Nothing gets the football fan's blood boiling like a good quarterback debate, and in that spirit our friends at ESPNDallas.com have offered up a Hot Button debate asking which quarterback is better -- the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo or the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick?
Calvin Watkins makes the case for Vick, and Todd Archer for Romo, while Todd also points out that the debate for some reason ignores the Giants' Eli Manning, whom some consider the best in the division if only because he's the only one who's won a Super Bowl.
Now, if you read this blog regularly, you know that I hold all of these guys in very high regard as players. I think both Romo and Manning are top-level quarterbacks who are criticized too often for too little good reason. And I think the main reasons for which Vick is criticized, while justified, have nothing to do with the way he plays football but rather the well publicized off-the-field failings for which he went to prison.
But you also know that, when asked how to rank these three, I have consistently put Vick at No. 1 and Romo ever-so-slightly ahead of Manning for the No. 2 spot. While I consider Romo vs. Manning to be a very close call and a worthwhile debate, I think right now, based on the way everyone played in 2010, Vick is head and shoulders the best player at the position in the NFC East.
The important thing to remember is that Vick vs. Romo is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Todd's points are good, and centered on the idea that Romo is the better all-around quarterback if you leave out the extra stuff Vick brings to the position. And if the question is which quarterback will end up having the longer or more successful career, I think it's a lot more difficult call to make. Romo and Manning are statistically excellent passers who've shown improvement year-to-year, and the fact that they're more traditional pocket passers and don't expose themselves to potential injury the way Vick does leads one to believe they'll outlast him.
But right now, Vick brings too many extra and outstanding elements to the table. His ability to make plays with his legs truly does set him apart from other quarterbacks in the league. You can say we've only seen him do it at that level for one year and don't know if he can do it again or for how long, and you're right. One big hit by the Rams in the season opener, and this isn't a debate anymore. But if you were picking teams right now and you had your choice between these three quarterbacks, you wouldn't have to think long to decide on Vick. He just enables you to do more than anyone else does. Incidentally, he's got the strongest arm of the three as well.
The key for Vick, if he wants to keep this debate going into the future, is whether he sees the quarterback position as a craft he needs to hone and perfect. The great quarterbacks see it that way, and since he's been in Philadelphia Vick has seemed to embrace that concept more than he did earlier in his career. Vick-as-athlete is great enough to be the dominant player in the league if he stays healthy. But if Vick-as-quarterback is going to keep making the strides he's made over the past couple of years, we could be looking at something historically special. The potential for that, as well as the fact that he's the better and more dangerous all-around football player at this moment in time, is what makes Vick over Romo (and Manning) an easy call right now.