Wednesday, December 01, 2010

People Are Catching Up

Rumblings that all is not right with the "MVP" quarterback Michael Vick:
Last week, the Eagles converted just 1 of 5 red-zone opportunities against the Giants. But thanks to five giveaways by the Giants, they still managed to cruise to a 27-17 win.

They weren't so lucky against the Bears. This time, another dreadful 1-for-5 red-zone performance resulted in a five-point loss....
And then this:
Aside from a 4-for-4 red-zone performance in their impressive, could-do-no-wrong, 59-28 win over the Redskins 2 weeks ago, the Eagles have been struggling in the red zone for a while now. Take out the Washington game and they're a lousy 6-for-23 in the red zone in their last five games.
That last quote really gives you a sense of the endless laudatory coverage Vick gets. Instead of reading "struggling in the red zone for a while now", it should read "struggling in the red zone since Vick took over at quarterback."

The Eagles have just six total TDs in this recent stretch of Colts, Giants and Bears- two of those TDs were the result of giant, atypical McCoy rushes, another was pretty close to garbage time. They have good, proven skill players who can catch and get open: Jackson, Maclin, McCoy, Celek. What is the problem?

Can’t leave Michael Vick out of that answer. The Colts, Bears and Giants offer decent-to-good defenses. With the back of the end zone providing safety help, these teams cheat the run- particularly the run from Vick. Kept in the pocket, unable to extend plays, Vick isn’t even an average passer. He’s inaccurate (this guy has missed more big throws in four weeks than McNabb did in seasons- and no one says anything), and no one would describe him as heady.

Between the twenties, Vick can outrun the defensive secondary support, beat the safety ot the first down marker, get away from the linebacker containing on the edge. His quality receiving corps gets open, which eliminates the need for throwing perfection. But near the goal line, he is a liability.

The Eagles would not be 6-for-23 in the red zone with Kolb at quarterback. Frankly, it seems hard to argue that Kolb isn’t a better guy to throw those tight slants and fades. Kolb might not have a cannon- but he is a proficient read it and throw it quarterback (ed. note: two NFC player of the week awards in his first six starts). And it is a small leap from “clearly better in the red zone “ to “clearly better".

The Vick for MVP pick talk has died. Next, the pro-Bowl talk will peter out as the ceiling of one, maybe two touchdowns a game against even decent defenses becomes increasingly clear.

It is all about understanding the League. It isn’t the NBA- a star-system where the elite rewrite the rules. It is more like baseball- where the pursuit of important numbers and metrics ruthlessly rule outcomes. And you can’t be a good quarterback in this league if you cannot pass the football accurately. Vick is fun and different- but there is that specific hole in his game. And the League is catching up weekly. Vick gets out of the pocket less. There are fewer blitzers- and more “go ahead and beat the coverage Michael”. And the cruel metrics- red zone pass completion percentage, yards per attempt, time to accurate release- start driving poor red zone success ratios.

By Christmas there will be a burgeoning chorus for Kolb.

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