrera of Austin. "I've been watching him since he started playing, and I think he's one of the best quarterbacks in history." One reason Vick resonates with kids is that he plays the game in a spontaneous, unbounded manner to which they can relate. Meanwhile, Vick appreciates the children's directness and lack of guile -- they may be coming at him, like everyone else, but at least they don't have a concealed angle. In his words, "They want me, but they just want some attention and affection."

One night Vick flashed a boyish grin as he bounced between a pair of fields on which campers squared off in full-contact scrimmages. He and several of his friends, including Carpenter, oohed and aahed over big hits and flashy plays, growing most excited when the camp's smallest participant, eight-year-old Malik Clemons, cut back twice on a long touchdown run. A few minutes later Malik, while blocking for another ballcarrier, lit up a camper twice his size. "That little dude's serious, man!" Vick exclaimed. "My camp will teach you how to play football."

It was nearly nine o'clock when the session ended, and the setting sun had given a peachlike tint to the billowy clouds above. "I'm too tall to act small," Vick sang as some of the younger campers descended, playfully daring him to participate in the following evening's scrimmages. "It's on, Vick -- tomorrow," a broad-shouldered camper growled. "When I'm finished with you, all you're gonna see is pitch-black." Vick cracked up. A crew-cut camper chimed in that he was going to leave Vick seeing nothing but "white light, baby," then reconsidered his position.

"Actually," he said, latching on to Vick's passing arm, "I want to be on your team."
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Postby Mercer Boy » Wed Jun 29, 2005 5:15 am

Sorry, I just basically passed over the whole article. I am sure he has a good story, and he is a very talented player that helped take his team to the NFC Championship game last year.

He still really, really needs to work on the whole QB thing, though...especially for fantasy. Anyone that drafts him as a starting fantasy QB is going to be just as frustrated as those who have done it in the past. If you can pick out the games where he will run for over 100 yards and throw for over 200 with a couple TD's, then you're a better man than I. :-/

Vick is the perfect type of guy to be a FQBBC (Fantasy QB by committee). If you can find another guy who can get you good stats on the weeks where Vick will struggle, you can do well. But, you can't overspend on Vick. I wouldn't draft him until the 8th round of any fantasy draft, and then I would take another capable guy a round or two after.
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Postby FantasyManiac24 » Wed Jun 29, 2005 7:00 am

Mercer Boy wrote:Sorry, I just basically passed over the whole article. I am sure he has a good story, and he is a very talented player that helped take his team to the NFC Championship game last year.

He still really, really needs to work on the whole QB thing, though...especially for fantasy. Anyone that drafts him as a starting fantasy QB is going to be just as frustrated as those who have done it in the past. If you can pick out the games where he will run for over 100 yards and throw for over 200 with a couple TD's, then you're a better man than I. :-/

Vick is the perfect type of guy to be a FQBBC (Fantasy QB by committee). If you can find another guy who can get you good stats on the weeks where Vick will struggle, you can do well. But, you can't overspend on Vick. I wouldn't draft him until the 8th round of any fantasy draft, and then I would take another capable guy a round or two after.



wow. i could not have said it better myself. that is exactly what i was thinking. :-b
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Postby MadScott » Wed Jun 29, 2005 9:24 am

I'm certainly not willing to gamble on Vick to be my fantasy starter yet, but the time could be coming where that is the case. If he can master the WCO and it's intricacies, the sky could be the limit for Vick. He's got the arm strength and scrambling ability that already make him dangerous, if he learns the accuracy and timing of the WCO, he'll be deadly.
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Re: I am a quarterback

Postby defianthart » Wed Jun 29, 2005 9:34 am

Ironhorse75 wrote:A few minutes earlier Vick had arrived at his football camp at the State University of West Georgia in Carrollton, where more than 250 kids ages eight to 18 spent several days last week getting up close and personal with the NFL's most electrifying player.


thats where i go to school, even though its just University of West Georgia now. i had no clue he was gonna be there...
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Postby Redskins Win » Wed Jun 29, 2005 9:53 am

This article brought a tear to my eye, pass the tissue.

