When it comes to Michael Vick, it’s hard to decide which cliche best describes his career.
How about, what a long strange trip it’s been?
After all, it’s not often that a former No. 1 overall pick with 10 years of service time loses two years of his prime to hard time in the federal pen in Leavenworth, Kansas.
But so is the career of Michael Vick. At times miraculous, sometimes disastrous, always beyond description.
The things Robert Griffin III is doing now? Vick did them first, albeit with less accuracy. But if there’s one thing that’s been a greater constant in Vick’s career than jaw-dropping football feats, it’s the good being followed by the bad.
In this instance, it’s 20 games of lackluster play since signing a six-year, $100 million extension in August 2011 (nevermind the fact that only two years were guaranteed).
It’s why as Hurricane Sandy beared down on the Eastern Seaboard Monday, Andy Reid was hunkered down in his office, once again mulling whether Vick is the player to pilot his sinking ship.
Since Week 1 2011, Vick has thrown 689 passes. He’s completed 410 of them (59.5 percent). He’s thrown for 27 touchdowns and committed 31 turnovers. He’s averaged 7.4 yards per attempt.
They’re thoroughly mediocre numbers, particularly when isolated to 2012 (59.0 completion percentage, 9:14 TD to turnover ratio, 6.9 YPA) and read in the context of Philadelphia’s 10-10 record in that time.
But the icing on the cake might be Vick’s increasing one-dimensionality. Once one of the game’s most feared runners, Vick has rushed for “just” 247 yards on 48 carries, finding the end zone only once. His 5.1 yards per carry would be a career low for a full season by nearly an entire yard.
Although that’s probably partly by Reid’s design, it’s also an indication a 32-year-old Vick is simply no longer the athlete he once was. That’s not a good thing since he’s still quite often failing to make the proper reads, and still holding onto the ball for too long.
So this question is, will Reid make a change? Will fantasy owners lose a player they’ve staked their season on?
There’s compelling evidence Reid will turn to rookie Nick Foles. Philadelphia’s mustachioed maestro of clock management and challenges has reportedly been mulling a switch since last season, and proved in throwing DC Juan Castillo overboard that he’ll do anything to keep his job.
But therein lies the first clue. Reid will do anything to keep his job. Are we really supposed to believe jettisoning Vick in favor of a third-round rookie will improve the 3-4 Eagles’ fortunes, and by extension Reid’s job security?
Hardly. Although that opinion doesn’t account for the “Reid can showcase his next franchise quarterback down the stretch of a lost season” theory, there haven’t been any indications owner Jeffrey Lurie is willing to admit his aging and expensive “Dream Team” will go down a failed experiment.
Things change quickly in the NFL, but that doesn’t change the fact that Vick gives the Eagles by far their best chance of winning against fellow feral cat New Orleans on Monday.
If Reid’s feet are being put to the fire from his already hot seat, perhaps a change will be made. But the smart money remains on Vick pulling at least one more Houdini act, and keeping his job another week.
In a league with Calvin Johnson, J.J. Watt and Robert Griffin III, the title “most gifted athlete” will never be easily settled.
Monday Night Football Box Score
But one player who’s fallen out of the discussion through no fault of his own? Larry Fitzgerald.
Opposing defenses are still game-planning around the threat he presents, but his own quarterbacks can’t get him the ball.
The phenomenon was on display again Monday evening, where Fitzgerald hauled in a pedestrian (for him) five catches for 52 yards while John Skelton was Suh-plexed with regularity by the 49ers defense.
Not the most gifted signal caller to begin with, Skelton — along with Kevin Kolb — has been more pinata than quarterback behind Arizona’s offensively bad offensive line, and it’s Fitzgerald who’s paying one of the highest prices.
Although Fitz preserved through similar woes in 2011 to post an 80/1,411/8 line, he’s on pace for “just” 90/1,022/6 in 2012. Hardly pauper’s numbers, but the yards would be Fitz’s fewest since 2006, while the touchdowns would tie a career low.
When it comes to a player as talented as Fitzgerald, it’s hard not to expect a turnaround. But with 50 percent of the season now in the books, Arizona’s line and quarterbacks haven’t given any indication they’ll aid in a comeback for a player who could still be a top-three wideout. “Buy low” at your own risk.
Miami, By Way of San Francisco
Watching Monday night’s game, two thoughts occurred. First, Alex Smith is elite when his opponent is not and the 49ers’ game-plan can be manipulated to suit his strengths.
Second, it would be a completely different year for the Dolphins had they lured Smith away in free agency — and not for the better.
Smith is a heady, efficient player. But he’s still little more than a glorified game-manager, and as he proved over and over throughout the 49ers’ lean years, ill-suited for a rebuilding club.
Miami’s “risky” selection of Ryan Tannehill with the No. 8 pick has paid off with sooner than expected contention in the AFC East, and a future that can only be construed as “bright.”
That’s why it was such a relief Monday when an MRI of Tannehill’s knee turned up no structural damage. Although it’s possible Tannehill’s deep thigh bruise will still hold him out for Week 9, he’s here to stay, both in Miami and Dynasty leagues.
Quick Slants: Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams and LeGarrette Blount are all on the block ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, but according to ESPN’s John Clayton Jackson is unlikely to be dealt, while Blount’s affordable contract may make him the “most tradeable” player on the market. D-Will’s odious contract makes any deal an extreme long-shot. … Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel wasn’t “exactly sure” why Jamaal Charles carried the ball only five times in Sunday’s loss. We’re not “exactly sure” how much longer Crennel will have a job. … Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) has already been ruled out for Week 9. … Jared Cook has requested a trade, but is highly unlikely to be shipped out of Tennessee. … Matt Hasselbeck will be under center again in Week 9. … Although coach Rex Ryan has almost two weeks to change his mind, he appears poised to stick with Mark Sanchez.
Stay strong, East Coast.