Michael Vick, with a strong performance Tuesday night against Minnesota, has a chance to cement his place as the NFL MVP.
It’s rare to have a Tuesday NFL game.
Not since Oct. 1, 1946 has the league fielded a game on that day. For it to have happened once in the previous 64 years, something must be an anomaly—a deviation from what we accept to be commonplace or of reasonable expectation.
When the Philadelphia Eagles take the field against the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday night, Michael Vick will continue a season that has defied convention and turned everything we thought we knew about the quarterback on its head.
Within the framework of his own career, Vick is having an anomalistic season.
Sure, in the past, the numbers were there, both passing and rushing. His days in Atlanta were something to behold, and his multifaceted heroics as a Falcon resembled nothing we had ever seen before from a quarterback.
That is, until it began to occur more and more. We began to accept it as the norm. If Vick didn’t throw for a pair of touchdowns and run for one more while dodging all 11 defenders, we’d ask, “Well, what was wrong?”
Through it all, however, despite guiding Atlanta to an NFC Championship Game among two playoff appearances, it seemed as though Vick never evolved beyond that two-trick pony whose substance in the huddle was minimal and whose intangibles were buried far beneath the flash and dash.
In Atlanta, Vick was never a leader; he never significantly elevated the play of those around him. He serves both roles as an Eagle, still retaining his ability to make defense look utterly stupid and put up ridiculous numbers in the process.
As such, Vick deserves and, I believe, will win the NFL MVP—and he’ll seal it Tuesday night against the Vikings.
At this moment, Vick is in a virtual deadlock atop the ballot with Tom Brady, and the race may come down to who turns in the last scintillating performance.
But statistically speaking, the race isn’t even close. Brady has the better passer rating (109.9 to 103.6), nearly 1,000 more passing yards (3,701 to 2,755), 14 more touchdown passes (34 to 20) and one less interception (4 to 5).
He has attempted 476 passes this season compared to Vick’s 329, but Brady has thrown his last 319 passes without an interception, an NFL record that has taken more than two months to accumulate.
The fact that Brady is performing at such a high level despite the Patriots’ woeful defense, ranked 27th in the league, is not much of an argument. But it is enough to balance out the discrepancy of games played between him and Vick, who has missed three-plus games to Brady’s zero.
Brady, a former MVP, is as good as they get. But even with his gaudy numbers this season, I don’t know if the Patriots’ spread-like offense would be totally clueless without him. That much was clear when little-known Matt Cassel, who never saw the field while at USC, threw for nearly 4,000 yards in leading New England to an 11-5 record in 2008.
Can we say the same for the Eagles in Vick’s absence?
With Vick on the shelf with chest and rib injuries, the Eagles entered the bye week at 5-3 and in danger of falling back in the race for the division and the NFC playoff picture. It could have been worse had San Francisco not coughed up the ball five times in a 27-24 Philadelphia win on Oct. 10.
But Vick returned from a month-long absence to lead the team to a win at home over Indianapolis, sparking a streak of six wins in seven games that now has Philadelphia assured of nothing less than a No. 3 seed and an opening-round home game.
Included in that streak is the now famous—or infamous, to Giants fans—fourth-quarter comeback at the New Meadowlands, in which Vick ignited the offense with scoring strikes of 65 and 13 yards in a matter of six minutes. Sandwiched in between was a rushing touchdown of four yards, contributing to Vick's game-high 130 on the ground.
It was a victory of historical significance, but more immediately, it completely altered the look and feel of not only the NFC East but the entire playoff picture.
Without Vick, the Eagles averaged just over 22 points a game. Since his return, that average has soared to 34.2. When Vick is directing the Philadelphia offense, defenses have to account for him on every snap and in a multitude of ways, unlike Brady, who makes his living in the confines of the pocket.
Much in the same fashion Brady forces defensive coordinators to scheme for his ability to accurately place the ball at any point on the field, Vick no longer makes decisions with his legs, though he does lead the league in yards per attempt. As an improved passer, Vick will scramble only as a second option, but his speed allows the Eagles to utilize his running ability as a primary one at any point in the game.
Vick is far more versatile and sound as a quarterback than he ever has been in his career. His teammates are the benefactors, catching passes when opposing teams expect the run and dashing through holes when they expect the pass.
The sum of Vick’s parts surpasses even the record-breaking exploits of Brady, who will presumably sit out the Patriots’ meaningless season finale this Sunday versus Miami, opening the door for Vick to put his stamp on the MVP on Tuesday night.
As well as an asterisk next to a season that he hopes becomes routine rather than some kind of oddity.