For now, Vick's offense remains sensationally flawed, lurching along toward sure defeat in January in, say, Philadelphia or Carolina. That's according to several defensive coaches and NFL insiders I've spoken with the last few months. They all say basically the same thing -- that Vick still doesn't appear to have much of a clue when he drops back to pass. Little rhythm or reading. Mostly Vick being Vick.
As Vick says: "Running is just what I do, who I am."
Vick drops back, thinking run. Seldom does he settle into any bing-bing-bing flow, consistently hitting receivers as they come out of their breaks. Young, Aikman, Favre, Elway, Brady -- they've all won Super Bowls with passing attacks based on timing and anticipation.
Vick either takes off or, on the fly, looks for his biggest target -- tight end Alge Crumpler.
Why was Peerless Price considered such a bust in Atlanta? One Falcons source says Vick deserves at least half the blame. Vick, says the source, had such a hard time getting the ball to his wideouts that Price began losing confidence and finally was buried by the Atlanta media and fans.
One other problem with Vick: Though he has a bazooka of an arm, his release is slowed by a little windup motion, and his pretty rockets are too often off-target and difficult to catch. If Vick were a pitcher, he'd be walking six or seven batters per nine innings. Maybe the Falcons' problem isn't finding a big-time receiver for Vick. It's Vick finding that receiver and hitting him on time and in stride with a catchable pass.
Watch Price find himself in Dallas. Watch him regain the confidence and form that made him a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver in Buffalo. Watch him help turn the Cowboys into a playoff team.
Sometimes Vick has a hard time finding even Crumpler because Vick is one of the NFL's shortest quarterbacks, at about 6 feet. He's a stoutly muscled 210 pounds, yet he routinely goes flying into astonishingly dangerous situations. There is no way can he avoid injury playing with such reckless abandon.
Vick's response? "That's what people pay to see."
No, Michael. Ultimately, they pay to see you win. And the easiest way to do that is to stay healthy, develop a passing game that sets up the run, and scramble only to keep a defense honest.
Dan Reeves knew. Reeves had tried (and failed) to teach John Elway in Denver that the quickest way to a Super Bowl was with a rhythm passing game. Elway, like Vick, wanted to scramble until he found an open receiver or to make first downs with his legs. Elway basically ran Reeves out of Denver.
Reeves coached Vick in his first three seasons in Atlanta. Vick began buying into Reeves' stubborn but wise ways. Vick appeared to be a much better pocket passer under Reeves.
But Vick has regressed under coach Jim Mora and coordinator Greg Knapp. Those two fairly young coaches are obviously in awe of inheriting Michael Vick. They are afraid to treat Vick as if he's anything but the most powerful man in Atlanta.
Vick says Mora often slaps him on the back and says, "Just do what you do."