Michael Vick's return to prominence in 2010 has been one of the NFL's great stories. Vick is playing the best football of his career, and the Eagles offense has been nearly unstoppable with Vick leading them.
So, is Michael Vick the NFL's MVP?
Vick's presence on the football field alone creates match up problems that no other quarterback can create. Defenses cannot run man coverage against the Eagles because defenders are forced to watch their receivers, not the quarterback. When this happens, Vick can sneak behind the defenses and run for easy first downs.
One alternative that defenses use is to run man coverage but put a quarterback spy on Vick. In theory, this approach makes sense. The Redskins tried to do this using safety LaRon Landry.
Tell me, how did that work out for them?
Having one defender spying on Vick is simply not enough. The entire defense has to be aware of where Vick is at all times. The only way to effectively do this is to run a zone defense.
When Michael Vick was in Atlanta, this approach would be enough, because Vick would see that his first option was covered and then take off running. Vick could not beat the zone coverage consistently as a passer.
However, Vick has evolved as a pocket passer as well. He is now able to go through his progressions and find his receivers. Vick can now beat a defense from the pocket.
Another aspect of Vick's game that has improved is his ability to buy time in the pocket using his athleticism. By making pass rushers miss, Vick forces defenses to cover the Eagles receivers longer than any NFL defense possibly could. This has opened up quite a few intermediate passing plays for the Eagles.
Michael Vick also has incredible arm strength that very few quarterbacks can match, and this forces defense to respect deep routes by DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin more than with a weak armed quarterback like Kevin Kolb.
When you combine all of this, you have a quarterback that makes every other player on the offense better.
LeSean McCoy benefits because defenses respect Vick's ability to run. If Vick is faking a run to the outside during a LeSean McCoy run, you can bet that every defender will hesitate to make sure that Vick doesn't burn them.
The other reason that McCoy benefits is that defenses can't put extra defenders in the box to play the run. If they do, Vick will start throwing deep to Maclin and Jackson and force the opponent's safeties to play deeper.
That last sentence brings me to the Eagles receivers. Michael Vick is a perfect match for DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Both receivers use their speed to get behind defenses, and Vick can throw 65 yard passes to them with ease. Vick's amazing arm strength maximizes the potential that Jackson and Maclin have.
Vick even helps the Eagles offensive line. To be honest, the offensive line hasn't had a very good year so far. Having Vick takes pressure off of the offensive linemen because Vick is so hard to tackle. Vick can make the first pass rusher miss and still make throws to beat the defense.
To top all of that off, Vick has amazing improvisational ability. If a quarterback like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees sees that they have a busted play, they either hit the ground and take a sack, or throw the ball away. With Vick, he can take the busted play and turn it into a positive play by running with the ball. This helps the Eagles stay out of unfavorable down and distance situations.
The unique skill set that Michael Vick has makes every player on the Eagles' offense better, but in order for Vick to be the most valuable player, the statistical production has to be there. Looking at his 2010 passing and rushing statistics, there is no doubt that Vick is among the best in the league:
96/153 completions/attempts (62.7 completion percentage), 1,350 passing yards, 8.8 yards per passing attempt, 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions, 115.1 quarterback rating
44 rushing attempts, 341 rushing yards (7.8 yards per rushing attempt), four rushing touchdowns, zero lost fumbles
There are several amazing things about what Vick has accomplished so far this year, but a few of the highlights:
-Vick has 15 total touchdowns in only five starts
-Vick has not turned the ball over a single time.
