Vick: A runner masquerading as a QB?
Posted: 1 hour ago
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - Every now and then, the criticism gets to Michael Vick.
Last year, after resembling a traditional quarterback in a win at Miami, Vick told all the cynics to quit harping on his unique style and acknowledge that he could be effective as a dropback passer when he really put his mind to it.
But, as the Atlanta Falcons fell apart down the stretch, the Vick-isn't-a-real-quarterback lobby got louder. From national broadcasters to ordinary fans, he's still viewed by many as nothing more than a running back who just happens to take the snaps.
Vick has come to realize he'll always be a convenient target of those who say a quarterback should hone his passing skills and leave the running to others.
"As long as this team achieves its goals in going to the Super Bowl, I can care less about the numbers," he said. "It doesn't make a difference. Guys put up numbers every year - big numbers - and don't win a ring, so it doesn't mean anything."
One national columnist wrote that Vick is the Falcons' most overrated player. A well-known magazine ripped him for failing to take Atlanta to the playoffs in three of his five seasons, not bothering to mention he wasn't the starter one of those years and missed most of another with an injury.
Then again, Vick ranked 25th in passing efficiency last season, sandwiched between two players who are rarely mentioned in the same breath: Josh McCown and Brooks Bollinger. A stat that's much easier to understand didn't go in Vick's favor, either - the Falcons lost six of their last eight games and missed the playoffs, one year after reaching the NFC championship game.
Vick even conceded that he didn't give his best effort in the season finale, a humiliating 44-11 loss to Carolina after the Falcons already had been eliminated from the playoffs. While he wasn't the only one who packed it in that day, the quarterback must set the tone. Vick apologized to his teammates during training camp and vowed to give an effort befitting the Superman tattoo on his hand.
"If I have the passing yards or rushing yards and we don't accomplish the common goal at the end of the season, it doesn't mean nothing," he said. "I'm not trying to prove anything to anybody anymore because of regardless of what I do, people are going to say what they want to say. You can't please everybody. I can only please myself, my teammates, and the coaches. That's my goal, so I won't bother with it anymore."
There are plenty of things on which Vick can improve. His grasp of the West Coast offense - a scheme based on timing and shorter passing routes - is still a work in progress, even though this will be his third season running it. He clearly plays favorites when dropping back to pass, usually looking toward Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler and receiver Brian Finneran.
Those two combined for 115 receptions last season, accounting for nearly half Atlanta's output. But Finneran went down with a season-ending knee injury early in camp, and the 262-pound Crumpler isn't the sort of deep threat that keeps a secondary on its heels.
"Mike will cut it loose quicker with Alge than another receiver ... until he gets more comfortable with them, which is only natural if you're a quarterback," offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said.
Vick spent most of the offseason working with his two young starting receivers, who didn't make much of an impact in 2005: Michael Jenkins, a first-round pick two years ago, and Roddy White, last year's top pick.
White has shown a willingness to make the tough catches and seems to gaining his quarterback's confidence. Jenkins has the size (6-foot-4) to become a more inviting target for Vick, who is generously listed at 6 feet.
"Every now and then, it's tough for me to see over the line," Vick conceded. "But I create passing lines for myself. I work the pocket pretty well and I see things before they happen. I understand coverages, and I know where guys are going to be, so I really don't need the height. I just need my vision."
Vick has the sixth-best winning percentage among active NFL quarterbacks, so he's obviously doing something right. He's guided the Falcons to victory in nearly 62 percent of his starts, quite an achievement for a franchise that's never had back-to-back winning seasons.
Also, No. 7's impact is apparent from those who show up at the Georgia Dome on Sundays - many wearing his replica jersey. The Falcons rarely played in front of full houses before Vick arrived; now, the team routinely sells out and has a waiting list in the thousands.
"He can't be compared to other quarterbacks the same way," teammate Patrick Kerney said. "A lot of people say he uses his feet too much. But he uses his feet to make as much of a difference as most quarterbacks make with their arms."
Still, it's clear that Vick must take his passing game to another level if he wants to keep winning in the NFL. His running skills will gradually erode as his body absorbs more and more of a pounding, forcing him to become more of a pure dropback passer.
That sort of transition already happened for players such as Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper. But Vick isn't to that point yet, and the Falcons are in no rush to lead him in that direction.
"I don't know who is overrated and who is underrated," coach Jim Mora said. "All I know is that whatever list Mike Vick is on, I am glad that behind it says 'Mike Vick, Atlanta Falcons."'
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