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Monday, February 16, 2009
Mailbag: One more time on Michael Vick

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Creativemind from San Diego writes: I made a comment a few weeks ago about "your beef" with Mike Vick and you somewhat attempted to cleverly justify your non-bashing of Mike Vick, but you are still on this "passer rating" and completion kick.

You just don't get it. Vick has never had a team in Atlanta that had good receivers and you even made reference to Kurt Warner, Brett Favre & even Steve Young. Now what did those guys mentioned have in common? Kurt Warner at St Louis had Tori Holt & Bruce. At Arizona he has Boltin, Fitzgerald and another 1,000 yard receiver - pretty easy to have a high percentage. Steve Young had Jerry Rice (greatest) and I believe Terrell Owens for a short while.

Mike Vick on the other hand, had Peerless Price and a host of "butter fingered" wide receiver impersonators. Even so, he was able to hand Brett Favre the 1st post season home lost in Green Bay. He took the Falcons twice to the post season & once to the championship game, while winning 2-post season games. Now all this in just 4-full seasons as a starter.

Now the present Falcons organization hired a new gm, new coach, new line coach, hired a pro bowl back and they still could not bring home a single playoff win. Don't say it was because of a rookie qb because Joe Flacco was a rookie and went deep into the playoffs.

You may say you defended Mike Vick, but that was just a PR move because you knew he would eventually make a comeback and you could always say you defended him when everyone else was on a witch hunt, but in all reality, your words were not sincere. It doesn't matter, because whoever picks him up will be an instant playoff contender, and maybe

Mike Sando: I have never, to my knowledge, been accused of writing a column as a PR move -- until now. Sounds impressive. If I were that prescient, however, I would have also anticipated the grueseome evidence that wound up sending Vick to prison all this time. And I would have reconsidered defending Vick at all.

The relevant question now becomes what we should expect from Vick in the future, and whether a team should invest large sums in him.

First let me refer you to a 2006 column I wrote for my previous employer. The column is no longer available online, but I'll paste passages from the file I still have on my laptop.

The elder Jim Mora had just called Vick a coach killer while noting that Vick was not a great passer. I agreed on the second point -- Vick was not a great passer -- but I follwed up by asking why. Here is what I wrote, in part:

"Vick's talent is obvious, not just as a runner. He might have the strongest arm in the league. Isn't it up to the coaching staff to make sure the system fits the player, and vice versa? Aren't coaches supposed to design drills to help players improve? The third season is supposedly when talented quarterbacks begin to flourish in West Coast systems like the one Knapp installed. It worked for Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck and Donovan McNabb.

"Why not Vick? He passed for 16 touchdowns with eight interceptions as a second-year player in 2002, when Dan Reeves was coach. His rating was 81.6. Injuries shortened Vick's third season to five games. Mora and Knapp installed their modified West Coast system in 2004. Vick's subsequent passer ratings read more like West Coast temperature readings: 78.1, 73.1 and 74.3 through three games this season.

"Conventional wisdom says Vick's scrambling ways don't lend themselves to a precision-based offense, and that he is too erratic. And yet Favre was as erratic as they came. He was practically uncoachable in the beginning. The answer wasn't to write him off as a bad fit for the West Coast system. The answer was hiring Mike Holmgren and a couple of quarterback coaches named Steve Mariucci and Andy Reid. They didn't squeeze the creativity out of Favre's game. They channeled it."

That was my take in 2006. It could have been an incorrect one. At the time, Trent Dilfer told me he thought quarterbacks such as Vick could appear spectacular in short spurts, but he felt they would never become consistent. His take then:

"A lot of athletic or young or creative-type quarterbacks can be good for two-, three-week stints. Michael Vick comes to mind where he had a couple weeks where he was just unbelievable. But at the end of the day, you have to be able to throw the ball from the pocket with rhythm and timing to be consistent.

"If you're running around with the ball out from your body and you're a quarterback, with the athletes and speed of the game right now, turnovers are going to happen. Here's the other thing: You practice on rhythm. When you play outside of the realm of what you practice, too often there are going to be catastrophic mistakes."

The Falcons' coaching staff might have indeed tried everything with Vick, only to discover that Vick was not a very good passer. I felt it was fair to hold the staff accountable.

The situation is very different now. By the time Vick returns, he very well could have missed the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons (if suspended). I would not recommend investing six or seven figures in him at this stage of his career. That isn't Vick bashing. I think it's smart business.

I also respect your opinion. I acknowledge that you have probably watched Vick more closely during his career from week to week. Mostly I hope we have advanced the conversation.


Clu from Phoenix writes: I would love to retain Boldin, but I do not think that will happen. Also, if we do trade him, why are the majority of the teams in the NFC and were major title contenders down the stretch. The last thing I would want to do as a Cardinals fan is improve the Eagles, Giants, or Panthers. Do you know if any of the AFC teams are interested in Boldin? I personally think the Jaguars would seem likely just because they tried so hard to get a WR last year. (Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson) Thank you

Mike Sando: Every team probably has interest in Anquan Boldin on some level. The Eagles make sense as a trading partner because they have an extra first-round draft choice and because they have pursued veteran receivers. The Cowboys made sense for a while because they were willing t
o shell out considerable resources for a receiver. I do not suspect the Giants would part with so much draft capital in making a deal.