Mercer hit it right on the head. Vick needs to be more consistant.
when he becomes a complete player . . . watch out. Maybe it's this season.
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Re: I am a quarterback

Postby maddog60 » Wed Jun 29, 2005 10:02 am

Ironhorse75 wrote:SI's latest cover story on Vick.

By Michael Silver

"The commentators can say that all they want," he says, "but tell them to ask any defensive coordinator in the league this question: 'Do you game-plan for Michael Vick in the passing game?' I guarantee you 31 coordinators will say, 'You're damned right we do.' I don't care what my numbers say; that's a quarterback."



Yeah, they do what any smart team does. They game plan to force Vick to pass the ball. And it works, he gets killed by any decent defense that forces him to throw. That's failing to do your job as a quarterback, not being able to pass the ball successfully.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank certainly agrees, as evidenced by the 10-year, $130 million extension to which he signed Vick last December. It was an acknowledgement that in four NFL seasons Vick, the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft, had helped lift the Falcons from the dregs of the league to its upper echelon. In the two campaigns in which he started more than four games, Vick guided Atlanta to the 2002 NFC divisional playoffs (in the wild-card round the Falcons handed the Green Bay Packers their first postseason loss at Lambeau Field) and to last season's NFC Championship Game, which Atlanta lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10. His winning percentage as a starter is 65.3 -- Atlanta is 9-19 without him -- and he has been selected to play in two of the last three Pro Bowls.


More undeserved accolades.

Its ridiculous how Vick gets credit for the win at Lambeau. He had less than 200 total yards and 1 touchdown, and just about 50% completions. AJ Feeley can put up those numbers any given week. What won that game was 5 turnovers forced by the defense. How about giving the credit for Carpenter for his 4 tackles and 2 INTs, or maybe Kerney for 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.

Then Vick in the Pro Bowl, well isn't that a joke. He was 11th in the NFC in passer rating last year. 11th! Tim Rattay managed the same QB Rating with a much much worse team around him. Yet he went above guys who had higher tha 90 QB ratings like Bulger, Favre, and Griese. Plain and simple, he was not Pro Bowl calibur last year, and even the announcers who had to resort to calling him "magical" in order to justify his Pro Bowl selection know it.

"A lot of football people rightfully question his credentials as a pocket passer," one AFC general manager said last week. "You can't criticize any other part of his game,


Yes, you can. Watch how he holds the ball when scrambling. He doesn't have his arm held high threatening to pass, nor does he tuck the ball and protect it from defenders. No, Vick holds the ball waist high, in one hand, away from his body. Football fundamentals folks; he lacks them. There is a reason why Vick fumbles so much, because he doesn't protect the ball. This is not the kind of techniques that coaches wait till the NFL level to teach, yet Vick still doesn't do it. So if you're the Falcons, what you've got is a QB who doesn't protect the ball and likes to dance around with the opposing pass-rush alot. That's a game losing turnover waiting to happen.

But I'm done beating a dead horse. When Vick fails to produce again this year, maybe critics will stop treating him like a rookie or 2nd year guy and start asking why can't a guy in his 5th season do his job.
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Postby terpfan » Wed Jun 29, 2005 10:31 am

I've got nothing more in particular to add here, but nice info in that post maddog. ;-D

I really don't like Vick much as a fantasy QB and would easily take Green, Bulger, Favre, even Collins, Hasselbeck, and Brady over him. Luckily, it's unlikely I'd ever have to worry about that as high as he usually goes.
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Postby Goatwhacker » Wed Jun 29, 2005 11:45 am

I have to say this also doesn't bode well for Vick improving. If he already has the attitude he's a feared passer there is little chance he's going to work on it much.

Excellent post, maddog by the way.
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Postby Mookie4ever » Wed Jun 29, 2005 11:48 am

Vick is an exciting player who is a lot of fun to watch. An exciting player like this who doesn't run down traffic cops, hold out or shoot up is very good for football. I wish him the best of luck this year. If he craps out it's the fans who will end up losing.
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