On Michael Vick and Winning
Michael Vick is understandably a popular subject this time of year. A new NFL season awaits and ever-growing expectations mount on his shoulders. Everyone asks the same question: Will this be the year for the Falcons?
Earlier this week Skip Bayless took his turn on writing about how Vick must learn to pass in order to win. Of course, Bayless writes at least one column a month on either Michael Vick or Terrell Owens, so that's really not surprising. Also, an AP story recently surfaced on No. 7 and how he and the team deal with his fame. Good points all around, but the reason the Falcons won't win the Super Bowl, or probably even the NFC, only partially deal with Michael Vick.
For all his bluster, Skip Bayless is right. Michael Vick must learn to become a quarterback first in order to become truly dominant. He brings up the point of Steve Young and how only once he became pass-first did the 49ers win a Super Bowl with him at the helm. When Vick scrambles he can be spectacular, but still very beatable. Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has had his number since he entered the league, and Vick has had only one or two decent games against the Bucs his whole career. Once you get inside his head, as the Bucs easily do, he starts making a lot of terrible stnanks.
The AP story talks of off-the-field distractions that might influence him and how despite all that, the Falcons are hoping he will bring them a Super Bowl title. Well, even if Vick can put the distractions behind him and become a good passer, he won't bring them a title. Why? Well, the cliché "Defense wins championships" really is true in the No Fun League. As John Clayton points out, the 1984 Raiders were the last team to capture a Lombardi Trophy without a top-10 defense. That's why the Colts can't win despite Peyton Manning's records (and because Manning can't win big games), the Chiefs can't win despite Priest Holmes' records, and so on.
One more thing about Michael Vick: is he still worth what the Falcons paid for him? It's an interesting topic that I'm surprised doesn't come up more often. Remember back to the 2001 draft? The Falcons got the first overall pick from the Chargers in exchange for, among a few other things, the draft picks they used to select LaDanian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. Up until last year, the trade seemed to be a wash as Tomlinson was as brilliant at running back as Vick was at quarterback, but Brees' disappointing play kept it even. Now that Brees has likely blossomed into one of the better QBs in the league, it's safe to say that the Chargers actually got the better of the deal by far. It's impossible to guess whether the Falcons would have taken both Tomlinson and Brees, but if they had they'd be a lot better off with Tomlinson at RB than with Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett, and while Brees is no Michael Vick at scrambling, he is certainly far ahead of him with passing. I will go as far as to say yes, the Falcons would be better off having never traded for Vick.
My impression is that Michael Vick won't learn to trust his arm until his legs fail him. Until he meets a team following the Bucs' defensive scheme that destroys the Falcons in a playoff game. Until he is too old to take the hits. Until his lightning-quick speed is gone. For now, Vick is taking his place alongside Fran Tarkenton, Warren Moon, and Randall Cunningham as talented scramblers unable to bring home a championship.
More on UM/FSU Debacle
Quote of the day (and week, maybe month, and possibly season) comes courtesy of ESPN.com's Power 16 rankings. The entry for FSU this week simply states: "You know, suddenly Chris Rix doesn't look that bad." I haven't laughed that hard in a while, and yet, it's completely true.
In addition, I have to agree with SI's Stewart Mandel. Neither FSU nor Miami belong in the top-15. I suppose after NC State shuts them both out and Virginia Tech pounds them into the ground that will be corrected in everyone else's polls.
Miami at FSU: What Did We Learn?
FSU 10, Miami 7; the real losers: the viewers at home.
1. Low-scoring games can be exciting. They can be classics. Last year's UF-FSU game was an example of this with a final score of 20-13. This game, however was an offensive wasteland. Just brutal to watch.
With both teams starting freshmen quarterbacks, you knew there wasn't going to be much offense. However, it seems like neither team has much in the way of receivers or especially offensive lines. Miami giving up nine sacks is unthinkable, even with a quarterback not experienced enough to feel the pressure coming half the time.
This game is a perfect example of what happens when two teams with good defenses and mediocre offenses match up. Many people thought this game's winner would have an inside track for the ACC title. Instead, it showed that the winner (FSU) basically has an inside track to finishing second to Virginia Tech, and possibly behind another team like NC State, Boston College, or Georgia Tech. That's not to say the ACC is a particularly tough conference, as it never has been and still isn't. That just tells how FSU and Miami have entered some down time with Bobby and Jeff Bowden asleep at the wheel and Larry Coker having run out of Butch Davis' players.
2. Weatherford or Wright? The stats say that Kyle Wright is clearly the better of the two, having gone 16/28 for 230 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Compare that with Weatherford's performance of 7/24 for 67 yards and an interception, taking into consideration Miami's sieve of an offensive line. Wright kept getting hammered, but kept getting up and making plays. Five of Weatherford's seven completions were dump-offs to the running backs.
Of course, Miami also has better receivers but still, FSU finished with 75 passing yards. Only four Seminoles caught passes, and two of them were running backs Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. Xavier Lee got a shot with one series, but after taking a 19-yard loss he got yanked. As the elder Bowden remarked after the game, quarterback is a huge concern for FSU (more on that later). Either way, opponents are going to defend both of these teams the same way TCU beat Oklahoma: stack the box and make the freshmen beat them.
3. This time the script was reversed. The past couple of games in this series FSU outplayed Miami and was far better statistically, but special teams decided the game in the Canes' favor. This time it was Miami missing two field goals and having a fumbled hold late in the game. Gary Cismesia did push a chip shot left for good measure though, probably for old time's sake.
Miami finished with 317 total yards, compared with FSU's 173. Kyle Wright was shaky, but clearly better than Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee. Rushing yards were about equal once sacks are taken out, but Tyrone Moss did it all himself for Miami while Washington and Booker got the share the pounding for FSU. Really, Miami should have won this game, but for once special teams decided it for the Seminoles.
4. Some quick thoughts:
Chris Leak is clearly the best QB in Florida, but after this game a case could be made for UCF's Steven Moffet being the second-best, especially since he nearly lead the Golden Knights to the upset over South Carolina. Based on running alone, Josh Portis is probably the third-best, which says a lot about the situations at Miami and FSU.
Bobby Bowden is just as senile as ever. In the post-game interview he called Xavier Lee "the other guy," similar to how he stumbles through his locally-broadcasted highlights show with radio announcer Gene Deckerhoff. He calls his own players only by their numbers for most of the way because he can't remember their names. Plus, he said the Seminoles have a lot of issues to work through, and when asked what they were, he could only identify one: the quarterbacks.
Based on the level of play, both teams should drop in the polls. FSU won't fall, but they should. If not for Mickey Andrews, Miami would be celebrating its seventh win in a row over FSU, and the the series would start taking on Florida-Georgia characteristics.
Does anyone think Iowa wouldn't destroy these two teams? Or that they could beat Georgia after DJ Shockley proved his worth? Or that Louisville or Florida don't have the firepower to outscore these two inept offenses? These are the teams that FSU and Miami will be ranked around when the new polls come out. Start your "Oh-ver-ray-ted" chants now.
For the first time since 2001, UF is the best college football team in Florida. Yes, Miami won the 2001 national title. Doesn't matter.