Michael Vick and How The Spread Offense Has Changed The NFL

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Michael Vick and How The Spread Offense Has Changed The NFL
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Michael Vick has used his arm and legs to catapult the spread offense to the NFL's forefront.

Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid coach the same offensive players. Past that, the similarity in coaching scheme is almost nonexistent.

In the days of Joe Montana and Bill Walsh, the West Coast offense became the new standard of offensive excellence; in fact, the style is still employed by many coaches across the league, Reid included.

On the other side of the offensive spectrum is the explosive spread offense.

Quarterbacks throw the ball vertically to receivers all over the field, and the defense usually has a tough time staying on the same page. Mornhinweg uses this style.

While the Eagles searched for their offensive identity to start the season, the dynamic spread with Michael Vick and Mornhinweg became too exciting and effective to keep off the field.

Kevin Kolb and Andy Reid's West Coast offense took a back seat as the embattled Vick gave defenses entirely new and confusing looks.

Not since Randall Cunningham had a quarterback in the NFL threatened defenses with both his arm and rushing ability.

Defenses had become accustomed to sitting back in coverage, letting a stout front-seven stop the run and a good secondary defend the pass.

Unfortunately for defenses, those days are over.

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The defense's task is no longer as simple as playing man or zone, blitzing or covering. Vick, Mornhinweg and the spread offense have changed that.

They've changed everything.

As the rise of dual threat quarterbacks has taken the NFL by storm, Vick may just be the perfect cover-boy for the dynamic change in a signal-caller's responsibility. Even slower quarterbacks, such as Aaron Rodgers, have adapted and improved their ball-carrier vision.

To truly run the spread offense the way it's meant to be run, with confusing receiver packages and odd alignments outside the hash marks, a quarterback has to have the added element of scrambling ability.

A defense can't commit fully to one man or another if the quarterback can take off and gain chunks of yards on his own. The quarterback's reads are easier, as the waffling defensive players can't take off after a receiver because the quarterback can start running to any area.

Vick embodies every quality of a spread quarterback, and his supporting cast helps him to have success as well.

A cornerback can't feel comfortable manning up against DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin hasn't even scratched the surface of his immense potential.

In the backfield, LeSean McCoy is a terrific receiver and good outside runner, too. If the protection breaks down, Vick always has the option to check it down to the receiving back.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers ran the spread offense to a Super Bowl ring in 2010

At tight end, seldom-used Brent Celek is a West Coast offense carry-over. He can still make plays in the offense, but his diminishing role should give the Eagles every reason to test his value on the open market before his value and role are equally lesser.

Out of the shotgun formation, Vick has time to survey the field. In Green Bay, Rodgers ran Mike McCarthy's shotgun spread to perfection this season, leading to a Super Bowl ring for both.

In Pittsburgh, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has installed concepts of the spread and mixed the dazzling offense with Pittsburgh's patented downhill running style. Ben Roethlisberger was able to use his play-extending ability and toughness as a ball carrier to keep defenses tight.

Unsurprisingly, the defense's tightness helped Mike Wallace to beat corner backs down the field and put together a breakout campaign in which he became one of the league's top vertical threats.

San Diego overcame a dearth of receiving talent by stretching out secondaries, getting guys with less talent in open space and giving Philip Rivers an opportunity to fit throws into tight spaces, something he does extremely well.

Once a college phenomenon, the spread has been taking the NFL by storm. Tim Tebow is able to run an offensive set he is familiar with, and the young Florida product has been making waves around the NFL already.

The Eagles took a risk by attempting to use the spread offense to have success and by also giving the unpopular Vick the ball.

Michael Vick may not be everyone's favorite player in the NFL, but he has certainly helped to revolutionize the quarterback position and give NFL defenses headaches.

Marty Mornhinweg is more than a smart play-caller. He's a pioneer.

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