By Aaron Schatz
Special to Page 2

Note: Go to the bottom of the table for a more complete explanation of how Aaron's QB rating system works.

For the last couple weeks, America's No. 1 movie at the box office was an animated superhero tale called "The Incredibles." If you haven't seen it, you should, because not only is it very funny, it also has an important lesson for Michael Vick.

Between the visual jokes and comic-book references, the moral of the story says people should be allowed to be themselves and utilize their inherent talents. Somebody must have got an early copy of the movie to the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff because over the past few weeks they have allowed Michael Vick to finally use his superhero power of "best running quarterback who ever lived" and he's playing a lot better because of it.

The dividing line seems to be the Week 7 debacle against Kansas City. Prior to that game, Vick had more than seven rushes only once: Week 2 against St. Louis, when he ran 10 times for 112 yards and the Falcons obliterated the Rams. After that game Vick went through weeks of struggle, and forests were decimated with people talking about how he didn't understand Atlanta's new "West Coast Offense."

Well, if you Atlanta has been playing the same scheme the past couple of weeks as it did the first few weeks, you probably also think that "The Rebel Billionaire" is a monument to original television programming. The last three weeks Vick has run 12 times for 115 yards, eight times for 74 yards, and 13 times for 106 yards. And what do you know, Atlanta has won three straight, even though the defense isn't playing quite as well as it was at the beginning of the season.

More importantly, though, Vick plays his best PASSING games when he runs more The three games with at least 10 rushes -- wins over St. Louis, Denver, and the Giants -- score as three of Vick's top four games according to my ratings. When they let Vick be Vick instead of trying to restrain him with a system designed for a different quarterback, he runs better and he passes better. That makes a better quarterback overall and that means more wins. Yes, he's going to get injured. Yes, he needs to learn to throw the ball away a bit more often, or slide, or get out of bounds without taking a hit. But like a great jazz saxophonist, Vick is better when improvising than playing from the sheet music.

(Note: official NFL numbers differ from my numbers because they include quarterback kneel downs and aborted snaps as rushes.)

