By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts Vick-torious Champeen

What if Michael Vick were white? Other than looking like Colt Brennan, we don’t know or care. Michael Vick is only seeing green today.
The Philadelphia Eagles have made Michael Vick one of the highest paid players in the NFL (again), agreeing Monday night on a six-year contract worth $100M, with roughly $40M in guaranteed money.
Vick played just two seasons after signing his first mega-contract with the Falcons in 2005 that made him the highest paid player in the league. It wasn’t long before he was in prison for his involvement in dogfighting and later declaring bankruptcy. Now, at age 31, he is making the kind of money that only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning make at his position, and more than the likes of Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers.
But is Vick really that kind of special quarterback that you can consistently rely on to successfully lead your team like those other six? Did the Eagles make a good deal, or is the risk too great? There are numerous factors to consider.

The Value of the Early Thirties Quarterback

First, what can the Eagles really expect out of a 31-36 year old Michael Vick? Unlike any other quarterback in NFL history, Vick is the most physically gifted athlete on the field each week. He is the best running quarterback ever, holding numerous rushing records for the position. His mobility is akey part of the game, as he is still not the polished passer the league’s elite quarterbacks are. His style helps create highlight-reel plays, bails his team out of some tough situations, but it also heightens the risk of injury to Vick, and the better defenses in the league are more capable of frustrating Vick by forcing him to read defenses and become a pocket passer.
Age catches up with everyone. While running backs often decline around age 30, it is also natural for a running quarterback to do the same. Ask anyone what Michael Vick’s top strengths are and they would tell you they are his legs and arm strength. What are the two things that decline first on a quarterback in his 30s? His legs and arm strength. Vick’s game in its current form is not suited for long-term success at this stage of his career. Randall Cunningham was doing things similar to Vick in his era, and after some injury-plagued seasons and falling out of favor in Philadelphia, he had to reinvent his game.
Cunningham became a pocket passer and led the 1998 Minnesota Vikings to a record number of points, and a Gary Anderson missed field goal short of the Super Bowl. He was able to cut his sack percentage in half from where it was in Philadelphia. From ages 31 to 36, Cunningham rushed for just 703 yards in 48 games. Vick rushed for 676 yards in 12 games last season. Steve Young is the most productive 31-36 year old running quarterback, gaining 1,996 yards during the 1992-1997 seasons.
Just seven quarterbacks have rushed for 900 yards at ages 31-36. While you can expect Vick to still have some juice in the legs (as long as he doesn’t have another significant injury), don’t expect him to rush for 3,000 more yards in his career. That would be the seventh best mark for a running back at that stage of their career. At some point those 600-yard seasons will have to turn into 350-400 yard seasons, and eventually decline to 150-200 yard seasons.

If not, then its doubtful we are talking about Michael Vick as a starting quarterback five years from now. Instead he’ll be on injured reserve or retired after taking too many hits. He won’t finish this huge contract.

Durability at Ages 31-36

Due to his playing style, Vick has never been a very durable quarterback. His longest consecutive starts streak is just 27 games (Brett Favre just farted in your general direction, Vick). That streak was ended by his off-field legal problems and resulting incarceration.
Vick was injured and missed the majority of the first Washington game last year, which led to him missing the next three starts, and he was banged up near the end of the season as well. The Eagles do not have the most confident or competent looking offensive line in the league, so don’t be surprised if you see more of the same in 2011. At least Vince Young might have a chance to show off his stuff for the “Dream Team,” the mindless moniker Young branded the Eagles with in true paper-champion form. Given Vick’s only started all 16 games one time in his career, Young better be ready (if he hasn’t been beat out by Mike Kafka for the backup position.
Only 13 quarterbacks have started eighty or more games from ages 31-36. No surprise, Favre is the only quarterback to start all 96. Peyton Manning will do his best to join him. Eighty starts would mean the equivalent of missing one full season over the next six years for Vick. That doesn’t sound as forgivable when the contract is priced at $16.7M per.
Only 24 quarterbacks have managed to throw at least 100 touchdown passes from ages 31-36, while only 22 have thrown for at least 15,000 yards. Half of them are in the Hall of Fame, with Favre and Manning awaiting the day.
For his career, Michael Vick has just 93 touchdown passes and 14,609 yards in 98 games. Not exactly the kind of numbers that would radiate confidence in a team putting this type of financial investment into a player in the hopes that he will be one of the best players in the league. The track record is not there.
Merely repeating those marks would not justify the contract, unless he can do the unthinkable and finally add a Lombardi Trophy to that empty case of championship success the Eagles have displayed for decades and decades.
Unlike Cunningham (and apparently Donovan McNabb), Vick’s not going to Minnesota to reinvent himself. The Eagles have pegged him as their reclamation project, and if he’s ever going to change his game, it has to happen in Philadelphia.
With his contract likely front-loaded for the next few years, Vick needs to succeed now while he’s still as close to the athletic phenomenon he has been throughout his career. He does not want to get in a situation where he’s 34-35, hasn’t led the Eagles to any playoff success, and is suddenly having to rely on the arm and mind much more than the legs to beat defenses. He’s not that kind of quarterback, and the fans of Philadelphia are not the kind of fan base that will tolerate it.

