Terence Moore - Staff
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Flowery Branch --- Says here that Greg Knapp is outta here as Falcons offensive coordinator if Michael Vick continues to look clumsy when using his arm instead of his legs. To which Falcons coach Jim Mora responded Monday after the conclusion of his team's first minicamp by pointing upward to stress that nothing is clearer in Mora's mind than the fact that Knapp knows exactly what he's doing.
"Like the sky's blue. Not one of us can say that the sky's not blue," said Mora, still pointing after giving other "facts" that he says that nobody who knows the difference between a nimbostratus cloud and a blitzing linebacker "can argue."
This was the calmer Mora speaking, by the way. The slightly irritated one surfaced a few minutes earlier during his passionate defense of Knapp, who came with Mora to the Falcons from the San Francisco 49ers before the 2004 season. With voice rising, Mora said, "The guy is one of the finest offensive coordinators in the league. The fact is --- there's an undisputable fact that no one can dispute --- that we went from 29th to 12th [out of 32 teams in total offense]. We went from 29th or 30th on third downs to second. We led the league in rushing for two consecutive years."
Mora paused to unclench his teeth, before adding, "I'm flabbergasted when people question Greg Knapp. Go look at the numbers, and you tell me a team that has done that and has had that much [dramatic] improvement, then maybe you can argue with me. Until then, nobody has a basis for their argument."
Mora paused again, before easing into a smile and saying, "Well, unless they just want to throw [junk] up in the air and see what sticks."
This sticks: What Mora is neglecting to mention is that in 2003, when the Falcons' offense was ranked 29th, Vick played in just five games. He missed most of the season with a broken right fibula. It's a wonder how much an offense can improve when Doug Johnson is not your quarterback.
This also sticks: 73.1. That was Vick's passer rating last season, which ranked 25th out of the league's 34 qualifying quarterbacks. Not only that, his passer rating has spiraled toward oblivion each season since he reached a career high of 81.6 during his last full season under Dan Reeves in 2002 and the Green Bay miracle.
This sticks, too: The various excuses for Vick's inability to throw himself to the next level have dwindled to zero.
For starters, since Mike Johnson was the only coach dismissed by Falcons officials during the offseason, they essentially blamed all of Vick's struggles on the quarterbacks coach. Johnson's replacement, Bill Musgrave, already has been anointed as savior of the universe around here, or at least of No. 7. In fact, with the veteran Musgrave around, Knapp said he'll have more time to focus on the big picture of running the offense instead of functioning as he did with Johnson, as offensive coordinator and co-quarterbacks coach.
Said Knapp, who, like Mora, feels as if the guillotine isn't swinging above the head of the offensive coordinator, "Like any business, the more people around you that understand what's going on, it helps to make that business stronger. I feel like [Musgrave] will make us stronger as a unit, because I'm not feeling as obligated to be in there."
So any chance of Falcons officials playing the blame game again with the quarterbacks coach is definitely punted away. In addition, nobody can say that Vick is struggling out of discomfort with the new offense anymore. Well, they could, but among others involved with their versions of the West Coast offense, Steve Young already had won the NFL's most valuable player award by his third full year, Donovan McNabb was making his second trip to the NFC championship game, and Brett Favre had become Brett Favre.
One more thing: Vick spent much of last season with various aches and pains, but mostly there was his knee sprain that required a brace. He said it was the reason he chose to spend an usually high amount of time (for him) in the pocket last season. He said he is completely healthy now, which means he is his old self.
Which also means the pressure just increased even more on Knapp to make Vick go back to the future of his last season with Reeves, if nothing else.