FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The subject was Michael Vick -- specifically, his small, puzzling and unsuccessful role in last week's win. Marty Mornhinweg tried to diffuse a pointed question with humor.
"You didn't like that?" the New York Jets' offensive coordinator asked a reporter Thursday, feigning incredulity.
No, there wasn't much to like.
The Jets used Vick for three plays in their 19-14 win over the Oakland Raiders, deploying him twice as a slot receiver near the goal line. He was a decoy on the first play, with Geno Smith giving him a quick look -- as if he were going to throw him a pass. Smith ran the other way, as designed, and he fumbled. A little later, they drew up a schoolyard play, with Chris Johnson taking a direct snap and pitching to Vick, who missed a wide-open Eric Decker in the end zone.
As kids, we all used to run those plays in the street -- you know, the kind of plays in which we used the telephone pole and the blue Chevy as landmarks.
Mornhinweg is a good play-caller, a sound coach with a little riverboat gambler in his DNA (which is a good thing), but this Vick stuff has to stop. All it does is disrupt Smith and the offense, torturing the fan base with bad memories of the Tim Tebow debacle. It also exposes Vick to potential injury, and we all know he isn't exactly the Iron Horse when it comes to durability.
On Sunday, the Jets marched 82 yards to the Raiders' 3, when Mornhinweg sent in Vick for gadget play No. 1. All they needed to do was hand the ball to Chris Ivory or Chris Johnson to finish the job, but Mornhinweg got too cute. Smith fumbled. To be fair, they scored after the Vick-to-Decker incompletion, on Smith's 5-yard shovel pass to Johnson (a great call), so they avoided a second disaster.
There's a time and place for the change-of-pace plays. A few years ago, Brad Smith was ideal in the Wildcat because he wasn't the No. 2 quarterback; he was a former college quarterback with the body and toughness to handle a variety of physically demanding jobs, including returning kickoffs and covering kickoffs. Some felt it messed with the rhythm of the offense, but the package produced yards. This was back when the Wildcat was in style. Now, it's a dinosaur.
Mornhinweg acknowledged the rhythm issue, but he believes the pros outweight the cons.
"There are some great positives of utilizing a man like Mike Vick because he's so skilled, and it creates some things for you certainly during a game and in the future," he said. "That's all I'm going to say about the thought process."
Mornhinweg didn't want to go there because he was afraid of revealing secrets to the Green Bay Packers and others on the Jets' schedule. Pressed, he added, "Why wouldn't you want to use a capable player that you have available? That's just me and the way we operate."
He has known Vick for five years, dating to their years in Philadelphia. Maybe he wants Vick to feel like he's part of the team, keeping him involved, albeit in a small way. Thing is, Vick is the backup quarterback on a team in which the starter still is unproven. In other words, they may need him at some point.
Vick, still a dangerous runner at 34, said he expects his appearances to be "few and far between." He doesn't love the role -- he, too, has expressed concern about disrupting the starter -- but he's not complaining about it. He's a good soldier.
But not all soldiers belong on the front line.