The Magnificent Seven or the Magnificent Six?

It appears some people honestly believe Vick is now one of the elite quarterbacks in the league after one season in which he:
  • Missed at least 25% of the season due to injuries
  • Played on a pass-happy offense with a track-team offense, coached by a guy that has proven he maximizes the talent of his quarterbacks
  • Just threw for 3,000 yards for the first time in his career, and a career-high 21 touchdown passes
  • Completed more than 57% of his passes (62.6%) for only the first time in his career
  • Played one of the softest schedules in the league in terms of pass defenses (the Cold, Hard Football Facts sees similar fortunes in 2011 for Vick)
  • Played terribly against a forgettable Minnesota team late in the year with a chance to get a first-round bye
  • Finally, with a chance to advance in the postseason, threw a game-ending interception in the end zone against Green Bay
Perhaps if Kyle Orton throws for 32 touchdowns in Denver this year, we might have to negotiate a new member of the $100M club.
Vick is not the same kind of quarterback as "the big six": Manning, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Rodgers or Rivers, so why is he being paid like it?
Does Michael Vick have things those other quarterbacks would want? Absolutely. Manning and Brady would never need a punter (or kicker) if they had Vick’s speed and cannon of an arm.
But while Vick has the legs and big arm, those quarterbacks all have the accuracy and consistency to beat defenses in a way Vick wishes he was able to.
It is great highlight material when Vick has one of his 100-yard rushing games, but it is still the primary job of a quarterback to throw the ball. We all know Andy Reid is well aware of this, and he calls an offense heavily-geared towards the pass. The last five Super Bowl champions were all in the 55 to 58 percent range in favor of the pass. Championship teams are passing teams in today’s game.
Along the path to success you will have to occasionally win games against great teams, or teams with great pass defenses, or a shootout with another great offense, or win a game when your running game fails and you have to use your arm to carry the offense. These are the kind of situations where the elite quarterbacks separate themselves from the rest of the pack. These are the games they make their money on, because even if the situation doesn’t look favorable, you still feel like you have a chance to win with them behind center.
We looked at the six elite quarterbacks in some of these situations and compared their performance to Vick’s.
The first table shows the games in a quarterback’s career where they played a team with a Defensive Passer Rating less than 70.0 for the season (a very elite pass defense). OPG represents how many points the offense averaged with non-offensive scores (returns, safeties) removed. Only games started, including playoffs, were included.
DPR <70.0 GS PPG OPG Record Att. Comp. Pct. Yds YPA TD INT Rating
Aaron Rodgers 1 16.0 16.0 0-1 41 22 53.7 314 7.66 1 1 76.7
Ben Roethlisberger 11 16.6 15.4 6-5 365 211 57.8 2692 7.38 14 12 80.1
Drew Brees 6 19.7 17.3 2-4 248 143 57.7 1732 6.98 7 8 75.2
Michael Vick 11 15.1 13.2 2-9 278 140 50.4 1610 5.79 7 8 64.6
Peyton Manning 38 21.3 20.7 21-17 1333 793 59.5 9222 6.92 52 40 81.0
Philip Rivers 5 16.4 16.4 0-5 155 90 58.1 1145 7.39 5 7 73.2
Tom Brady 19 22.1 18.7 13-6 659 393 59.6 4329 6.57 20 18 77.9
