NFL Free Agency: Is Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick Fool's Gold?

Cian Fahey@CianafFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2014

Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick warms up before the first half of an NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Michael Vick will be 34 years of age before the start of the 2014 season. He is expected to continue his career, but his destination in free agency remains unclear.

Vick likely won't return to the Philadelphia Eagles. He was supplanted as the team's starter by Nick Foles last season after Vick was injured. Before that point, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback had started six games and thrown for five touchdowns, three interceptions and 1,215 yards.

However, Vick was playing in Chip Kelly's offense, an offense that appears to be very quarterback-friendly. His production was bloated by a few different factors, while his mistakes were still evident.

Even though he only threw three interceptions in six starts, he also had four fumbles, and he only completed 54.6 percent of his passes. Vick still carries a threat as a scrambler. He scored two touchdowns on running plays and had 306 rushing yards on 36 attempts for the season as a whole.

Because Vick still has all the physical tools to be successful at this stage of his career, he will be appealing to many franchises. However, there is a need for balance with Vick. His negatives are less enticing, but they may be more impactful than his athleticism.

The negatives for Vick are the same as they've always been, save for an abnormal season or two. He makes bad decisions, and he doesn't consistently show an understanding of the technical aspects of playing the position.

Reading Through Progressions

Analyzing a quarterback reading through his progressions can be very difficult from the outside looking in. However, there are times when it is clear that the quarterback is making a mistake by staying too long on one receiver. This is something that happens to Vick too often.

This play on first glance doesn't look to have any notable mistakes in it. The defense defends it well because they have the right play call to counter what the Eagles are trying to do. Vick is forced to attempt a tough throw to the outside shoulder of a well-covered receiver.

However, that is not the whole story.

It's actually Vick's inability to get off his first read quickly that forces him to attempt such a difficult pass. Had he been quicker, the opportunity for an easier completion would have been there.

At the snap, Vick looks to his right at his tight end. That tight end is running an angled curl route over the middle of the field, but he is well-covered early.

Vick will never have a chance to throw to his tight end. He has already taken too long to recognize this, but at this point, it becomes obvious because the linebacker over the middle of the field is waiting in a position that allows him to double the tight end.

Any pass here would likely be intercepted.

Vick stays on his tight end for a moment, even after the double-team becomes obvious. While this is happening, DeSean Jackson is coming open on a curl route. Jackson creates a small window where he is open if the throw is on time.

Had Vick been looking in his direction at this point, he would have had a relatively easy throw to Jackson's chest.

Instead, Vick is too late to get to Jackson, and he is forced to try and throw a very dangerous, difficult pass to Jackson's outside shoulder. That pass ultimately goes over the sideline for an incompletion. Was the play defended well? Yes. Did the offense execute the way it should have? No.

Vick was the reason for that.

Manipulating the Defense/Decision Making

When Vick struggles to go through his progression, it throws off his timing with his receivers. However, sometimes he simply makes bad decisions by not properly diagnosing the coverage. On this play against the Kansas City Chiefs, he looks like a rookie.

Vick has been in the league for over a decade. He isn't going to develop a greater mental grasp of the game at this stage of his career. He is what he is.

On the above play, Vick leads the linebacker to the football with his eyes. He didn't understand the positioning of the defender before the snap. If he had, he would have used his eyes to create space for his tight end underneath. 

Notably, he dropped back into the pocket without play action or without moving outside before throwing the ball. If a team desperately wants to start Vick next season, then they need to adopt an offense that will play to his strengths.

An offense similar to that of the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers are one of the few teams in the league who still base their offensive success off of running the ball. With the athleticism of Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and a variety of different contributors at running back, the 49ers are able to be diverse and creative—even if they are one-dimensional.

Vick has similar athletic style to Kaepernick. He is still exceptionally fast, and he has shown that he can be effective on read-option plays and in play-action situations.

Considering the potential suitors on the open market, it seems like the Minnesota Vikings could offer Vick this kind of structure. With Adrian Peterson in the backfield and Cordarrelle Patterson at wide receiver, the Vikings already have two very dynamic game-breaking athletes on the offensive side.

Adding Vick to that supporting cast would allow him to take on a less demanding role. If the offense can be successful using a lot of option plays, play action and screens (similar to what the Eagles did last year), then Vick could potentially be an effective starter.

Physical Talent

Vick is still able to make every throw. He has impressive control of the flight of the football, and he throws with exceptional velocity. His accuracy isn't exceptional, but it's rare for his kind of arm talent to be available in free agency.

On this play, Vick readjusts in the pocket before unleashing a pass down the right sideline with minimal effort. Because Jackson creates separation behind, Vick only needs to lay the ball out for his receiver to run underneath.

Even though Vick didn't make an outstandingly accurate throw there, it's the kind of play that isn't available with a Josh McCown, Matt Cassel or even a Josh Freeman. Those are the other top free-agent quarterbacks. Their passes don't sustain velocity the way Vick's do.

Vick may not be consistent throwing down the field, but just his ability to do it opens up the offense in ways other quarterbacks can't.

Speaking of other things quarterbacks can't do, Vick's elusiveness and speed was still evident for the Eagles last season. He needs to protect himself better from big hits, and he has to avoid wasting clean pockets, but there is no doubting his potential with his feet.

On this play, it's 3rd-and-very-long. Vick's initial elusiveness is impressive, but it's the second gear of acceleration on the second level that makes him unique. The only real surprise on this play was that he was tackled at all.

It's been said forever, and while it's very unlikely to actually happen, if Vick's consistency comes together and he is used right, he could be a valuable addition to an offense. That is primarily because of his physical talent. 

Because of his reputation, any franchise that brings Vick in will excite the fanbase in some way. His electrifying play is rare and incredibly entertaining when it works properly. However, he has proven to be a flawed player throughout his career. Getting lost in the entertainment value is easy, but critically analyzing his play on the field is different.

Vick can have success somewhere, but it is likely to be muted success. He won't carry an offense or turn a relatively poor supporting cast into a contender. At this stage of his career, Vick is a player who can start for a season or two while a younger player is groomed to take his place.

If Vick goes to a team that understands what he is and how to use him, then he will be a good addition for the right price. If he goes to a team that is caught up in the excitement of the past, then he will likely be fool's gold.


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