Michael Vick’s Quarterback Revolution

Note: this author does not in any way condone the actions of Michael Vick as a person away from the football field. This article is concerned with his unique skill-set as a player and  his impact on the game of football.

A revolution can be defined as a sudden, radical, or complete change.

Michael Vick is leading a quarterback revolution in the NFL.

The NFL is notoriously slow to change (as in acknowledging its concussion crisis or implementing a stringent personal conduct policy), unless it is forced to or unless certain players come along who change it from within. Michael Vick was one of those players.

The mobile quarterback, while perhaps never considered a radical concept, was largely deemed unnecessary by NFL offenses over the years. Offensive linemen create a pocket and protect the quarterback, so quarterbacks better respect that pocket and use it. Sure, there were a few mobile quarterbacks before Vick, but they  were the exception to the league norm and they ran more to survive than to win.

Fran Tarkenton is remembered for his scrambling ability, yet a review of his highlights reveals a quarterback often under duress running out of desperation with a lot of lateral movement behind the line of scrimmage. Over a seventeen year career he carried the ball 675 times for 3,674 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Randall Cunningham could also run when he needed to. Over a sixteen year career his rushing statistics are similar to Tarkenton’s, 775 carries, 4,928 yards and 35 touchdowns.

These are respectable stats from an era of pass first and run second quarterbacking, but they are hardly revolutionary. Tarkenton and then Cunningham were mere whiffs of a quarterback revolution, a breeze that Vick would fan into the winds of change.

The conventional mold of the NFL quarterback was suddenly, radically, and undeniably changed when the Falcons drafted Vick in 2001 and he has been at the forefront of the quarterback revolution ever since.

Mobile, a true dual-threat, the NFL had never seen a player quite as dynamic as Vick. His stats over a twelve year career far outpace his running predecessors, 830 carries for 5,874 yards and 36 touchdowns, and his style of play was a direct influence on the spead ’em out, wide-open, let it fly offense now so prevalent in the NFL.

Before Vick dual-threat quarterbacks were considered a liability, susceptible to injury and turnovers, after he became a star his style became the envy of nearly every coach and owner. It is not a stretch to say that the success of Vick led to the drafting of and or the careers of Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Geno Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, Time Tebow, and Johnny Manziel. “Soldiers” all in Vick’s quarterback revolution.

Of course there have been setbacks too, some of those quarterbacks (Tebow, Manziel) just aren’t NFL quarterback material, and the injury concern is legitimate, as Vick himself can’t seem to stay healthy when he does get to play any more. However, every revolution sees its share of lost battles before the war is won, in this case before every team is drafting mobile quarterbacks.

Vick is certainly past his prime, he couldn’t stay healthy his last few years in Philadelphia an he was just as ineffective as Geno Smith after replacing him in the second half of last Sunday’s 31-0 Jets loss to the Chargers. His ascent to NFL stardom was certainly sudden, though, and his style of play radical. As for bringing about a complete change? Perhaps not yet, but to see his impact on the game just look around the league. Seattle, San Francisco, Carolina, and Indianapolis all went to the playoffs last year behind mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks. It will be a while before the change from typical pocket passer to scrambler is complete (probably about the time when Manning and Brady retire), but Vick has passed the torch to the next generation of running quarterbacks and now that one (Russell Wilson) has won the Super Bowl it is only a matter of time.

Michael Vick started a quarterback revolution. He was a game changer. Whether you love him or hate him, whether you burned his jersey or fed his cards to your dog, there is no denying the impact he has made on the game of football.

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