The Advance Scout: “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now” by Paul Hammons

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November 8, 2000
Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now
by Paul Hammons

This weekend, the college football world saw Michael Vick the way pro scouts need to see him. 


That’s not to say he’s an ordinary talent, because he isn’t. And it’s not to say that he can’t make it in the NFL, because I don’t believe that, either. But look at it from the scout’s point of view for a second, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.

NFL quarterbacks play hurt. Period. End of story. Week in and week out, they’re getting hit, rolled, stepped on, jumped on and pounded on by guys that weigh 260 pounds or more. You don’t do that without getting banged up, and it’s a rare quarterback these days that’s been in the league for any amount of time without being strapped into some kind of brace. So if you’re going to go find a franchise quarterback, you have to ask the question: Can this guy win when he doesn’t have all his tools available? Can he still move the team effectively if he can’t scramble for yardage and keep defenses off-balance that way?

When Michael Vick is healthy, he’s very dangerous because he can do so many different things. But I think he showed last weekend, playing hurt against a very good Miami team, that when you take away his running ability and give teams the chance to tee off on him with the pass rush, he’s pretty ordinary right now. In two years, he may not be. But right now, he looks like he’s not sure how to use his wonderfully strong arm, regularly overthrowing receivers and blasting footballs through their hands at short range. 

Right now, he suffers from stretches of inaccuracy – even when he’s been healthy this year, he’s completing 51.4 percent of his passes, which isn’t going to set any scouts’ hearts aflutter. And he’s making worse decisions this year than he did last year – throwing six INT’s along with his seven touchdowns.

I’m not saying an NFL team should never draft a running quarterback. Having watched guys like Daunte Culpepper and Randall Cunningham (a couple of years ago, not when he was with Philadelphia), it becomes obvious that a QB who’s a threat to run makes an offense that much more potent. But when you look at teams that have won Super Bowls in recent years, it becomes pretty clear that it’s not a necessary element in a good offense. It’s icing on the cake, but you still have to have the cake to go with it. And the thing that has made the previously mentioned quarterbacks good (better in Randall’s case) is that they can hurt you either way. When Cunningham led the Vikings to within a game of the Super Bowl, he did it on his arm, not his legs, although he could still hurt you on the ground. Culpepper’s drawing ooh’s and ahh’s when he tucks the ball down and runs over a cornerback, but he’s getting rave reviews as a successful quarterback because he’s throwing the ball well.

So the bottom line is this: Michael Vick has a tremendous upside. But there’s no way anyone can say right now that he’s a complete quarterback. He has all the tools, but midway into his second year, it’s not fair to Vick to force him into that mold right now, because he hasn’t been given the kind of development time that other QB’s are afforded. Donovan McNabb, who has a similar style of play, got four years at Syracuse, and two years into his career he’s starting to show signs of emerging as a very good NFL quarterback because his passing has improved. But he hadn’t thrown the ball in college like he has to now in the NFL, and neither has Michael Vick. And right now, he’s not able to do it.

Taking his legs away proved that.

Paul Hammons served as a sportswriter for various and sundry publications (only one of which is now defunct) before leaving the lucrative world of journalism for his MBA and a shot at a big-screen TV and more time in front of Saturday afternoon college football. He currently resides in Plano and spends his days wondering why he couldn’t have been born six inches taller and a few steps faster in the 40.