-Vick is second in the NFL in yards per pass attempt
-Vick leads all starting quarterback in yards per rush attempt
-Vick leads the league in quarterback rating with over 10 points to spare
Michael Vick's missed time due to injury allows us to compare how the Eagles perform with and without Michael Vick. The results are staggering:
- When Michael Vick plays the entire game, the Eagles are 4-0 (2-3 when Vick does not play the entire game)
-LeSean McCoy's 2010 Rushing Stats:
- When Vick plays: 63 rushing attempts, 348 rushing yards, 5.52 yards per rush, three rushing touchdowns
- When Kolb plays: 70 rushing attempts, 267 rushing yards, 3.81 yards per rush, one rushing touchdown
-DeSean Jackson's 2010 Receiving Stats:
- When Vick plays: 22 receptions, 525 receiving yards, 23.9 yards per reception, four receiving touchdowns
- When Kolb plays: five receptions, 43 receiving yards, 8.6 yards per reception, zero receiving touchdowns
-Philadelphia Eagles 2010 Third Down Conversions:
- When Vick plays: 31/66 (47 percent)
- When Kolb plays: 25/58 (43 percent)
-Philadelphia Eagles Points Per Game:
- When Vick plays the whole game: 37 points per game
- When Vick doesn't play the whole game: 21.8 points per game
-Philadelphia Eagles Yards Per Game:
- When Vick plays the whole game: 444.25 yards per game
- When Vick doesn't play the whole game: 365 yards per game
I'm sure some of you are saying, well of course Vick should be performing significantly better than his backup, so all of this is trivial. The reason it is not trivial is that this isn't the same as comparing Peyton Manning to Curtis Painter because the backup in this case, Kevin Kolb, is perceived by many to be a starting NFL quarterback whereas Painter is not.
With all of the same receivers, running backs, coaching, etc, the Eagles are a much better offensive team when Michael Vick is the quarterback than when Kevin Kolb is the quarterback. That is why detractors of Vick can't just say he is a product of the Eagles excellent receivers.
So, with all of that said, what are possible obstacles to Vick winning the award?
1. The Dogfighting scandal
Why it might be held against Vick: There are many people who are still unhappy about Vick's past. As a result, he has become a very unpopular player among some people. The Associated Press might be hesitant to pick such a polarizing figure over a less controversial figure like Philip Rivers or Tom Brady.
Why it shouldn't be held against Vick: Vick has made every effort to redeem himself since he has gotten out of jail. If you listen to him speak, it is obvious that he is a changed and humbled man. The NFL has granted players like Adam "Pacman" Jones and Tank Johnson multiple chances to succeed before they run into trouble with the law again, so why are we as a society trying to take away a second chance from Vick when he has made the most of that chance while we ignore other players that do not?
2. The Peyton Manning bias
Why it might be held against Vick: The Associated Press loves to give Peyton Manning the award, even when other players are having better years. With the Colts, there is the unique perception that just because they can overcome injuries to post winning seasons, it must be Peyton Manning winning games for them. Peyton Manning is once again in the contention, and just being better than Manning isn't good enough for Vick to win the award. Vick must be astronomically better than Manning to even have a chance at being league MVP.
Why it shouldn't be held against Vick: Manning has gotten significantly worse as a passer since Dallas Clark's injury. With most teams, when an injury ridden roster is winning football games, credit goes to the depth of the team and the head coach.
This is especially true when your passing game is struggling and your team is still winning games. Also, Vick is a much more efficient passer than Manning this year and Manning doesn't even begin to look like Vick in terms of athleticism.
3. Michael Vick missed time due to injury
Why it might be held against Vick: Vick hasn't played in every game this season when most of the other league MVP candidates have played every game. The result is that Vick is behind the rest of the league in terms of "volume" statistics (passing yards, touchdowns, completions, etc).
Why it shouldn't be held against Vick: If Vick finishes the season without anymore injuries, he will have played eleven full games and parts of two others. He should only be at a slight disadvantage, because he still has played nearly three quarters of the season. At the rate he is going, he might lead the league in passing touchdowns by the end of the season even with his missed time.
Michael Vick has been one of the great NFL comeback stories. He has been given a chance to redeem himself for his past wrongs, and he is making the most of it this season. With that said, no player in the NFL is playing better than Michael Vick and no player can change the way defenses play the same way that Michael Vick can.
Michael Vick's performance this year makes him the NFL's most valuable player.