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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Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

CLEVELAND -- Stephen Strasburg shut down Cleveland for seven innings and bounced back from his only loss this season, leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Indians on Wednesday.

Strasburg (14-1) began the season with 13 straight wins before he was beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21. The powerful right-hander shook off that blemish, holding the Indians to only three hits as the Nationals recovered after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth and losing on Tuesday night.

Washington rookie Trea Turner drove in three runs and Daniel Murphy hit his 20th homer off Carlos Carrasco (7-4), who nearly matched Strasburg but was done in by one bad inning.

Nationals reliever Blake Treinen stopped Cleveland's threat in the ninth, getting a game-ending double play for his major league save.

Strasburg walked one and struck out seven (see full recap)

Cardinals snap Familia's saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4
NEW YORK -- Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia's streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn't blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker's comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia's franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save (see full recap)

Padres hit 3 HRs to extend streak, beat Blue Jays 8-4
TORONTO -- Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots and the San Diego Padres beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Wednesday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

San Diego extended its club-record streak of games with at least one home run to 25. It's the longest run since the 2002 Texas Rangers set a major league record by homering in 27 straight.

Luis Perdomo (5-4) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to win back-to-back starts.

Wallace reached base three times. He was hit by a pitch and scored on Rosales' homer in the third, connected off R.A. Dickey in the fifth and hit an RBI single off Joe Biagini in the sixth.

Dickerson homered for the fourth time in four games when he connected off Franklin Morales in the eighth. He is first Padres rookie to homer in four straight games.

Dickey (7-12) allowed seven runs, six earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer is winless in three starts and has allowed six home runs in that span (see full recap).

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

He looks like a small back. He's built like a small back. He wants to play like a big back.

Wendell Smallwood, trying to make the Eagles as a reserve tailback, stands 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, but he said he’s got a surprise for defenders that think he’s one of those itty-bitty backs that dances around looking pretty … until they get hit.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said Tuesday. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

None of this should be a surprise considering Smallwood’s position coach is Duce Staley, who during his 10-year NFL career was much more interested in running over people than around them.

Smallwood is nowhere near as big as Staley, who played at about 235 to 240. But that’s the kind of back he wants to be.

“It’s definitely important to me and it’s definitely what Duce wants me to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants me to hit the holes and hit ‘em hard and that’s the reason he got me here.

“Duce, he doesn’t like small backs. He doesn’t. I don’t think he believes in those guys. He was a big boy. Running dudes over left and right. That’s what he wants.”

Smallwood played sparingly as a freshman at West Virginia, shared time with Rushel Shell as a sophomore, then took over last year when he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and added nine touchdowns, 26 catches and a 6.4 rushing average.

The Eagles plucked him out of Morgantown in the fifth round, and in an uncertain running back picture, he’s got a realistic chance to not just make the team but also play a role.

Just don’t expect him to play like a typical guy his size.

“I don’t consider myself a small back anymore,” he said. “People have always said that and I kind of started to agree, but then I looked at some of the guys who are around and I’m not a small back at all.

“I’m not little and the running style I like to do is suited for a big back, and my catching kind of throws people off. I definitely think I’m a mixture of both.”

Smallwood ranked 13th in Division I in rushing yards last year, and his 6.4 average was tied for ninth among backs with at least 200 carries.

He said a lot of defenders expect him to be a finesse back, a guy who likes to juke safeties and linebackers instead of bowling them over.

“Get me going downhill and I’ll get you what I can get you,” he said. “A lot of [defenders] kind of take the easy route and think it’s going to be easy and then the rest of the game they’re going low and trying to take my legs out.”

Look at the Eagles’ running back picture.

The starter is Ryan Mathews, who is talented but injury-prone. The backup right now probably is Kenjon Barner, who has 34 career carries. Then there’s Darren Sproles, whose 3.8 average last year was his lowest since 2009 and second lowest of his 11-year career.

With a strong camp, there’s no reason Smallwood can’t work himself into that picture.

The last frontier for the Northern Delaware native is blitz pickup. Something he was never asked to do at WVU.

“I don’t think I did basically any in college,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to block at all. I was mainly running routes.

“But as soon as I got here, Duce emphasized, ‘If you want to get on the field, you’re going to block. If you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play.'”

Staley’s No. 22 wasn’t available, but Smallwood is happy to wear the jersey number of another one of his favorite backs growing up, Correll Buckhalter’s No. 28, who he seems quite similar to.

It’s not fair to compare Smallwood to Staley, Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook or any other former Eagles back until the pads go on and we see what he’s really made of.

But Smallwood said he’s thrilled Staley is his coach and said there’s nobody he’d rather be playing for.

“I think he’s a great fit for me as a coach,” Smallwood said. “I need a kind of guy who drives me, tough guy, who’s not going to let up, who’s going to keep his foot on my back. I definitely need that kind of coaching.

“Just being around him growing up and seeing what he did when he was here and how he runs and him being one of my favorite backs, I was kind of star-struck to be around him, and now he’s my coach. It’s definitely a great situation for me.”