Aaron Rodgers has only played in one such game (overtime loss to Tennessee in 2008) in his career. We’ll look at that breakdown later. Manning’s played in the most, and has put up the best stats and scoring output. It shouldn’t be surprising to see Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger as the only ones with a winning record and more touchdowns than interceptions. The Patriots, Colts and Steelers have dominated the league in win percentage in a wide variety of ways since 2004.
The alarming facts about Vick’s numbers are his poor record, and that he’s led his offense to the fewest points per game (just 13.2). He’s also barely completing 50 percent of his passes, and with a paltry, Joey Harrington-like 5.79 YPA. These are elite defenses, and you can see that even the best struggle with them, but Vick struggles the most. On the ground, Vick averaged 6.3 carries for 34.6 yards (5.51 YPA) in the 11 games.
The next table is the same situation (DPR < 70.0), but for just playoff games.
PLAYOFFS GS PPG OPG Record Att. Comp. Pct. Yds YPA TD INT Rating
Aaron Rodgers 0 - - - - - - - - - - -
Ben Roethlisberger 2 24.0 20.5 1-1 73 41 56.2 518 7.10 3 2 80.7
Drew Brees 1 14.0 14.0 0-1 49 27 55.1 354 7.22 2 1 83.2
Michael Vick 2 21.5 18.0 1-1 61 33 54.1 409 6.70 2 1 79.2
Peyton Manning 7 22.9 21.9 4-3 278 164 59.0 1907 6.86 8 9 75.9
Philip Rivers 3 19.7 19.7 0-3 107 62 57.9 836 7.81 4 4 79.8
Tom Brady 2 30.5 23.5 2-0 48 30 62.5 352 7.33 3 0 105.6
Both of Vick’s games are against the Packers: his 2002 win and his 2010 loss in Philadelphia. These are actually some of his better games against elite pass defenses. What’s interesting here is that Manning has a 4-3 record compared to everyone else combining to go 4-6. He has faced a lot of elite pass defenses in the playoffs, and has done a decent job overall. Rivers has had the misfortune of playing three of the toughest defenses in football during his career (2006 Patriots, 2008 Steelers, 2009 Jets).
Those are the elite pass defenses. What about the poor pass defenses, those with a Defensive Passer Rating of 90.0 or higher, these quarterbacks have faced?
DPR >90.0 GS PPG Record Att. Comp. Pct. Yds YPA TD INT Rating <80.0
Aaron Rodgers 17 30.7 13-4 526 354 67.3 4752 9.03 36 4 115.5 0
Ben Roethlisberger 18 22.9 16-2 517 354 68.5 4435 8.58 24 11 101.5 2
Drew Brees 23 30.9 20-3 751 522 69.5 6054 8.06 47 9 109.5 3
Michael Vick 17 26.1 15-2 415 239 57.6 3100 7.47 23 12 87.6 6
Peyton Manning 46 32.0 37-9 1625 1137 70.0 13718 8.44 117 28 112.4 2
Philip Rivers 16 35.3 15-1 457 323 70.7 4331 9.48 36 11 116.7 1
Tom Brady 22 31.5 22-0 614 419 68.2 5036 8.20 50 7 115.5 5
Everyone here does well against a bad pass defense, but clearly Vick falls way short of his elite peers in passing dominance. While the other six quarterbacks are in the upper 60s or even low 70s for completion percentage, Vick is at 57.6 percent, which is below the league-average when all opponents are considered, let alone just the worst defenses.
Vick has the highest interception percentage, and his YPA is more than half a yard away from sixth-ranked Brees, and the last column (<80.0) shows the number of games where the quarterback was under 80.0 in rating. Vick leads the way with six games, despite having one of the fewest totals of games played (17). Manning’s done that just twice in 46 games. These quarterbacks often take advantage of a poor defense when given the chance. Vick does not impress to the same degree.
Has Vick had a tougher career schedule of pass defenses? This table shows the average defensive passer rating for all of the quarterback’s opponents in every game they have thrown at least one pass in (playoffs included). Vick’s schedule has been one of the tougher ones for his career, but it’s hardly the main reason why his numbers are where they are when it comes to throwing the ball. His 2010 schedule was very favorable. You may have already guessed that Rodgers has had the easiest schedule to this point in his career.
