Let’s get one thing straight, Tom Brady and Michael Vick are both dominant at their position, both are on good teams, and both have the unquestioned respect of their teammates and coaches. The NFL’s MVP will be well deserved this year, whichever quarterback wins it. Both players have support for the honor and it will be fascinating to see what appeals to the voters.
On one hand you have the redemption story of Michael Vick that even Hollywood couldn’t fathom, on the other, Tom Brady, a league leading statistical juggernaut with a less than normal supporting cast in an all too familiar situation.
The Tale of the Tape: (Thru Wk. 15)
Philadelphia Eagles Record 10-4
2,755 yds. 20 TD 5 INT 613 Rush yds. 8 Rush TD’s 1 FUM
11 Games 63.2 Comp% 103.6 Passer Rating
New England Patriots Record 12-2
3,561 yds. 31 TD 4 INT 17 Rush yds. 1 Rush TD 1 FUM
14 Games 66.6 Comp% 109.6 Passer Rating
There’s more to the argument than just the numbers of course, but it’s interesting to make the debate between nearly equally efficient passers with the variable in place that Vick, while lacking in compilation, makes up significant ground in his rushing statistics, which look like very credible 3rd down running back stats.
Vick has the compelling story on his side. He was absent from football for two seasons in jail, was serving only as a back-up last season, and started this season the same way. With incumbent Donovan McNabb now a Redskin, and heir apparent Kevin Kolb injured. Vick, the former Pro-Bowler, and now convicted felon, got his chance to reclaim the stardom he once enjoyed. Vick had said all the right things, played the part of the good soldier, accepted his role, didn’t complain, studied, practiced, and worked hard waiting for his chance to play. Part of what fueled the re-popularizing of Michael Vick was his sincerity in accepting responsibility for his mistakes and that we actually saw change in his character and work ethic. Most people love a good redemption story, it warms the heart and makes folks self-examine and apply the principle in their own lives.
Vick dazzled from the start. What people remembered about Vick was the uncanny athleticism and ability to move. All of that was there, what else was there, was what people weren’t expecting, the ability to be patient, read coverage, and deliver the ball accurately. This sparked an unlikely QB controversy in Philadelphia. Andy Reid, whom had made his figurative bed with Kevin Kolb, the young QB in waiting Reid ultimately decided to trade McNabb to make room for, or the thirty year old Vick who is a free agent at the end of the season. Vick was anointed the starter and hasn’t disappointed.
Vick has had the benefit of having a cast of dynamic play makers to surround him in the offense. Reid is an effective play-caller, and uses screens and the speed of his players incredibly well in his version of the West Coast offense. The reason this is working for Vick, who had never been known for being accurate, or having the ability to quickly read coverage and make decisions, is because of the speed that surrounds him. Vick has great agility and can evade in the pocket, but WR’s DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have the ability to get to the second level of coverage quickly, which is vital if a timing based offense suffers a breakdown. Vick escapes, the WR’s find a spot, Vick delivers. If the protection is good, the offense functions as normal. Once the vertical game is established, it opens up Reid’s ability to call on LeSean McCoy in the running and screen game. QB draws, designed runs for Michael Vick are also a part of the offense. As soon as defenses cheat to stop McCoy and Vick on the ground, they are back over the top to Jackson and Maclin. For teams with great cover corners, TE Brent Celek is one of the better pass catching TE’s in football. It really is an exciting offense to watch.
Now for an MVP debate, one could argue that he has a ton of weapons that others don’t. You could argue that he is not as valuable to his team as say Brady is. Kevin Kolb was 2-1 in the three games he started with Vick out. The offense functioned a bit differently, but was still very explosive and bottom line is they were still winning ball games. Remember, the award is for MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, not most exciting, most athletic, or even the best player necessarily. Would the Eagles still be a good team with Kolb at QB instead of Vick? The answer is yes. Would they be AS good? Probably not, but good none the less.
In Brady’s case, what can you say? It’s Brady again, it’s Belichick again, it’s the Patriots again. But just because they are the team of the decade, clearly, and the fact you may be tired of them, doesn’t mean he should be any less rewarded for great play. Brady is the leagues best rated passer this season, and what’s even more impressive about this year than his record-breaking 2007 effort, is the supporting cast.
Brady’s arsenal took a big hit, or so we thought, when the Patriots announced they were trading WR Randy Moss to the Vikings for a third round draft pick, the same price they paid to get him from the Raiders just 2 ½ season prior. Not a bad deal for renting one of the best WR’s of all time. That aside, they re-acquired WR Deion Branch from Seattle and he took off like he never left the Patriots. Wes Welker, the leagues reception leader a season ago was a question mark after a knee surgery and an off-season of rehab. Two rookie TE’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were yet to define a role in the offense, and a clear-cut ground attack had not been established. Veteran Fred Taylor went down to injury, Kevin Faulk was placed on IR, and Sammy Morris was banged up. This paved the way for last years’ pleasant surprise Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis and newly acquired Jets cast-off Danny Woodhead. Green-Ellis ran effectively and Woodhead became the “everything” player Kevin Faulk was in the offense.
When it all came together, the Patriots, and especially Belichick looked like geniuses again. The coach asked his quarterback to direct this offense, and he has in a big way. Arguably, better than ever, considering.
Again, we have to apply the situation to the MVP debate. Brady has been the better passer with less to work with than Michael Vick, and has all but clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s an impressive feat to say the least. You have to ask, “Would the Patriots be where they are without Tom Brady?” I say no. One could argue that they had just that chance in 2008 when Brady was injured on the first series of the year and Matt Cassel started the rest of the year. It’s a good point, but there was still a motivated Randy Moss, healthy running backs, and a better defense.
Personally, I don’t think there is any way you don’t see Tom Brady named MVP on Super Bowl Sunday, but I certainly wouldn’t hold it against anybody that voted for Michael Vick.