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Friday, June 17, 2011
Mornhinweg and Vick a perfect match

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Seth Wickersham has an Insider piece Insider up about Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the hyper-advanced, super-secret statistical formula he likes to use to evaluate quarterbacks. Ready? I mean, are you sitting down? Here it is:

Yards per attempt.

Marty Mornhinweg and Michael Vick
Michael Vick's play-making skills are particularly valuable to Marty Mornhinweg.
Yeah, that's right. Yards per attempt is apparently Mornhinweg's big number. Right there on any stat sheet you or I could find on the Web. Part of the point seems to be that simpler is better, and that Mornhinweg isn't the only coach out there who values a common but surprisingly useful stat category such as this. Seth details Mornhinweg's overall grading system, "which includes decision-making, accuracy and timing," but then adds points for big plays made.

The larger point is that Mornhinweg's belief in the importance of YPA meshed perfectly when Michael Vick once the Eagles decided to make him the starting quarterback. Vick always had a big arm, but rarely if ever got to show it off in his pre-prison days with the Atlanta Falcons:
"As a West Coast passer in Atlanta, Vick was forced to play Joe Montana's game: short, perfectly timed tosses. It didn't work. He never completed more than 56.4 percent of his passes and never averaged more than 7.2 yards per attempt. In short, he was ineffective and inefficient, which meant constant criticism. But when Vick took over in September, ability met opportunity. Mornhinweg's style matched Vick's strengths. During the season, Vick averaged at least 7 yards per pass in all but three of his games. His re-energized career culminated in a 20-for-28, 333-yard, 11.3-yards-per-attempt win over the Redskins on 'Monday Night Football' -- a career outing.

Mornhinweg's belief in YPA is similar to Belichick's reliance on tackles per play. It gives you specific, tangible data of what you can expect on each snap. It's a quarterback-driven league, and you can't win if you can't throw. Of course, not every pass will be caught, but you have to keep throwing. And that's why YPA is important: It shows the exact amount of real estate gobbled up on each pass called, not each pass completed.

As a playcaller, it helps Mornhinweg play the odds. 'You need big plays,' he says. 'You need touchdown plays. And then, the winning occurs. It all equals out at some point.'"

There's more, but as I said, it's an Insider piece, so I can't give you the whole thing because we want you to pay for the Insider content. If you have my cell number, call me and I'll give you my password. If not ... I think it's like $40 for the whole year or something.

As for Vick and Mornhinweg, I still believe one of the underreported parts of the Vick story is the job the Eagles coaches did in making him into a better quarterback while he was in a backup role and they had no reason to believe he'd ever start for them. It was a somewhat selfless bit of coaching that is paying off handsomely for Mornhinweg, Andy Reid and the Eagles.