Remember Alien Ant Farm and Bubba Sparxxx? Just two examples of the music featured on Madden 2004; the edition with Michael Vick emblazoned on the cover, nearly twelve years ago.
Vick is probably one of the best examples of the ‘Madden curse’. Just one day after the 2004 version was released, he broke his leg during a Falcons preseason game. In 2007 came the extremely public prosecution for operating an unlawful interstate dog-fighting venture and a stint in prison.
Vick turns 35 this month and is entering his 15th season in the NFL. Or at least he hopes to. He is currently still without a team but this has failed to diminish his confidence. According to The Washington Times, Vick was unequivocal in his belief that he still possesses the necessary attributes to be a starter in this league. Ian Rapoport reported that the former Virginia Tech QB’s view is that he still has three more years left in him.
The skill set for which Vick is renowned is not exactly of a type that would allow him to age gracefully. The Michael Vick of a decade ago was the antithesis of Tom Brady (37) and Peyton Manning (39). He remains the all-time NFL rushing leader for quarterbacks (6,010 yards), but it would be a mistake not to recognise the evolution of his game from the age of 30 onwards.
We’ve seen similar transitions with elite athletes in basketball. Both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant developed their outside games in later years so as to prolong their career. They could not be as explosive at the rim anymore and drawing contact in the key became too physically taxing. Lebron James was looking to make a similar adjustment at the beginning of this season before team circumstances dictated otherwise.
In the four seasons between 2010-2013, Vick resembled something that was more akin to a pocket passer. He averaged more passing yards per game than in any of his first six seasons in the league. His completion rate during that span stands at 58.5% with a QB rating of 87.4 compared to 52.5% and 73.4 between 2001-2006. His rushing statistics naturally declined but the difference in yards per attempt is fairly negligible at 0.4.
The cruel reality of the NFL is that you are only as good as your last game. Vick’s last game as a starter was back in November when he went 7-19 in a humiliating 38-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He has not taken a single snap since.
There are a few factors on Vick’s side. His two-year hiatus while locked up means that the 15-year veteran has in fact only 13 seasons’ worth of minutes on his body. His sporadic spells as a backup helps to further mitigate the wear and tear that might otherwise be plaguing a quarterback of the same age.
Now all he needs to do is find a team that wants him. The experience of last season with the Jets, coupled with an offseason of staring at a silent phone, is sure to have humbled the former superstar. It should also serve to motivate him. He certainly has no prospect of being a starter come opening day given his recent resume. However, he can definitely be an asset as a backup on any roster, particularly one with a young quarterback experiencing growing pains.
A great fit would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston has been given the keys to the franchise but the media is poised to pounce on any mistake on or off the field. Vick is someone that has been through that type of hype and hysteria, experienced an almighty downfall, and rebuilt his life and image on the other side. He has also been effusive in his comments regarding Winston, saying the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner will mature and calling him the “future of the NFL” back in December of last year.
If he ever did get on the field, Vick would be able to take advantage of a Buccs offense that promises to be filthy next season. With Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson on the outside, just lob it up to either 6-5 guy and watch them bring it down. Even if her never sets foot on the field, maybe he is just the sort of calming influence that Winston could use. My guess is that Jameis would be keen to listen and absorb all that Vick has to offer. After all, when he was nine years old he was probably playing Madden 2004 and as in awe of Michael Vick at that time as the rest of us.
By Ognjen Miletic