First reaction: Vick makes the Eagles better

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 13, 2009



So Michael Vick lands with the Eagles, signing a two-year deal Thursday worth $1.6 million this year, with a $5.2 million option next year, according to various reports.
 
The news broke Thursday night during the New England-Philadelphia preseason game. He meets the press Friday at 11 a.m. (ET).
 
The bottom line in the estimation of the Cold, Hard Football Facts is that Philadelphia is a game or two better today than it was yesterday. Even notoriously disgruntled Eagles fans gotta be thrilled with that news.
 
Here are our first reactions to what will be an ongoing story throughout the 2009 season.
 
1. The NFL "market" says Vick is not a No. 1 quarterback
There's been a lot of talk about whether or not Vick was a No. 1-caliber QB in the NFL. We've said no. And so has the "market" of NFL talent evaluators.
 
The most interesting aspect of the "where will he play" saga is that the teams that were reportedly most hot for him were teams that don't need a No. 1 quarterback. In particular, the two preseason competitors last night, Patriots and Eagles, were rumored to be hot on his trail. But between Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb, both organizations are firmly secure with quarterbacks.
 
So teams in search of a No. 1 apparently didn't want him. And the team that got him does not need a No. 1. In other words, Vick as a No. 1 QB is essentially over, at least for now.
 
So we can reasonably assume that Vick will step on the field to display his incredible skills running the ball rather than his middling-level skills throwing the ball, much as we said he should.
 
2. McNabb can make Vick a No. 1
McNabb might be the perfect player to re-teach Vick the quarterback position, if the Philly newcomer hopes to climb to No. 1 status again.
 
Early in his career, Donovan McNabb was seen as a dual-threat-type quarterback who could hurt you with his legs as well as his arm. It's certainly the role he played at Syracuse, when he was one of the most explosive players in college football.
 
McNabb was never the threat to take off and run like Vick – no quarterback ever has been. But McNabb did lead the Eagles in rushing TDs in both 2000 and 2002 (six each year).
 
Yet all CHFF readers know that quarterbacks in the NFL work best when they stand in the pocket and not when they take off and run. So maybe Vick can learn from McNabb, who has had his best seasons when he made the run a last resort.
 
McNabb, for example, had the best statistical season of his career paired with Terrell Owens in 2004 (104.7 passer rating). Philly set a franchise record with 13 wins that year and reached the Super Bowl for the only time in the McNabb Era.
 
McNabb took off with the ball just 41 times in 2004 – a career low at the time – after averaging 70 attempts in his first five seasons.
 
McNabb's passing production, meanwhile, has improved dramatically as he spent more time in the pocket over the second half of his career.
  • In McNabb's first five seasons he averaged 70 rush attempts and a 77.6 passer rating.
  • In McNabb's second five seasons he averaged 37 rush attempts and a 92.3 passer rating.
It's nice to have those rushing skills, and it's great in college when a guy like Tim Tebow (or McNabb a decade earlier) can dominate the sport displaying both skills. But the bottom line is that the dual-threat QB does not work in the NFL. It's a league that rewards effective passers.
 
3. The Eagles are suddenly more formidable on offense
As we noted just the other day, the Eagles have apparently made an institutional decision to surround the oft-neglected McNabb with offensive playmakers. The Vick acquisition certainly falls in line with that trend.

He may not be the best passer in the game. But there's no doubt that the Eagles do acquire one of the most formidable offensive weapons in football today, one that adds so much flexibility to their offense.
 
It's been considered conventional wisdom this off-season that many NFL teams will add the spread-option (the "wildcat" in pro football parlance) to their repertoire this year, after its success last year – most notably by the surprising Dolphins.
 
Vick is probably the perfect person to execute this type of attack. He'll certainly be the scariest "wildcat" threat in the NFL this year (assuming his skills and athleticism have not eroded).
 
CHFF readers are well aware of Vick's historic production as a ball carrier. His career average of 7.34 YPA is the best in NFL history. In 2006, he averaged 8.45 YPA, breaking one of the longest-standing records in NFL history – the 8.44 YPA set by Beattie Feathers of the Bears in 1934. Vick's 2006 Falcons averaged 5.47 YPA – the fifth best mark in the history of the NFL.
 
So if Vick steps into the backfield, whether under center, in the shotgun, or lined up behind McNabb, defenses will have to devote resources to stopping his threat as a runner. And, of course, no runner in the NFL will pose the threat to pass the ball that Vick does, either, because no other runner in the NFL has been a No. 1 quarterback in the league.
 
4. The Eagles needed another QB
If Vick can gain command of the Eagles playbook this season, he provides a pretty good insurance policy behind McNabb: they're now a club with two quarterbacks on the roster who have taken teams to NFC championship games. We don't believe there's another team in the NFL with two quarterbacks who have started conference title games.
 
The Eagles needed the insurance, too. Back-up Kevin Kolb was injured earlier this week, leaving A.J. Feeley the only back-up on the roster. In fact, the Eagles were reduced this week to relying on someone described as a "coaching intern" (Matt Nagy) to serve as their third-stringer. Vick is an instant upgrade.
 
All in all, the Eagles are a probably a game or two better today with the threat of Michael Vick than they were yesterday without him. They have a record-setting dual threat to add to the offense and insurance if the 10-year veteran McNabb suffers an injury. And the Eagles get him for virtually nothing: they trade nobody and pay short money for the position. That's a good day.

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