The Final Word: Michael Vick Is Not nor Was He Ever a Very Good Quarterback

The Final Word: Michael Vick Is Not nor Was He Ever a Very Good Quarterback

Some of you who read it questioned what the purpose was
behind our dissection of Michael Vick’s supposedly MVP-caliber season in 2010.
That was over two years ago, and a fair number of you believe as I do it’s a
foregone conclusion Vick won’t be on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster for much
longer anyway.

Only it’s not a foregone conclusion for many others, fans
and members of the media alike. Some see Vick as the best option under center
for the Eagles in 2013. Even more think he would be a perfect fit in Chip
Kelly’s spread offense in particular. I almost have to laugh, but this is
serious… there is actually a belief being perpetuated that Kelly could squeeze
the last of the good years out of Vick.

And I’ve got to ask: what good years, when?

Was 2010 really a good year, or was it two memorable games
and an easy redemption story for sports writers? Decide for yourself, but I
suggest you at least take the plunge and have a closer look. 10-6 and the
decisive interception in a first-round playoff exit isn’t exactly the type of
season we celebrate around here, and without a few fortunate bounces, the
Eagles aren’t even in the tournament at all.

There are some who would disagree with that assessment, who
would discount that luck was involved even though his 1.6% interception rate
was more than a full-point below his career average, and nearly half of what it was
during his stint in Atlanta. Those are probably many of the same folks who
remember all those “good years” Vick had with the Falcons.

It’s funny what a player’s popularity can cause people to
forget – and just so there is no ambiguity, I’m talking specifically about on
the field. Before Vick went away, his act was already wearing thin in Atlanta,
the hype surrounding the “most dynamic athlete to ever play the position”
finally dying down. They had just missed the postseason in back-to-back years, while Vick actually managed to regress in his development as a passer.

In six seasons with the Falcons, Vick had a disappointing
75.7 passer rating, a statistic that measures the efficiency of passes
attempted. Sure, he ran for 3,859 yards and 21 touchdowns, and that ability
often kept the offense afloat. Overall the offense was erratic though, with the
tendency to vanish whenever defenses were able to be confine Vick to inside the
pocket.

That rating was largely a product of an embarrassing
Tebow-esque 53.8 completion percentage, and a mediocre 71 touchdowns to 52
interceptions. Plus, that speaks nothing to an astounding 9.8% sack rate – an
average of 6.2 yards were lost on one of almost every 10 dropbacks – and 52
fumbles.

Again, this is all over six seasons, of which only two of
them the Falcons made the playoffs not surprisingly. Yeah, they reached the NFC
Championship game one of those years, where they got smacked down by the Eagles
of course, because by pro-football quarterbacking standards, Vick simply wasn’t
able to compete on that stage.

This is an athlete who became famous more for his prowess in
Madden Football than his physical accomplishments on the gridiron. He rose to
prominence because ESPN could package his breathtaking runs and Houdini escapes
to popular music, and as long as the Falcons occasionally won on Sunday, no one
cared or noticed they were only marveling at the sideshow to Tom Brady’s
circus.

Vick has improved quite a bit since coming to Philadelphia.
After four seasons, his completion percentage is up to a respectable 60.1, his
sack rate down to a more manageable 6.8. Neither number is very good, but they
do demonstrate that Vick has finally progressed in some measureable way as a
quarterback.

The problem for the Eagles however, or any franchise that
might be tempted to view Vick as a short-term solution, is that a) it still
wasn’t good enough, not by a long shot, and b) there are aspects of his game
that are beyond repair.

It’s too late for a 33-year-old Vick to become a
quick, sound decision-maker with the football. There are too many bad habits there,
whether it’s because he’s behind the curve on reading opposing defenses, or
because he’s so used to being able to buy extra time with his feet. Whatever
the case may be, the more he slows down from age and injuries, the more the
game becomes much too fast for him.

All of which is to say renegotiating Vick’s contract if he
were to suddenly change his attitude on that front – and given nobody in the NFL is going to pay
him $15.5 million next season, he might – would be a foolish mistake for the
Eagles to make, Chip Kelly or no. It was a mistake to ever go with Vick in the
first place.

They would have been better off seeing what Kevin Kolb could
have done over the long haul, or if they were just going to abandon that ship at the first sign of a choppy wave,
doubling down on Donovan McNabb. But now that we’ve gone down this road, give
me practically any of the other options. Is Nick Foles going to be a star
quarterback in this league? Probably not, but I don’t know, and that alone
makes him a more attractive choice.

Play Foles, trade for Alex Smith, draft another quarterback.
Just don’t waste another year trying to salvage Vick. There’s no denying he has
the pure talent, and we get to occasionally see glimmers of it, like the time he
authored his defining performance in Washington on Monday Night Football, or during a miracle comeback
like that one cold afternoon in the Meadowlands.

Vick has proven time and time again that he is unable to
sustain that level of play for any meaningful length of time however, which will always make him a poor choice to quarterback your football team – or any
football team for that matter.

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Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

TAMPA -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

TAMPA -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.