In July of 2009, Michael Vick was in federal prison. 18-and-a-half months and 12 NFL starts later, he is picking up hardware as the AP's Comeback Player of the Year.
VickHe won the award after a season in which he set career highs in completion percentage, passing yards, passer rating, pass TD and rush TD. Vick's comeback award doesn't fit the same description as previous winners as his much-chronicled career has gone from 3-time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons to jail for running and unlawful interstate dog fighting ring and then back to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles the last two seasons.
You have to go back to 2004 to find a player that won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award without coming off an injury or disability. That year, Drew Brees passed for over 3,000 yards for the 12-4 Chargers. The previous season, Brees started the first eight games, was benched for five and then started the last three games before the Chargers traded for Philip Rivers.
Since then, Steve Smith and Tedy Bruschi in 2005, Chad Pennington in 2006 and 2008, Greg Ellis in 2007 and Tom Brady last season, all won the award after suffering an injury or ailment the previous season. Much like Brees playing in 11 games the year before he won the award, Vick appeared in 12 games in 2009, totaling 13 pass attempts and 24 rush attempts.
So what made the post-incarcerated Vick even better than the one that played for the Falcons? He was always known as a mobile quarterback, capable of making throws on the run. But as part of his growth as a quarterback, he was one of the best in the league this season throwing inside the pocket. In fact, all of his numbers were better inside the pocket than out.
Michael Vick This Season
Passing Inside the Pocket
Of course, one could say that Vick's ability out of the pocket directly contributed to his growth within. This year, Vick was the ESPN's Next-level award winner for best QB outside the pocket.
Looking even deeper at the numbers that made Vick an MVP candidate in 2010 and a lock for Comeback Player of the Year - he averaged 11.1 yards per pass attempt on 3rd down with 6 or more yards to go (best in the NFL). And his 93.6 passer rating on throws of 21-yards-or-more was 3rd best in the league.