Every year in the NFL is a new beginning, with every player on every team believing that this year they’ll have a chance at going all the way to the Super Bowl. Such grandiose dreams are warranted; after all, the NFL is peppered with rags-to-riches stories of struggling teams who somehow manage to put together amazing seasons.
For some teams like the St. Louis Rams and the Detroit Lions, trouble comes in the form of year-after-year sub-.500 records. For others, mediocrity rears its head in the form of consistently lackluster playoff performances on the heels of excellent regular season play. The latter is the case with the Philadelphia Eagles.
This year, the Eagles look to veteran QB Michael Vick and a star-studded roster to finally end team’s deep playoff drought. Any chance at success rests on Vick repeating the magic he found during his 2010 season.
Despite participating in just 12 games in the 2010 season—including two partial games split with QB Kevin Kolb—Vick’s play generated passing numbers worthy of serious MVP consideration. His arm wasn’t his only impressive quality, either: Vick’s fancy footwork, when flushed out of the pocket, gained his team 676 rushing yards in 100 attempts.
As the undisputed starter in 2011, the expectations for Vick are as high as they have ever been in his career. Coach Andy Reid has ensured that Vick will have his pick of talent at wide receiver, and has also gone to great lengths to secure RB Ronnie Brown to buttress RB LeSean McCoy’s excellent run game. Added talent on offensive and defensive lines round out the star-studded roster. In fact, it seems safe to say that Andy Reid has gone ahead and purchased himself a Super Bowl-caliber team through the draft and free agency this year.
Unfortunately, it’s time for a reality check in Philadelphia. Last year was a bit of a fluke, and lightning doesn’t often strike twice. Three quarters of an amazing season with the Eagles in 2010 does not make up for an unremarkable six years with the Atlanta Falcons.
Let’s ignore Vick’s inauspicious preseason performance this week, which many seem to forget is simply an exhibition game—a glorified practice. Instead, let’s look into the reality behind Vick’s numbers over the course of his career, and compare those to other great quarterbacks around the league.
Over the course of a career that spans many seasons, there are bound to be high years and low years. In 2010, Vick experienced a career-high year. That could have been the result of him finally clicking in Philadelphia, but it is more likely that the 100.2 average passer rating Vick posted was a statistical anomaly. Consider that:
- In seasons where Vick plays 12 games or less, his average passer rating is a healthy 85.8;
- In seasons where Vick plays 15 games or more, his average passer rating is 77.1, and his fumbles triple.
All great players experience ups and downs throughout their careers, but rarely do they have career years like Vick’s 2010 season, twice in a row. QB Tom Brady’s pair of MVP seasons in 2007 and 2010 were perhaps the closest we’ve come to seeing such a thing in recent years, when he posted passer ratings of 117.2 and 111.0 respectively. Even QBs Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have balanced the amazing years that built their reputations with a hefty number of run-of-the-mill, unremarkable seasons. Both quarterbacks actually earned back-to-back MVPs during statistically mediocre years when compared to the whole of their careers.
From a statistical perspective, it is unrealistic to expect Michael Vick to repeat the performance he gave in 2010. He is an excellent athlete with more than his share of natural talent, but he is not bulletproof and he is not a magician on the field.
The wear and tear of the 16-plus games Vick will (hopefully) start will take its toll, leaving an above-average quarterback who wins more than he loses. Expect some exciting games in Philadelphia this year, but don’t hold your breath for a run all the way to the Super Bowl.