Steve Wyche - Staff
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Flowery Branch --- When the Falcons hired Bill Musgrave during the winter as quarterbacks coach, they figured his pedigree as a player, mentor, assistant and coordinator were traits that would help Michael Vick and his understudies reach a new level.
What they might not have known is that they acquired an ambidextrous instructor.
While walking through plays at the team's first minicamp practice Saturday, Musgrave worked as a left-handed passer --- footwork and all --- to benefit Vick, a lefty. He then flipped to his natural right side to show the three right-handed backups how to execute plays.
"I don't know how I got good doing that, but I've coached some lefties, from Mark Brunell and there's Steve Young," said Musgrave, a college standout at Oregon and career NFL backup. "We used to give Steve a hard time about his drop and footwork. Even though it was sound fundamentally, it was still quirky nonetheless, so I probably got good at emulating left-handers at that time, which was about 10-15 years ago."
Musgrave's adaptability and Vick's willingness to buy into Musgrave's coaching has squashed any concerns there might have been about the firing of quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson, whom Vick was quite fond of.
It's also shown that Vick, who has been through his share of coordinators, position coaches, head coaches and schemes in his five seasons, is willing to go with the flow.
"It's been good," Vick said of his relationship with Musgrave, who helped rejuvenate Brunell's career last season in Washington. "I've really enjoyed the past three months working with him. He's a guy who knows the offense, knows what it takes to have success in the offense and be efficient in it.
"With him working alongside [offensive coordinator] Greg Knapp, things will be a lot better than they were last year and the year before that, as far as my development and my growth and being an efficient quarterback."
Musgrave said his early take has been positive. Vick has shown up at meetings on time. He's been eager to learn more about what is already in place and to figure out new wrinkles. Backups Matt Schaub, whom Musgrave coached at the University of Virginia, and Bryan Randall have also been ideal pupils, Musgrave said.
"I had heard good things about [Vick] and they're all true," Musgrave said. "He's a competitor. He's a professional. He doesn't want to have any down years. ...
"More than it being about him, though, I think he's looking forward for the team to get back on track and winning the division again."
Musgrave said he isn't going to be overbearing or try to deconstruct Vick to make him something he's not.
"Hopefully, I can be more of a sounding board for him, a resource," Musgrave said.
Musgrave can only help Vick so much, though.
Vick, bothered by a knee sprain he never spoke much about until after the team's 8-8 season, rushed for 597 yards and completed 214 of 387 passes for 2,412 yards, 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2005.
If he is to improve on those totals, including victories, he admittedly is going to have to work a little harder and simply be better. Coach Jim Mora said his lightning-rod quarterback has shown a "renewed resolve."
"A lot of people last year said I was trying to stay in the pocket more, trying to be a better quarterback, so to speak," Vick said. "It wasn't just that. I was hurt last year. I couldn't be as mobile as I wanted to be. It wasn't Coach Knapp's fault, it wasn't the quarterbacks coach's fault because of my play. It was just me doing something that I felt was best for me. I don't know if it was best for the team, but I did what I could. I wanted to stay in the pocket. I wanted to protect myself.
"This year I want to come out and be myself, stay healthy and play my game."