Was Vick A Bad Quarterback?


With a lot of discussion going on in Packerland regarding Michael Vick, from fans, to media, to front office, to the players, in lieu of adding my opinions to the discussion here (which I am strongly in favor of, you can visit me at the message boards linked below to to discuss), instead I will look at the issue of whether or not Vick was good on the field.

Let me reiterate, on the field.  I am not interested in his work habits, locker room appeal, leadership, off the field activities, here, that is beyond the scope and for a different discussion, I am simply interested in the time between when he breaks the huddle, to the time that the play is whistled dead.  Could he get it done?  At least did he get it done when he played formerly?

QB is a difficult position to evaluate via any sort of stats.  Their job is to generate yards, generate points, and prevent turnovers.  The passer rating attempts to roll all of that up into a single number.  The volume stats, like can be found on NFL.com are another that people point to, but they say little about actual effectiveness, and YPA (yards per pass attempt) ignores too much pertinent information.

The site Cold Hard Football Facts I think takes it a step in the right direction, using YPA but adjusting it for sacks, but I think a further refinement to that is required. Namely, that scrambles are important too. Most scrambles started out as pass plays in the huddle, and ended with something going wrong, the QB running trying to get what he can. While all sneaks (intentional QB runs) will be included with scrambles, the number of them is small enough and there are typically no big stats, that adjusted YPA with QB rushing is more accurate in showing actual performance than without QB rushing, even with the sneak factor. This may not be true for some QB’s that almost never scramble, but sneak on occasion, though the difference is negligible and insignificant to the bottom line.

One interesting thing that CHFF noted, is that in fact if you compare two teams offensive adjusted YPA in a game, most of the time the team with the higher number wins (challenging the commonly repeated notion that running wins football games). The adjusted YPA stat has some other qualities as well that separate it from other QB statistical measures. It can be used to show if a QB played well on a play, on a drive, in a game, over a season, and over a career. Passer rating breaks down when a TD:Int ratio cannot be established. It also can be used to compare QB’s over different eras, as unlike yards, TD’s, and rating, it show no preference to era. Packer fans should take note, by using the adjusted YPA stat as the primary stat, as well as accomplishments, CHFF unequivocally considers our own Bart Starr to be the best quarterback to ever play the game, for the simple reason that he was extremely effective, even if the rating and volume stats didn’t show it. Adjusted YPA did. I will use adjusted YPA, with sacks and scrambles being the adjustments to simple YPA, as the basic stat.

That however gives us an idea of yard production. Other measures are needed. Do they score? The number of touchdowns, while nice, tells us little. By dividing the number of touchdowns scored (by passing and scrambling) by the number of attempts (sacks and scrambles are attempts too), we arrive at how often they score per pass play called in the huddle. Likewise I don’t consider interceptions to be the only important measure of a QB’s ball protection, fumbles lost are turnovers too. When I look at the turnovers per attempt, likewise they must be placed on the same scale and divided by the total number of attempts (with sacks and scrambles). These two measures then can be divided to reach a touchdown to turnover ratio, another important measure of a QB.

So how does he fare? I skipped looking at the NFL’s elite, Vick doesn’t compare, and instead looked at 3 different groups. Players Packer fans are familiar with (Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre), below average/bad quarterbacks (Jason Campbell, Tarvaris Jackson), and some average quarterbacks (Eli Manning, Jake Delhomme, Jay Cutler). I did selectively leave out some stats, namely I think that it is unfair to judge any quarterback (statistically) on their rookie year or non-starting body of work, and I only looked at the Brett Favre of this decade, not the man of yore that many believe he still was.

Mike Vick (career minus rookie year):
Adj YPA: 5.8
TD/Tou: 0.039
TO/Tou: 0.031
TD:TO: 1.25

Brett Favre (2000-present):
Adj YPA: 6.2
TD/Tou: 0.043
TO/Tou: 0.038
TD:TO: 1.14

Aaron Rodgers (2008):
Adj YPA: 6.4
TD/Tou: 0.051
TO/Tou: 0.026
TD:TO: 2.00

Tarvaris Jackson (2007 & 2008):
Adj YPA: 5.8
TD/Tou: 0.038
TO/Tou: 0.036
TD:TO: 1.05

Jason Campbell (2007 & 2008):
Adj YPA: 5.6
TD/Tou: 0.025
TO/Tou: 0.024
TD:TO: 1.04

Jay Cutler (2007 & 2008):
Adj YPA: 6.7
TD/Tou: 0.039
TO/Tou: 0.031
TD:TO: 1.26

Eli Manning (since full time starting):
Adj YPA: 5.7
TD/Tou: 0.041
TO/Tou: 0.034
TD:TO: 1.22

Jake Delhomme (time with Carolina as starter):
Adj YPA: 6.3
TD/Tou: 0.045
TO/Tou: 0.036
TD:TO: 1.23

Where does Vick fit? He certainly isn’t bad or terrible, and seems to have been fairly average for a starting QB.

There is a lot of discussion as well, that teams had “figured Vick out”, or that he was “struggling with the WCO”. Is that true? Lets take a look at his year by year performance at each measure:

Adjusted YPA:
2006 – 5.8
2005 – 5.4
2004 – 6.1
2003 – 5.2
2002 – 6.2
avg – 5.8
Some oscillation, but no clear pattern of decline, 2006 was an average year for him in yards.

Touchdowns per Touch:
2006 – 0.040
2005 – 0.040
2004 – 0.035
2003 – 0.034
2002 – 0.042
avg – 0.039
I think the trend here is clear. Vick took the NFL by storm in 2002. The NFL caught on quick, but he improved thereafter. A TD/tou rate of 0.040 is pretty good.

Turnovers per Touch:
2006 – 0.029
2005 – 0.034
2004 – 0.039
2003 – 0.027
2002 – 0.025
avg – 0.031
Again, we have a clear trend. Vick started good, had a real bad year, then began to improve that aspect of his game. His 2006 number of 0.029 is very respectable.

Touchdown to Turnover Ratio:
2006 – 1.38
2005 – 1.17
2004 – 0.89
2003 – 1.25
2002 – 1.71
avg – 1.25
2006 was actually one of his best years of his career in Atlanta. He was scoring at a pretty high rate, turning it over at a pretty low rate, and gaining yards at an average rate.

The man was a starting quarterback, and performed as one. While he was not elite and certainly not worth his paycheck, the way his play as a quarterback is described as of late by many is simply not true. Vick was a very average starting quarterback. If you are going to be influenced one way or another on whether or not the Packers should pursue Michael Vick, do not let his body of on the field work be one of the reasons you are influenced to not be in favor of the move.

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