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    Quarterback Skinny DPAR
    1. Donovan McNabb
    18/26, 222 yards
    4 TDs, 1 INT
    Washington's defense, it turns out, is a bit of a paper tiger. They've controlled the young guys but veterans do well unless they are named "Brad Johnson." 10.5
    2. Brett Favre
    33/50, 383 yards
    1 TD, 2 INTs
    After engineering comeback win, also patched up R. Kelly's beef with Jay-Z. He's amazing. 9.1
    3. Michael Vick
    12/20, 115 yards
    2 TDs, 0 INTs
    104 rushing
    Three of Vick's top four passing games have come in the weeks he has run at least 10 times. You have to let Vick be Vick. 8.3
    4. Kerry Collins
    18/30, 227 yards
    2 TDs, 0 INTs
    Remember, San Diego is good now, and losing to them by only six is an accomplishment (for the Raiders anyway). 7.5
    5. Peyton Manning
    18/27, 320 yards
    5 TDs, 2 INTs
    Yes, yes, I know, four touchdowns, Marino's record, etc ... but this was Edge's game. He had 14.0 DPAR rushing, best RB performance of the year (yes, we do RBs too). 7.4
    6. Drew Brees
    18/34, 226 yards
    1 TD, 0 INTs
    LT had 137 pass targets last year. This year he is on pace for 45. That's a lot less use of the safety valve. 5.8
    7. Jake Plummer
    19/29, 224 yards
    2 TDs, 0 INTs
    Troy Aikman said on Sunday, "There are no easy defenses in the NFL." Troy obviously has not done a New Orleans game. 4.9
    8. Kyle Boller
    23/34, 232 yards
    2 TDs, 0 INTs
    Once he does this against a real defense, I'll be convinced. Next week, in New England, he'll get his chance. 4.7
    9. Daunte Culpepper
    22/32, 233 yards
    2 TDs, 1 INT
    Playing this solid without Moss to depend on says a lot about Culpepper. 4.2
    10. Carson Palmer
    13/25, 165 yards
    2 TDs, 1 INT
    To fit in better on team, may change name to "Johnson." 3.9
    11. Drew Henson
    6/6, 47 yards
    1 TD, 0 INTs
    Somehow I think he wouldn't have gone 6-for-6 if the score had been 0-0 instead of 30-3. 3.6
    12. Jeff Garcia
    10/17, 88 yards
    1 TD, 0 INTs
    Do you realize that at one point in this game the Browns and Jets were 0-for-20 on third-down conversions? 3.2
    13. Ben Roethlisberger
    15/21, 138 yards
    1 TD, 0 INT
    Yikes, sacked twice in the red zone and got stuck with intentional grounding. 2.8
    14. David Garrard
    13/27, 129 yards
    0 TDs, 1 INT
    I always enjoyed him as Buck Rogers. 2.2
    15. Jake Delhomme
    12/25, 157 yards
    2 TDs, 1 INT
    We interrupt today's episode of "Jake Delhomme, One-Man Team" to bring you "The Nick Goings Show!" 2.1
    16. David Carr
    13/26, 164 yards
    1 TD, 0 INTs
    In case you missed it, Brett Favre is his idol. 1.7
    17. Drew Bledsoe
    15/24, 185 yards
    3 TDs, 1 INT
    Raise your hand if you had Mark Campbell on your fantasy team. OK, that's three of you. 1.1
    18. Aaron Brooks
    34/60, 377 yards
    1 TD, 3 INTs
    Leads the league with 1080 yards passing -- when losing by more than a touchdown. -0.2
    19. Patrick Ramsey
    21/34, 162 yards
    0 TDs, 1 INT
    Pretty good for a while, then crashed in Q4 with no first downs, no passes over 10 yards, and an interception. -0.2
    20. A.J. Feeley
    23/45, 229 yards
    1 TD, 2 INTs
    This game said a lot more about Seattle than it did about Miami. -0.3
    21. Brian Griese
    15/21, 210 yards
    2 TDs, 2 INTs
    Threw only four second-half passes. Thanks for coming, tip your waitresses. -0.4
    22. Kelly Holcomb
    4/10, 32 yards
    0 TDs, 0 INT
    Anyone who wanted to see Garcia benched changed their minds after seeing this performance. -1.0
    23. Quincy Carter
    11/20, 116 yards
    1 TD, 1 INT
    Exhibit A why a QB is partially responsible for getting sacked: Carter has been sacked 11 times in 2 games. Pennington was only sacked 8 times in 7 games. -2.8
    24. Tim Rattay
    15/31, 147 yards
    0 TD, 1 INT
    Rattay isn't really the problem with the 49ers. Tampa forced him to throw lots of checkdowns on 3rd-and-13s to Barlow, who dropped most of them. -3.1
    25. Trent Dilfer
    14/28, 196 yards
    1 TD, 2 INTs
    He just wins games! -3.5
    26. Vinny Testaverde
    9/22, 109 yards
    0 TDs, 2 INTs
    Only player to hold passing yards record both for a team and against that team. Now that team may have just ended his career as a starter. -4.3
    27. Marc Bulger
    27/45, 287 yards
    2 TDs, 3 INTs
    A return visit from our old friend "Marc Bulger of 2003." -5.0
    28. Eli Manning
    17/37, 162 yards
    1 TD, 2 INTs
    Unfortunartely, the NFL's record keeping on dropped passes is too sketchy to consider them in the ratings formula. -5.6
    29. Joey Harrington
    12/19, 91 yards
    1 TD, 1 INT
    To quote my FO co-writer Al Bogdan: "I can't take any team seriously as a playoff threat when they're thinking about voluntarily starting Mike McMahon." -7.0
    30. Steve McNair
    18/30, 209 yards
    1 TD, 2 INTs
    Yes, he marched the Titans for the winning TD ... on his FOURTH TRY. He threw an interception on the first try, was sacked for a safety on the second try, and had a sack and incomplete on a three-and-out on the third try. He only got the fourth try because the defense was strong and Josh Scobee was not. -7.7
    31. Shaun King
    28/52, 343 yards
    1 TD, 3 INTs
    Steals the "garbage time stat padding performance of the year" award away from Jake Plummer. 343 yards of nonsense. -9.2
    32. Craig Krenzel
    14/24, 175 yards
    1 TD, 2 INTs
    You may remember a couple weeks ago that I noted Chicago's upcoming schedule and said that bad defenses can make a mediocre quarterback look good. Well, apparently nothing can make Craig Krenzel look good. -11.6

    How DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement) works

    The success of each play is judged based on yardage gained towards both a touchdown and a first down. Then each play gets compared to the NFL average on similar plays, based on down, distance, and other variables. Quarterbacks are judged not based on how many yards they get, but on how important those yards are in the context of the game.

    Ratings are also adjusted for the quality of the opposing defense. The quarterback's performance is then translated into an approximate number of actual points that such success (or failure) is worth when compared to a "replacement level" quarterback (defined as any quarterback named "Billy Joe").

    When all offensive, defensive, and special teams plays are added together for one team, the result comes very close to the actual difference between points scored and allowed.

    Among the advantages of this system:

    1. Gives value for first downs, which are not really included in any other QB rating system but are hugely important.

    2. Does not punish quarterbacks who are always in bad field position because of a poor defense, nor does it punish quarterbacks who are always stuck in third-and-long because of a poor running game.

    3. With enough data to begin including defensive adjustment, quarterbacks receive bonuses when they play well against good defenses, and they don't get rated as world-beaters when they shred the 49ers

    4. Includes both passing and rushing plays, which obviously helps a QB like Michael Vick.

    5. DPAR punishes quarterbacks for turnovers but also for fumbles that his own team recovers. Different kind of fumbles have different penalties depending on how often defense recovers for a turnover. Sacks are punished as well.

    6. 5-yard scramble on 3rd-and-10? Worthless!

    7. Actual points! Easy to understand!

    An even longer explanation of these numbers can be found here.

    Aaron Schatz is editor-in-chief of


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