Numbers Don't Lie: Michael Vick Was a Good Quarterback

Alex OlsonContributor IMay 21, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 31:  Michael Vick #7 of the Atlanta Falcons looks to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles in NFL action December 31, 2006 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles won 24-17.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With all of the chaotic debate surrounding Michael Vick's recent release from prison, the general consensus seems to be that, if anyone is daring enough to sign him, his new team would be crazy to play him at quarterback. He was just not very effective as an NFL quarterback prior to his undignified leave of absence from the NFL, right? Well, statistical analysis tells a different story.

The Atlanta Falcons' record when Michael Vick was their starting quarterback was a respectable 38-28-1 during his six seasons with the team. Along with winning 57 percent of his regular season starts, Vick lead the Falcons to playoff wins twice, including being the first visiting team to ever win a playoff game at Lambeau Field in 2003 and an NFC Championship Game appearance in 2005.

Also significant was the 2003 season, when Vick was injured during a preseason game. He missed 12 starts that year and the Falcons were just 2-10 when Vick returned from injury. He went on to lead Atlanta to a 3-1 record in their final four games, including a win over the 11-5 Carolina Panthers in his first start of the season.

The primary ammunition detractors use against Vick's play is his low completion percentage. But when you use completion percentage to evaluate a quarterback, what are you really looking for? How often did the quarterback execute a successful play when a pass was called.

Using that as our criteria, every time Vick scrambled for positive yardage should apply as well. Now, I realize this is not an exact science, but it's pretty close and gives scrambling quarterbacks some acknowledgement for their talents. I added Vick's rush attempts and yards to his passing totals, minus his rookie year, and came up with the following stats:

In an average season, Vick accounted for 3,504 yards and 22 touchdowns while throwing just 12 interceptions and either completed a pass or ran for positive yardage on 65 percent of passing plays/quarterback keepers.

Not mind-blowing numbers by any stretch, but remember that Vick was just 26 years old when he played his last NFL game, an adolescent in NFL quarterbacking terms.

To gain some perspective, I broke down Eli Manning's numbers in the same way. I took out his rookie season and averaged his 64 career games into these yearly averages:
3,440 total yards, 24 total touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and a completion/positive yardage percentage of 59 percent.

To further compare the two, as previously mentioned, Vick won 38 of his 65 starts. Compare that to Manning's 41 wins in 64 starts, with a much better supporting cast, and the success between the two isn't looking too different.

Am I trying to say Vick is a better quarterback than Manning? Absolutely not; I chose Manning simply because they have started about the same number of games since their rookie years. My point is to show that Vick statistically compares pretty favorably with one of the better quarterbacks in the league and, during his time as an NFL starter, he was definitely an above-average quarterback.

Today, Vick is still just 29 years old and has the same talents he had when he went in. Is he the same player? No one could know that yet. But he will be a low-risk/high-reward player for whichever team gives him a shot.