Michael Vick was before his time. He came ahead of the curve and coaches didn’t know what to do with him offensively. Football men confused whether to keep him in the pocket and utilize his once in a generation arm or exploit his shifty and speed-burning running ability outside on the edge. Player personnel heads never drafted the right type of offensive linemen athletic enough to protect his cornerback-like frame and keep him out of the training room. He was never gifted with that veteran tall gifted receiver that could go over the middle and bail him out when the pocket collapsed even if the ball was inaccurately thrown. A true safety valve among a group of talented receivers was what Vick needed on 3rd and 4th down and late in the 4th quarter when talent was the most important reason teams won or lost.
Now that the league is changing and his career was essentially wasted by coaches running him off tackle or in the middle of the field, he now becomes a teacher of sorts.
Michael Vick, now a Jets quarterback, could be the best teacher Geno Smith has ever had. Vick has been through every kind of fan and media scrutiny – because of his own doing and otherwise – and very few players in NFL history can say such. After his release from prison, Vick was signed by the Eagles and the only other city comparing to Philly fan and media criticism is New York.
Talking to former 3-time Pro Bowl DE/LB Hugh Douglas Saturday – who played for the Jets and the Eagles – about the differences between New York and Philadelphia he says this: “You know the good thing about New York and it was kind of a blessing and a curse, is that there was so much stuff going on in the city of New York that the Jets, they might talk about them bad one day, but there was so much going on that it really didn’t matter (lingered) in the paper that long. Everybody kind of moved on from it to the next game as opposed to being in a place like Philadelphia. You live and breathe every team and as soon as you’re playing bad you’re gonna be reminded about it every day.”
There is nothing Geno Smith can tell Mike Vick about pressure. There is nothing Geno Smith can tell Mike Vick about the unapologetic pet-loving sports fans that will never forgive Mike Vick for dogfighting. Has Jets owner Woody Johnson forgiven Vick? There is nothing Geno Smith can tell Mike Vick about getting repeatedly crushed into the turf and then hearing it’s his fault before he peels himself off the ground as the injuries mount, his riches fade and his love affair with the city of Atlanta deteriorates.
That Michael Vick lost the opportunity to take Atlanta to the next level for a full decade will be his biggest regret.
The last few years, despite some serious issues on Philly’s offensive line, the narrative was Vick holds the ball too long during sacks. How many times have you seen Vick get off passes with seemingly the entire defense draped on his back? Passes that were picked because even as fast as he is, he couldn't avoid pressure in his face to throw the ball away? He lost barrel chested fullback Leonard Weaver (one helluva blocking FB) to a career ending injury and also Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters to two Achilles tendon ruptures. This left Vick with guard stalwart Todd Herremans as the only recognizable name on the offensive line and he was still blamed for Eagles losses in games he gave the team 4th quarter leads.
Despite that being as outlandish an analysis as there is, it's repeated over and over again by national pundits, who rarely have an objective answer as to why the pocket actually disappeared in so many games over the course of his career, Vick never said a word and you could see it in his face, when he went to the bench on that last hamstring injury that his days as a Philadelphia Eagles quarterback were done.
In five years in Philly, Vick won 20 and lost 20, completed 59.5% of his passes for 9,984 yards for 57 touchdowns and 33 picks. That’s not the greatest of td/pick ratios, but it’s certainly not the worse. He won a division title in 2010 but as much as the Eagles are on everyone’s lips, the entire team was unspectacular over the course of his tenure.
Now he’s a Jet and a new chapter begins in the life of one of the most dynamic athletes sports has ever seen. Did Vick try to do too much at times? Hell yeah. He wanted to win. Did Vick try to force balls where he had no business throwing the rock? Hell yeah, but think about how different Vick's growing pains would have been if he was afforded the weapons of a Joe Flacco or a Matt Ryan or a Peyton Manning or any other quarterback gifted with a full offensive arsenal in their early development. This consistently happens with multitalented quarterbacks.
Good luck Cam Newton. Carolina sure did help you out this offseason huh? Protect ya neck bro, because like so many others, you are now the super talent that will be asked to do it alone and when you fall, the cries for your job will come loud, far and wide. That all being said, Michael Vick is now essentially a coach, which benefits a veratile QB such as Geno Smith, because unlike Vick – a test dummy for the dual QB – Smith will have a true coach, competent and innovative.
Instead of being called courageous like say a Brett Favre, Vick’s quarterback heart was called reckless and basically stupid for running around with the intent of leading his team to victory. Please. I’d rock with Mike Vick any day and if he has a compliment of elite talent, he will most certainly win just as any other gifted quarterback will and has won. The wildcat offense for years was developed with Mike Vick in mind and if Chip Kelly had a fully healthy Mike Vick last season with his nuanced scheme, there’s no telling how great the Eagles would have been with MV7 under center.
Now it’s Nick Foles’ time under the hottest of lights. Good luck young Nick.
Geno Smith has said publicly he welcomes Vick’s presence on the Jets. Vick has also said he’d welcome embattled Eagles WR DeSean Jackson to New York if in fact he is truly on the trading block. It was with Jackson, Vick had his best year and one of the best games the NFL has seen by a quarterback.
Geno Smith had a typical year by rookie standards manning an offensively challenged team. He completed just 55.8% of his passes, threw only 12 touchdowns and a way-too-high 21 picks for an abysmal QB rating of 66.5. He did have some nice comeback wins early, but every single one of those numbers must improve or like Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith will be without a job. He now has "The Originator" to teach him an understanding of how to use his legs in and out of the pocket and deal with the off the field stuff as well. The NFL better get it together because it should be Marty Mornhinweg’s job to speed Geno along and not a sack weary quarterback looking to play out the string.
I’d surmise Vick will be the Jets starter for the year and during that time, young Geno will learn all the ropes and get his quarterback mind prepared for what is to come. If I were you Geno, I’d subtly pass hints to the front office that Eric Decker isn't the killer top-flight receiver that every young QB needs. Decker is a number two WR at best and if you want to develop properly all you have to do is ask Mike Vick what it is to have virtually no weapons in your prime and judge how you want to respond to your administration accordingly. This is the quarterback position and quarterbacks need weapons to be successful. If New York doesn’t get you weapons how will that be the case?
Rex Ryan, this is the year you must show and prove because again, bringing in Vick takes the heat off you, but it doesn't change the fact that you owe NY a big season. Do the right thing, build this team on offense and you might come out looking like a genius.
It’s not a question of whether Vick can handle New York, but the question remains whether he has the appropriate talent to win and show Geno Smith how it’s done.