Vick's talents are a terrible thing to waste

August 04, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

For the last three or so years, as NFL training camps have opened, hundreds of sportswriters who are, collectively, dumber than a brick wall have echoed this thought:

"Michael Vick needs to run less and pass more."

That's right up there with, "The Earth is flat."

Every single success Vick has ever had in football - from being recruited by Virginia Tech (and many other colleges), to leading the Hokies to the national championship game, to being drafted first overall, to making the Atlanta Falcons one of the most exciting and successful teams in the league - has happened because of his legs.

In case you didn't notice, Vick is the best open-field runner in the history of football. Yes, I said it. History.

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but if I was a coach, I hope I'd be doing everything I could to take advantage of such a once-in-a-lifetime talent.


Yet here's the prevailing attitude of my contemporaries: "We don't care. We like quarterbacks like Joe Montana. Dan Marino. John Elway. Peyton Manning. We like guys who stand in the pocket, stare down the rush and hit the receiver in stride. That is what we want in a quarterback."

Fine, guys. But you completely miss the point.

No matter how hard you try, you cannot fit a square peg into a round hole.

Vick is not Montana, Marino, Elway or Manning. And he can't play - or win - the same way those guys did or do.

So why are we so obsessed with wanting him to be like those guys?

Michael Vick can only be what he is. And what he is, is the most awesome athletic specimen in the game - someone whose raw talents should be exploited, not impeded.

Telling Vick to stand in the pocket is like telling Kenny G he can only play the trumpet. It's senseless.

Instead, we should all be telling Vick this:


"Run to your heart's content."

"Run like you're a kid in a pickup game."

"Run around and improvise the way only you can."

"Run, and if, in the course of improvising, the defense, which is now forced to pay attention to your awesomeness, fails to cover a receiver downfield, hey, what the heck, show off that cannon of a left arm. Then thank your legs, which allowed that receiver to get open, which had you been in the pocket and the defense not been forced to react to the threat you pose as a runner, would never have happened in the first place!"

It's pretty simple. You can wish for Vick to stand in the pocket, play the game like all the other quarterbacks, play inside the box, and then complain because he's suddenly ordinary - which is exactly what he's been when he's tried to play the game that way in the past.

Or you can wish for Vick to be himself. Wish for him to roll out 20 or 25 snaps a game. Wish for him to spend three hours making defenders look foolish. Wish for him to do the things only he can, the unbelievable things that made us take notice of him in the first place and say things like, "Did I really just see that?!"

I know which one I'm wishing for.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at

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