Vick changed NFL with legs, but arms still win
The milestone came and went, chronicled with a blurb that got second billing to the news that his team actually won a game.
So much has happened between the time Michael Vick came into the NFL, with the promise of a man who might change offense forever, and a week ago Sunday, when he led the Jets to their second win of the season while also becoming the first quarterback to reach 6,000 yards rushing in his career.
''People would tell me that I could revolutionize the game,'' Vick said of the reaction he received when he was drafted No. 1 out of Virginia Tech in 2001.
In the 13 years since his arrival as the fastest man on the field who also happened to have the strongest arm, Vick may not have changed the game completely. But his impact has been palpable - most notably, in the way quarterbacks and offenses have evolved in high school, college and the pros.
Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are among those who can thank Vick for clearing their path into the NFL.
''There have been plenty of others like us, and plenty more to come,'' Vick said.
But while Wilson has a Super Bowl ring and Kaepernick has been to the big game, they have not, by any means, redefined success at the quarterback position. This season's five highest-rated quarterbacks are Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. All of them pocket passers who have a total of 4,920 career yards rushing among them; heading into Week 12, all their teams were leading their respective divisions in wins, too.
''Being able to run the ball is nice,'' says mobile Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who played receiver for a good chunk of his college career. ''But at the end of the day, a quarterback's job is to get the ball to the receivers.''
Now 34 and in his 12th NFL season, Vick has spent most of his career trying to find a comfort zone in the pocket. That transformation started before he ever took an NFL snap, and kept progressing after his forced two-year hiatus while he was in prison for running a dogfighting ring.
Vick's first NFL coach, Dan Reeves, had worked with a mobile quarterback named John Elway through the 1980s and also played with Roger Staubach in the 1960s and `70s. Reeves was well aware of the way a running QB could alter a game plan.
''I don't know that (Vick) changed anything,'' Reeves said. ''The thing that was different about Mike was that, in a lot of instances, he was the fastest guy on the field. You could put a spy on him and still not have anyone be able to catch him. You went in hoping he could use that to his advantage, but also get more comfortable going through progressions and being able to deliver the ball on time.''
The project has had mixed results. Vick accomplished a lot of firsts, among them the first to throw for 250 yards and run for 100 in a game, and first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. But his career passer rating sits at 80.7. He has a 61-52-1 record as a starter. He's won only two playoff games.
Clearly, though, his impact is measured in more than wins, losses and statistics.
Without Vick, many of the wide-open college schemes seen today wouldn't have gained acceptance as quickly to best exploit the talents of RG3, Tebow, Newton, Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel and, most notably this year, Marcus Mariota at Oregon and Dak Prescott at Mississippi State. Those quarterbacks, and eventually, the high-octane offenses they run, filter from college to the pros. Now, high school quarterbacks are being taught how to line up in the pistol and throw from a five-receiver set.
''I didn't realize it then, but now it makes me feel great,'' Vick said. ''I'm like, `I started this. I started this trend.'''
Among those still finding their way is Newton, who has been asked to tailor his game to what works in the NFL, not at Auburn. He was sacked nine times two Sundays ago in a loss to the Eagles.
Griffin has been injured or ineffective through most of Years 2-3 in the league after winning the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Tebow, famously, is out of the NFL, in large part because he couldn't master the pocket pass.
Wilson has been a success, though whether it's because of his mobility or in spite of it is up for debate. He has rushed for 100 yards in four games; the Seahawks are 2-2 in those contests. Kaepernick's critics are quick to point out his career 93.2 passer rating - pedestrian in an era when 100s and 110s win the most.
Then there are the quarterbacks who were doing what Vick does well before he became a force. Among his most-cited predecessors: Steve Young and Randall Cunningham.
''I was Randall times 10,'' Vick said. ''I'm not boasting about it. It's just what God created.''
Young led the 49ers to the 1995 Super Bowl title during a season in which both his rushing attempts and yardage went down about 33 percent from the three previous years. Also that season, he completed more than 70 percent of his passes for the only time.
The closest Cunningham got to a Super Bowl was during the 1998 season with Minnesota, when he ran only 32 times for 132 yards and had a passer rating of more than 100 for the only time in his career.
In other words, both before Vick and since, mobile quarterbacks who made it their first priority to throw have enjoyed the most success.
''The game has changed,'' Reeves said. ''But you've still got to be able to throw the football.''
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr., in New York contributed to this report.
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