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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Union-Crew 5 things: Still in good position, Jim Curtin's club looks to rebound

Union-Crew 5 things: Still in good position, Jim Curtin's club looks to rebound

Union at Crew
7:30 p.m. on TCN

Despite being dominated by Toronto FC on Saturday, the Union (9-9-7) managed to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, thanks to a handful of fortunate results around the league. But if the club wants to better its odds for the postseason, it needs to take care of business at Mapfre Stadium on Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew (4-8-11).

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Playoff push
It hasn’t been a convincing few weeks for the Union. Although the club still sits fourth in the Eastern Conference despite one win in its last six games, it needs points to stay afloat. That quest begins on Wednesday against the Crew.

“The focus is getting points,” Union defender Richie Marquez said. “For us, home or away, we need three points because we need to solidify that playoff spot.”

As of now the Union are in snug playoff position with 34 points — one ahead of the Montreal Impact and six in front of D.C. United and Orlando City for the sixth and final playoff spot. On the plus side, the club is one point behind the New York Red Bulls with a game in hand.

“It’s a push to get into the playoffs and try to see how high we can end up in the table,” Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “It’s important we don’t look too much at the standings because anything can happen in this league. It’s all really tight. It’s important we go to Columbus with the right mentality and come back to Philly with three points.”

2. Coming off a loss
Speaking of the playoff push, the Union’s dream of being a top-two seed in the East took a major hit on Saturday in a 3-1 bashing by Toronto FC. The loss put Toronto up six and New York City FC up seven on the Union. 

Worst of all, it crushed all Union momentum coming out of a 4-0 win over the New England Revolution a week prior. Still, the club maintains its confidence heading into Wednesday.

“I feel good about this team and the players we have,” Bedoya said. “The goals we gave up were too easy. We have talent on this team, but there’s little things we have to fix. Once we get those right, we’ll be tough to break down.” 

As Jim Curtin explained, the short turnaround from Saturday actually works in the Union’s favor. 

“We were smart with how we managed the past two days in terms of getting the guys massages, taking care of their bodies, eating right and getting enough sleep,” he said. “They’ll be ready to go, they’re itching to get the bad taste out of their mouth after the Toronto game.”

3. Win-starved Crew
With the help of Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain, the Crew took down the floundering Revolution over the weekend. But that’s nothing to celebrate over. It was just the club’s fourth win of the season and second since May 28. 

The Crew are currently closer to having the lowest point total in MLS than a playoff spot.

“It’s been tough,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a team that I believe in deeply but it’s natural that confidence dips when you don’t get the results. It’s about believing in our playing style and fine-tuning things, approving in some areas. I think we did that in the last game.” 

Though the Crew attempt to climb out of the basement on Wednesday, they know what they are up against. The Union took the first season meeting against the Crew, 2-1, and the second, 3-2. 

“They added Bedoya, who is a quality player,” Berhalter said. “Other than that, it’s similar to what they’ve been doing all year with [C.J.] Sapong and talented players behind him. Bedoya makes a good difference there, but they are a solid group and they’ll play with intensity. From our side, we’ll have to be smart how we approach the game.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: Facing the Crew twice this season, the Union have five goals. Chris Pontius has three of them. The Union forward scored the brace on March 12, then buried another on June 1. 

Crew: MLS rookie Ola Kamara leads the Crew with 10 goals, including one against the Union on June 1. Since May 28, the forward has 10 goals and one assist in 12 games.

5. This and that
• Facing the Crew has always been tough for the Union. Including two wins this season, the Union are 6-10-1 against the Crew all-time.

• The Union have only suffered back-to-back losses twice this season, and both times it happened in the club’s last 10 games.

• Of Kamara’s 10 goals this season, six have come at home. 

• The first-ever meeting between the Union and Crew happened on Aug. 5, 2010, and was a 2-1 loss for the Union. Sebastien Le Toux scored a penalty kick but Steven Lenhart buried the brace.

How Jim Schwartz changed Stephen Tulloch's career

How Jim Schwartz changed Stephen Tulloch's career

Stephen Tulloch hasn’t just had a successful NFL career under Jim Schwartz. He’s had a successful career because of Jim Schwartz.

“I have a lot of love and respect for Coach Schwartz,” Tulloch said following his first practice with the Eagles (see story).

On Tuesday, the Eagles’ newest linebacker credited Schwartz for the Titans’ drafting him with the 116th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft. He said Schwartz pushed for him, “when nobody else really wanted to go after” him.

“I’ll leave you with this story,” Tulloch began.

“So in 2006, I go to the NFL combine. I measure in at 5-10 and some change, whatever I was. It was the second day of the draft and [the Titans] were about to draft a guy from another school, so Coach Schwartz goes into [Jeff] Fisher’s office and makes a little tape of my highlights from college, and (former Titans linebackers coach) Dave McGinnis at the time. He changed Coach Fisher’s mind and Floyd Reese at the time was the general manager. I was the 116th pick in the [2006] draft. That was it. I came to Tennessee and the rest was history.”