I do not know which teams in the AFC would have the most interest if the Cardinals were to make Boldin available.


Kenny from Phoenix writes: David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune recently mentioned the idea of trading Boldin for Urlacher. He said that while it may be far fetched, it is an interesting concept. For arguments sake, lets say this was actually a possibility, would the teams want to do it? If the Cardinals had Urlacher, Karlos Dansby would be a goner, most likely. Steve Breaston would slide into the #2 receiver spot and someone would have to step up to the #3 (Here's hoping Early Doucet makes a Breaston like surge). What are your thoughts on this? Would this be a good move for both teams? I'll bet a former linebacker coach and newly minted defensive coordinator would love having Urlacher.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals appear likely to install a 3-4 scheme. Urlacher has played the middle in a vastly different scheme. How effective would he be making the change at age 30 after 137 regular-season games? How long will his body hold up?

Would the Bears be willing to take the associated salary-cap hit? Urlacher is scheduled to count more than $10 million against their salary cap in 2009. I think the figure would remain in the $8 million range if the Bears traded him. And then the new team would be looking at inheriting some rather fat cap figures for 2010 and 2011.

I'm always skeptical on these sorts of trade scenarios. They sound fun, but they rarely happen. This one just doesn't seem realistic.

I do think the Cardinals are good enough at receiver to part with Boldin if they can get strong value in return. They were able to develop Breaston beyond anyone's expectations. We also know the offense is going to change eventually once Kurt Warner retires and possibly sooner, depending upon what the next offensive coordinator has in mind.


Bryce from Albuquerque writes: Hey i noticed that paco said that there are 15 teams interested in boldin. well, which teams are there that want him? because ive only seen two such as the eagles and the ravens. what do you think will be the best cards offer for boldin and what do you think we will get out of him. do you think the cards have a chance with Vick or even Peppers?

Mike Sando: I cannot verify the suggestion that 15 teams have interest in Boldin. As noted, every team would probably like to have him on its roster. As for Vick, I do not know what his future holds. I'd be surprised if a team traded for him given that the Falcons will release him at some point. The Cardinals appear more focused on re-signing their own players.


Dino from Tracy writes: Mike, 49er fan and can't wait for the draft, I want Aaron Maybin bad! If we get pressure on the quarterback, our corners become the pro bowlers we thought they were and I like OL loggerhans 2nd and Nate Davis 3rd round this draft is loaded with stud LBs. what do you think of my picks and what do you think the niners will and should do in this years draft? thanks

Mike Sando: I feel your excitement and agree that the 49ers' cornerbacks -- and secondary in general -- would benefit from getting that type of pressure. I would much rather have a dominant pass rush and less talented players in the secondary. Good coaches can scheme around holes in the secondary. They have a harder time manufacturing a pass rush.

I'm not sure which offensive lineman you're talking about in the second round. I'm at a loss on the quarterbacks. Everyone needs one, but how do you evaluate these guys who spend so much time in the shotgun? The 49ers are not going to install a spread passing game anytime soon. They drafted a spread quarterback a few years ago and had to guess then as well.


Guest49ers from the Bay Area writes: Greetings Mike, thanks for answering my letters. Which is the best route for the 49ers in obtaining a WR -- FA or draft? Ever since T Owens left, the 49ers have not had a go to WR, yes or no? Each year since Antonio Bryant was forced off the team by Nolan, I haven't seen a go to WR that the 49ers lack.

I wouldn't call the receptions Isaac Bruce had favorable for a go to. Long as the 49ers lack a go to WR, will they have problems winning no matter who their QB is? I hope you can address this debate. Example: Warner to Boldin/Fitzgerald. Smith or Hill to ___? Also, will the 49ers address the need for a pass rush specialist in FA or the draft? Thank you my friend.

Mike Sando: Only one team in the league has Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. The 49ers do need to develop Josh Morgan and Jason Hill. They could use a veteran receiver, particularly if Bruce departs. But none of it matters a great deal if they do not solve the quarterback situation.


Simon from parts unknown writes: Hi Sando, Do you think the seahawks will actually make a serious play for T.J Housmanzadeh. Or will they wait to get Crabtree. Also do you think there is a new safety coming to Seattle to replace the awful brian russell and beef up the size in our secondary

Mike Sando: That probably depends on what a serious play would entail. I do not think Seattle would enter a bidding war for Houshmandzadeh, but I think the team would be interested in him at a less-than-exorbitant wage.


Jay from the bay area writes: With julius peppers stating he wants to play olb do you think the niners will spend the money to go after him? I think he may solve the secondary/safety issue with his 12 plus sacks.

Mike Sando: That type of move would not shock me. The 49ers will have the salary-cap flexibility. I have previously described them as a team that appears to be in position to make an aggressive play. They do appear committed to a 3-4 defense. Julius Peppers has said he would like to play in a 3-4 defense. I do not know whether Peppers would be interested in signing with the 49ers, if he were to become a free agent.