NFL: Vick for MVP?

Two years ago, the first thing that came to mind when anybody said “Michael Vick” was “criminal.” Today, it’s “MVP.”

Talk about a turnaround. Not just in football, but in life. Everyone knows the story – dogfighting, prison, mentoring sessions with Tony Dungy, signing by the Eagles. But you look at how much this guy has changed from a football standpoint and it’s really something to behold.

Let’s take a look at his best statistical years while he was with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2002, he had 231 completions on 421 attempts for a 54.9% completion rate. He threw for 2,936 yards with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also had 113 rushing attempts for 777 yards and an additional eight touchdowns. In 2006, the only full season Vick has ever played, he attempted 388 passes, completing 204 of them for a 52.6% completion rate. He threw for 2,474 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran 123 times for 1,039 yards and two touchdowns. Those teams finished 9-6-1 and 7-9, respectively.

Fast-forward to 2010. Despite missing three games, Vick is having, undoubtedly, the best season of his career. Through six games, he’s completed 96 out of his 153 attempted passes for 1,350 yards and a 62.7% completion rate, nearly 8% higher than his career average. The telling statistic here is this: 11 touchdowns to 0 (that’s right, ZERO) interceptions. According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com, every other player with more than two touchdown passes has at least one interception and every player with more than six touchdown passes has at least three picks. In case you were wondering, Vick’s passer rating is 115.1, nearly 40 POINTS higher than his career average. He’s also carried the ball 44 times for 341 yards and four scores. What’s more, every game that Vick has started and played in its entirety, the Eagles have won. And in case you missed it, Vick put on a clinic in Week 10 against the Washington Redskins, passing for over 300 yards with four touchdowns (QB rating of 150.7) while rushing for 80 yards and two more scores.

Where has this production come from? It’s unprecedented in his career. My theory is this: while he was playing in Atlanta, the offensive system was built around him and he had a run-first mentality. In Philadelphia, he stepped into a West Coast Offense that emphasizes passing first. Honestly, if you watched Vick play in the early 2000s, you weren’t watching for his arm. You were watching for his athleticism. Anybody remember the Michael Vick Experience commercial? Watch him this year. He’s delivering strikes on nearly all of his pass attempts, putting the ball where only his receivers can catch it. His evolution as a quarterback in only his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles has been truly remarkable. I’d be wrong if I said that it’s his quarterback play is the only thing that’s making him great because he’s as fast as ever, but he’s only using his speed when he doesn’t have a passing option. And this makes scheming for him almost impossible. An opposing defensive coordinator has no way of knowing what he’s going to do on a given down because he’s a threat to pass or run and it could go either way. Michael Vick for MVP? He has my vote.

So here we are, Week 11 in the NFL. In what was expected to be a down year for the Eagles, they find themselves in a tie for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants. Now this is where things get interesting. The two teams haven’t played each other yet. They meet up in a Sunday night bout at Lincoln Financial Field, one of the toughest places to play in sports. The Giants are coming off a terrible loss to the Dallas Cowboys, while the Eagles have all the confidence in the world after their drubbing of the Redskins. The winner of this game will take control of the division and be in the conversation for best team in the NFC. It’ll certainly be one worth watching even if you’re not a fan of either team.

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