Posted by Doug on May 17, 2006
Back in 2002, I was a serious Vick-backer. I no longer am. But that's not because I changed my mind. It's because Vick regressed. At least I think that's the way it happened.
He is incredibly fun to watch, so that ensures a lot of TV hype. Because of that, there will be haters. Peyton Manning collects haters for the same reason. But Vick generates extra animosity because he doesn't do things the way quarterbacks are supposed to do things. Johnny Unitas he's not. But for those that were able to get past that, it was easy to recognize that he was --- the occassional really ugly pass aside --- a great quarterback in 2002. He was confident, he was decisive, and his scrambling ability made him virtually impossible to defend.
In 2004, he did less but his team was more successful, so it's hard to complain about that.
Last year, he was not only not a great quarterback. He was a not even a good quarterback. In fact, he wasn't even fun to watch, and I thought his running ability was noticeably diminished. Here's what Vick says about it:
My knee was bothering me all year. I never cried about it. I never complained about it. I just tried to do the best I can for the team. Now, I'm 100 percent healthy. I'm where I used to be.
That's a common refrain in the offseason, so I'm skeptical. But I want to believe him because I sure do enjoy watching him run.
I said earlier that it was easy to recognize that Vick was a great quarterback in 2002 and 2004, and I believe that. In particular, I saw with my own eyes that on every running play the opponent had to keep its outside linebackers and/or ends home --- on both sides --- for fear of the bootleg. This opened up the middle for Dunn and Duckett to run wild, which led to all the ball-control-and-defense wins that Atlanta racked up during 2004.
Or so it appeared to me.
I went in search of stats to corroborate my impression and came up empty. Here are Dunn and Duckett's numbers from 2002--2005 with and without Vick in the game.
RSH YD Y/R Y/G
Warrick Dunn 689 3048 4.4 72.6
T.J. Duckett 407 1591 3.9 41.9
RSH YD Y/R Y/G
Warrick Dunn 211 1073 5.1 67.1
T.J. Duckett 144 584 4.1 38.9
[Fine print: a game was defined to be "with Vick" if Vick attempted 10 or more passes in that game. In other words, I'm not going down to the partial game level. Every game was either a "with Vick" game or a "without Vick" game.]
I'm really not sure what to make of that, except that it wasn't what I was expecting.