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Thursday, September 5, 2013
Behind enemy lines: Michael Vick

By John Keim

Michael Vick says he feels rejuvenated. That could be a bad thing for the rest of the NFL; it also could turn out to just be a line uttered by a quarterback in the last year of his contract hoping that is, indeed the case.

We’ll find out starting Monday night. Regardless, Vick can’t wait.

“I feel like I have the opportunity to do some great things and show my talents I still possess, so that’s a bit of excitement,” Vick said, “and throughout the course of the summer I’ve been able to expand on what I’ve learned and I really feel good about where we’re going.”

The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback earned the starting job under first-year coach Chip Kelly with a solid preseason (28-for-38, 383 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions). In a conference call with Washington reporters, Vick also said the following:

Michael Vick
Michael Vick is set to take the reins in Chip Kelly's new offense.
On if he thinks about what it would have been like to run this style of offense for his whole career:  “Yeah, I think about it and what I could have been able to accomplish in that type of offense, but I also respect the fact that I came in 2001 and I had a different set of coaches who build things differently. And I learned so much from them that having that dimension now to my game, adding that only makes me a better quarterback.”

My take: Vick is in a good spot now to add several years to his career, if he proves he can run this offense well. He has weapons around him. Perhaps he’s in a better spot to run this style of offense now than ever.

On if he feels like he was a “trailblazer” for this particular type of offense: “Yeah, I feel like I was kind of the ambassador of this offense in the NFL, like I was the originator. In 2006, I ran for 1,000 yards running the same type of read-option offense, you know it’s in the record books and I couldn’t have done it without running the read-option. I don’t think you can be a dropback passer and run for 1,000 yards in one season, so it was a big accomplishment for me. It was something that I was shooting for. I probably had some other goals set, but it was one of them.”

My take: Vick ran the ball 113 times in his first full season as a starter. It was not the same offenses that are being run today, but his legs were a major weapon. He had to learn to be a passer; he did not complete more than 56.4 percent of his passes until 2010 with Philadelphia. Completion percentage is not necessarily the measure of a great passer, but in his first six seasons Vick completed less than 53 percent of his passes three times. He ran as much because he wasn’t always an accurate passer and could not sustain an offense with his arm alone.

On the biggest improvement he made in reading defenses in his first two seasons: “I think from Year 1 to Year 2, the game slowed down for me. I didn’t play as a rookie. I only started in three games because I played behind Chris Chandler, who was a great, great pocket passer, so I was able to learn from him. Once I started my second year, I was able to see all the things that he had seen and had a better understanding of the game thanks to Coach Dan Reeves. So the transition was easy and it was smooth and I felt like the game had slowed down for me.”

My take: This question was asked in relation to Griffin and what growth fans could expect from him. Coaches always say there’s a huge improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, just because of the experience and then building on it in the offseason. Griffin was a more accomplished passer than Vick -- better accuracy -- in college and as a rookie. Part of that was the style of offense. Regardless, I expect Griffin to improve the way Vick felt he did -- and then some.

On if mobile quarterbacks take pride in their ability to throw the ball: “I think as kids when we’re in the backyard, we idolize certain guys and we want to be like those guys who we look up to. You don’t want to just be viewed as a running quarterback, like all you can do is run or he’s just athletic. We put a lot of hard work into our craft and what we do, to be able to go out and execute and run an NFL offense, which is hard, because if anybody could do it, we probably wouldn’t be here. Sometimes you don’t get credit for what you do, but I think at the end of the day, you’ve got to be the best football player that you can be.”

My take: You don’t last as long as Vick has if all you can do is run the ball, though it certainly has helped. He has a strong arm, too. Quarterbacks need to be smart in order to survive a long time. I also remember former Redskins cornerback Darrell Green once telling me he did not want to be known just for his speed at corner. There were other things he did well -- and there were other reasons he excelled. But players should embrace their skills and not worry about perception. However, if you want to survive a long time like a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, you can’t do so by running more than 100 times a year. So, at some point, you’d better take pride in throwing the ball.