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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Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”