QB Games Avg. DPR >90.0 % >85.0 % <80.0 % <75.0 % <70.0 %
Tom Brady 164 79.7 22 13.4 42 25.6 85 51.8 47 28.7 22 13.4
Peyton Manning 227 80.1 46 20.3 74 32.6 119 52.4 67 29.5 40 17.6
Michael Vick 100 80.8 19 19.0 38 38.0 48 48.0 28 28.0 14 14.0
Ben Roethlisberger 112 81.0 18 16.1 39 34.8 55 49.1 24 21.4 12 10.7
Drew Brees 145 82.4 23 15.9 52 35.9 55 37.9 24 16.6 6 4.1
Philip Rivers 89 82.5 17 19.1 37 41.6 35 39.3 16 18.0 5 5.6
Aaron Rodgers 58 84.8 17 29.3 27 46.6 19 32.8 9 15.5 2 3.4
No matter the quality of the pass defense, Vick has not proven he can consistently throw the ball as effectively as the elite six quarterbacks.
Sticking with the idea of performing against better competition, here’s a table that shows how the quarterbacks have done in the regular season against teams that would make the postseason that year. Only games started included.
Vs. Playoff Teams Games Record PPG Pct. YPA TD% INT% Rating Sack% Fum%
Michael Vick 26 5-20-1 18.8 53.1 6.35 3.49 2.04 76.0 11.35 2.19
Aaron Rodgers 17 8-9 22.7 65.7 7.27 4.23 1.69 94.1 7.08 1.55
Philip Rivers 23 9-14 21.1 60.1 7.30 4.48 3.16 84.3 5.95 1.87
Ben Roethlisberger 33 16-17 20.2 60.6 7.40 4.07 3.10 84.1 9.78 1.47
Drew Brees 45 20-25 23.7 62.9 7.03 4.52 3.25 85.3 3.77 1.49
Tom Brady 48 32-16 26.0 63.5 7.25 4.76 2.12 92.3 5.03 1.58
Peyton Manning 77 37-40 23.8 63.3 7.31 4.94 3.64 86.6 3.48 0.93
The only stat Vick does not finish dead last in is INT%, where he’s actually second. Five (and a half?) wins against playoff teams in the regular season for his career. That’s it.
Last one. A quick look at rushing support (there will be a full feature on this at a later date). This only looks at all the non-quarterback carries a team had in the game. Vick has inflated his team’s rushing totals for years, and this method won’t penalize him as it’s only looking at the contribution in the run game from the skill players. Consider rushing for 75 yards or less as an off-day for the running game.
<75 Yds Rushing GS Record Att. Comp. Pct. Yds YPA TD INT Rating
Michael Vick 24 4-20 673 355 52.7 4386 6.52 22 22 70.5
Ben Roethlisberger 29 14-15 976 570 58.4 6979 7.15 35 34 78.0
Drew Brees 38 8-30 1504 953 63.4 10243 6.81 58 51 82.0
Tom Brady 41 22-19 1547 952 61.5 10231 6.61 61 33 85.2
Philip Rivers 23 7-16 811 501 61.8 5942 7.33 33 24 85.3
Peyton Manning 77 34-43 2884 1827 63.3 21151 7.33 126 91 86.8
Aaron Rodgers 23 9-14 778 490 63.0 6077 7.81 41 19 94.5
Again, no one has a lower winning percentage or stats than Vick. Rivers has been surprisingly mortal in the last two tables, while the Patriots seem to win a high percentage of games no matter what split you want to create.


In summary, Vick is a rare athlete that does things we are not used to seeing from his position. That does not mean it has translated into a lot of success in his career. When stacked up to the elite quarterbacks in the league, Vick simply can’t compare when it comes to throwing the ball in adverse situations, against better competition, putting the team on his back, and helping them win games.
Vick was the top pick in the 2001 draft. He signed a record contract in 2005 that made him the highest paid player in the league. He breaks another record by signing his second $100M contract this week.
Yet a decade later, and we are looking at a quarterback with two playoff wins, one 3,000-yard passing season, and some rushing records for his position. How many athletes have ever cost so much, and produced so little?
Chuck D said it better than us: don’t believe the hype.