After a 2011 season in which Eagles quarterback Michael Vick had 10 fumbles and a career-high 14 interceptions, the coaching staff has talked about telling Vick not to try to do too much. But is there a risk that taking that approach with Vick, who’s at his best when he’s trying to do things that other quarterbacks can’t do, will backfire?
That’s a question raised this offseason by some Eagles observers, including Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who writes, “If the Eagles turn Vick into some version of himself with all the edges padded, he might just stink.”
The threat Vick poses as a runner makes him a unique player in NFL history — he’s the league’s all-time leader in yards per carry, with 7.2 yards per rushing attempt. An offensive emphasis on Vick playing within the system might result in Vick being less effective.
Eagles head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson have already tried to emphasize pocket passing over taking off and running with Vick, and in 2011 Vick started to take those coaching points to heart: In his second season as the Eagles’ starter last year, his passing attempts increased from 372 to 423 while his rushing attempts declined from 100 to 76. But that didn’t work particularly well, as both Vick’s individual numbers and the Eagles’ offense as a whole declined.
Mornhinweg, however, believes that what Vick did last year represented progress.
“I know this . . . he progressed beautifully last year,” Mornhinweg said. “The results didn’t quite show like he wanted or I wanted or the organization or fans wanted it. But he’s much further ahead playing the quarterback position at a high level now than he was at any time in the past.”
That may be true, if your idea of “playing the quarterback position at a high level” means staying in the pocket and reading through your progressions. But if what you want is a pocket passer, Michael Vick is not the right man for the job.
The good news for the Eagles is that they got a preview of what Vick as a pocket passer will look like in the final four games of the regular season: After Vick missed three straight games with broken ribs, he returned and looked more cautious in the final four games of the season. Vick ran only 11 times in the last four games of the year, and the Eagles went 4-0 in those games.
If Vick can lead the Eagles to more wins while staying in the pocket, good for him and good for the Eagles. But if the Eagles struggle while Vick is staying in the pocket early this season, the coaching staff will have no choice but to unleash Vick to do what he does best. Otherwise, some other staff will be coaching Michael Vick a year from now.