So, who was the player the Titans almost drafted?

“I’m not gonna put it out there,” he said. “It was another guy and I’m fortunate enough to get drafted and still be here in the league.”

The decision worked out well for the Titans. Eventually, Tulloch became a starter and played five total years in Tennessee before moving on to Detroit. 

As for the other linebackers in the 2006 draft, well, Tulloch was one of 15 linebackers taken in the fourth round or later in 2006. To date, Tulloch has started 111 games. The other 14 have started a combined 138.

The other two linebackers taken in the fourth round in 2006 were Leon Williams to the Browns and Jamar Williams to the Bears. Leon Williams (pick No. 110) last played in 2012 and started just 12 NFL games, while Jamar Williams (pick No. 120) played five years and has just three career starts to his name.

Tulloch is still going strong. And he owes a lot to Jim Schwartz.

“I always thank him for the opportunity I had in Tennessee,” Tulloch said.

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

Jake Thompson left searching for answers after latest rough start

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — On the whole, the Phillies have made steady progress in their rebuild this season.

Cameron Rupp has improved. Maikel Franco has had a nice year. Odubel Herrera, even with his recent inconsistency, has had more ups than downs. Cesar Hernandez has been on a good roll. Freddy Galvis has 36 extra-base hits, and Tommy Joseph has opened eyes with his power. In the bullpen, Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos have shown that they just might be future studs.
 
For a good chunk of the season, the young starting pitching has shown promise, as well.
 
But lately, that corner of the team has taken some hits. Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin were both ruled out for the remainder of the season last week with elbow and knee injuries, respectively, and hard-throwing Vince Velasquez has been tagged for 19 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings over his last three starts.
 
Jake Thompson’s first four major-league starts haven’t exactly inspired confidence, either. The 22-year-old right-hander was hit hard in a 9-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). He gave up eight hits, including five for extra bases, and seven runs as his ERA swelled to 9.78. Only Mike Maddux (9.98) in 1986 had a higher ERA for the Phillies in his first four big-league starts.
 
“I’m not used to this,” Thompson said after the defeat. “I feel certain that I’m a lot better than my performance has indicated.”
 
Few pitchers come to the big leagues and dazzle right away. There is a learning curve and occasionally growing pains. But no one expected Thompson to have this much trouble out of the chute, not after what he did in his final 11 starts at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
Thompson went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
In four starts with the big club, he has given up 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He has walked 13 and struck out 13.
 
He was advertised as a control and command pitcher. He has yet to show that in the majors.
 
“A lot of it has to do with his age and, I think, the fact he’s in the big leagues for the first time trying to make a good impression,” manager Peter Mackanin said. “He probably feels like he needs to make perfect pitches every time. All he’s got to do is keep the ball down. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He relies on command and control and he hasn’t shown that. I attribute a lot of that to his youth and inexperience.”
 
So does Rupp, the catcher.
 
“How many guys do you see come to the big leagues at 22 years old and just flat out dominate every time they go out?” Rupp said. “Not very many. He's young. It was his first time in Triple A this year and he pitched really well and now he's got a chance in the big leagues. I'm sure he feels like there's pressure. When you come up and you pitch so well all year and then you finally get your opportunity, you want to impress. It puts a lot on you. And as a kid, you've got to be able to control it and it's tough. It's hard.

“Nobody wants to see anybody fail. It's hard to go through. It's something that's going to make him better when he does finally figure it out."
 
Two of the walks Thompson gave up Tuesday night became runs. He gave up back-to-back homers to Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau in the fifth inning as the White Sox turned it into a rout.
 
“Just too many pitches up in the strike zone,” Mackanin said. “Everything he threw was thigh high, waist high. He couldn’t get the ball down. It’s as simple as that.”
 
Thompson concurred with his manager.
 
“The issue is pretty evident,” he said. “I'm not throwing strikes and when I am throwing strikes, they're not good strikes. It’s a frustrating thing because it's a relatively easy thing to do. I don't really have the answer right now to fix it.”
 
The game moves fast at the big-league level and confidence can become bruised quickly. Thompson said his confidence was unshaken. Still, Phillies officials have to be careful that this difficult baptism to the majors does not snowball and become something that adversely impacts Thompson's growth.
 
“It’s something that you’re concerned about and I’m concerned about,” Mackanin said.
 
Concerned enough that Thompson might not make his next start?
 
Mackanin said he expected Thompson to stay in the rotation, but added that he would speak with general manager Matt Klentak on the topic.
 
“I don’t want to see him keep getting beat up and keep struggling like this,” Mackanin said. “We’ll talk about it and see what Matt wants to do.”