Cut Vick some slack

So what if star quarterback is not a great passer, he's a playmaker!

Since Michael Vick entered the NFL five years ago, two things have been constant when talking about this player:

First, he needs to be a better passer. Second, he's so dangerous.

I have not broken down film like scouts do in the NFL, in addition to some "talking heads," whose job is to analyze players and games, but the constant criticism of Vick's passing, to me, is overblown.

The Falcons enter Sunday's game at home against the Green Bay Packers with a 6-2 record. That is 6-2. He can't be that bad, can he? Not according to Packers coach Mike Sherman.

"I prefer him on the bench," Sherman said. "He can run from anywhere or throw from anywhere. He's a dangerous, dangerous player.

"When you have a running back and a quarterback that can take off with it, it's a tough thing to defend sometimes."

So why all the criticism of Vick?

Because he doesn't have the passing numbers that compare to former Falcons and current Packers quarterback, Brett Favre, who is one of the NFL's best at the position. So what? Last time I checked teams make the playoffs based on record, not passing numbers.

Through seven games this season (Vick missed one game with an injury), Vick's passer rating of 70.8 ranked him 26th in the NFL, just behind Baltimore's Anthony Wright (71.7). Nowadays, in every sport, stats are used so often to prove points, or arguments, and I'm using them in this column.

If passer rating is so important, then Wright must be the better player, correct? Wright wouldn't even make the Packers' roster, and he's only starting because of injury. Furthermore, Buffalo's Kelly Holcomb ranks eighth with a passer rating of 92.0, while Donovan McNabb is 14th (88.0) and Favre is 19th (82.9).

Even Terrell Owens knows this answer: Who would you rather have? Favre of Holcomb? McNabb or Holcomb?

Terrell and I both say, Favre and McNabb.

OK, so this continuous fascination with the development of Vick as a passer needs to end. If he was losing games every week, then it would be something to be concerned about.

But Vick is a rare player. He's not as much a quarterback as he is a playmaker. Even when the Falcons call a passing play, do they really know what's going to happen? Doubtful. Once Vick gets flushed out of the pocket or sees a running lane, all heck breaks loose and the defense is panicking. Vick, who has 340 rushing yards, will never be the thrower Steve Young was, and Young compares with Vick as when he played Young threw left-handed and was an above average athlete.

Another reason Vick isn't the next Young is his receivers. Who are his targets? Peerless Price, Brian Finneran, Michael Jenkins and Roddy White? Only tight end Alge Crumpler is worth anything.

As Packers fans have witnessed this season, sometimes a quarterback is only as good as his receivers, and if the receivers are not capable of getting open consistently, what happens? Five-interception games like Favre had in Cincinnati.

Favre made throws he always has made, but the problem was he wasn't throwing to the likes of Javon Walker or Robert Ferguson, who know how to get open. Instead, he was looking at people like Donald Lee and Antonio Chatman, in addition to the reliable Donald Driver.

There's a lot of reasons Vick (six TDs and six interceptions this season) isn't an accomplished thrower, but it's not all on him. A lack of talent hasn't helped. But can anyone disagree with this: Vick shouldn't be coached to be the next Favre, but an advanced version of Young.

A player who can make plays throwing and running cannot be relegated to the pocket. Vick is at his best on the run and this is when defenses begin swallowing their collective tongue. And, since he's winning, what's the big deal? Vick has his team in the race for the NFC title, and I thought that's what his job was – to win. As far as I can see, he's doing his job.

The Packers will get to see firsthand on Sunday.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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