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Michael Vick: The Video Game God has Returned

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He's baaaccckk... Watching Michael Vick's resurgence has caused mixed feelings for a lot of people. My goal here is not to engage in a moral debate, but merely to focus on the on-field excitement that his return has caused. We often ask too much of our athletes; they get paid ridiculous amounts of money for their on-field talents and so we assess them the additional responsibility of being a role model (for the record, I am not saying that this is necessarily unfair).

However, while the role and expectations of athletes in America is something that maybe The Sage's first book will be on, I just want to address the excitement that having football's most electric playmaker back on the field has caused. In case you forgot I submit you this, and this, plus that as a quick refresher.

Now if you watched those videos you may notice that the third one is not real. But that is part of what made Michael Vick so intriguing; until him, many believed his combination of talents were unreal. Michael Vick may be the only NFL player ever capable of running of a sub 4.3 40 yard dash as well as throwing a 70+ yard ball. He played the game like a created video game character, and this was part of what made him so popular, especially amongst the younger gamer population. 

If you are not/have never been a Madden fan skip the next paragraph, but if you are not a fan please tell me which of the four categories you fall into:
  1. You are over the age 50 or under the age of 6.
  2. You and your friends could never afford it (aka the poor kid card).
  3. You are a girl. This makes sense because as a girl you are probably bad at video games and/or don't like football. This is not to say that all girls don't like Madden. Many do and are actually a damn lot better than me (I personally don't know any, but I assume there are at least four to six who are).
  4. You hate football (i.e. you're a foreigner) and/or hate video games. This does not include those who simply don't care about football or video games. Madden's greatness is so strong that even the apathetic are overwhelmed by the game's splendor and join the Madden bandwagon. A strong deep seated aversion to video games or football is necessary to override this law of video game nature.
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If you don't fit into one of these categories I am convinced that at least for one year, you had a fling with Madden and will be nodding along as I describe to you the glory of a fast quarterback. It is 3rd and 12 as you drop back to pass. Staying in the pocket is clearly not fun, so you roll out and search for a deep ball. Nothing is open and if you are Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, or Jake Delhomme you are sacked and forced to decide if it is really a good idea to go for it on 4th and 18 from your own 29 (for me the answer to this question was at least 50% yes). But with Vick, you just take off upfield and get what is often an easy first down. If you played Madden from 2002-2008, you no doubt thanked the lord for Vick's talent when you had him, cursed the devil when you played against him, and regardless, respected his abilities.

One thing that extends from Madden to reality is the difficulty in stopping a dual-threat quarterback in these situations. In Madden, a possible solution was to blitz from the edges, but even then Vick would be faster than the blitzers and simply run around them. Tragically for real NFL defensive coordinators, they struggle nearly as much as stoners on XBOX Live at 2:30 AM do when faced with running quarterbacks.

(READ THE REST AFTER THE JUMP!)

While the return of the single most exciting player would be good news on its own, I am extra hard because I believe Vick now has the potential to be even more explosive and exhilarating than he was during his Falcon tenure.

While his speed has dropped since his peak, the NFL as a whole has become more permissive for running out of the quarterback position. While the Falcons utilized Vick as a desiginated runner some, most of his rushing yards came from busted passing plays. The emergence of the Wildcat and college style zone-read option runs, has given quarterbacks the opportunity to make plays with their legs outside of the occasional quarterback draw.

This part isn't new though. The Eagles signed Vick last year almost solely to be their part-time Wildcat quarterback. What is new this year is that Vick is no longer just the Wildcat quarterback, but the Eagles every-down quarterback. Last year, teams knew when Vick would come in, he would be running plays from a much smaller, Wildcat style package. Defenses knew Vick was not going to run a lot of downfield passing plays (only 13 passes all of last year), and would treat him primarily as a runner.

What is new is that defenses now are not treating Vick as a Wildcat quarterback (he is the everydown QB) but as a quarterback who can go Wildcat (If that difference makes sense).  They are not schematically trying to defend a set number of wildcat style plays but must defend against the whole range of an offense in addition to this Wildcat variant. With defenses not knowing if Vick will be running 'normal' offensive plays vs. 'wildcat' style plays, the offense is able to exploit more holes in a defense on any given play.

Even though this is true, the unwritten NFL rule of trying to protect your starting quarterback from taking excessive contact would generally limit the amount of running a quarterback would do. This is often because your starting quarterback is much better than your backup QB and teams can't risk an injury.  However, the Eagles are blessed with perhaps the NFL's top backup QB in the formerly starting Kevin Kolb. This doesn't mean the Eagles should or will call lots of running plays (The fact he has 12 carries the last two games combined suggests not) but it means they can. While the Eagles won their last two games by comfortable margins, in tougher contests it is possible that they utilize Vick's legs more. And even if they don't, the mere possibility of this is enough to make one moist. 

On top of this, what must be truly terrifying for the rest of NFL is that Vick has more weapons in Philadelphia then he ever had in Atlanta. With burners DeSean Jackson (averaging a very video game like 24.5 yards per catch)  and Jeremy Maclin as bonafide deep threats, Vick has been getting a chance to showcase his prodigous arm more than ever has before. Vick has only thrown for over 2500 yards once in his career (to compare, almost 70% of NFL starting quarterbacks eclipsed that number last year). At his current pace, despite the fact he only played half of his first game, Vick is on pace for 4000 yards. That would best his previous high by 1000 yards. 

As the season progresses, teams may start to find better ways to contain Vick, but he is not going to be stopped. Vick is back, and appears a more willing and capable passer than ever. Not only that, but it appears that Vick the runner is truly back as well. After struggling to shake the stank of prison off himself last year, Vick managed a measly 4.0 ypc  (3.2 yards below his career average). This year, Vick is back to 7.4 ypc and looking much more like the homerun threat that used to don the black and red. And if Vick, the athlete, can merge with Vick, the feared thrower, it means good things for anyone who likes highlights, football, or video games.
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~ The Sage

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2 Comments

drsear said:

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No one cares about this stuff, its a MUSIC blog, stick to MUSIC!

Maks G said:

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This makes me want to play Madden; excellent write up!

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