Let’s take a red pen to the history books and make some changes.
Cross off Michael Vick as the first overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft. X out his revolutionary and record-setting tenure with the Atlanta Falcons. Forget the dog-fighting scandal. Erase his journeyman years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and others.
And insert prime Michael Vick as the starting quarterback of the Falcons in 2020.
Now, all that’s left to do is sit back and imagine the hypothetical fireworks.
Of course, Vick changed the game of football in his day, paving the way for mobile quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton and Kyler Murray. But because Vick did the dirty work a decade before those men tore up the league, he didn’t get to reap the benefits.
We’re giving him that shot today. The results would be absolutely staggering.
IT'S DIFFERENT NOW
Jackson won the 2019 NFL MVP award and drew universal praise for his dynamic talents. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards while passing for more than 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns.
As a Falcon, Vick never eclipsed 3,000 passing yards in a single season. He threw for 20 touchdowns only once. Later, as a Philadelphia Eagle, he accomplished both feats, and in 2020, he’d have no problem doing so in the current pass-happy climate.
This isn’t Warrick Dunn-in-the-I-formation football anymore, folks.
What would really separate the proposed 2020 Michael Vick from the real version is the current state of team playbooks and their hugging of spread and option concepts.
In 2019, teams lined up in the shotgun formation 63% of the time. Only five squads used the shotgun on less than 50% of their offensive snaps.
The early-2000s NFL would laugh at the use of such a “college” offensive scheme.
How about the pistol formation? Confused teams from that bygone era would ask why “a weapon in football?”
Those formations, and other concepts such as run/pass option plays, give players like Jackson just a little more breathing room from the defense. And Jackson, with his alleged 4.34-second 40-yard dash time, doesn’t need much separation to turn nothing into a big play.
Vick and his 4.33-second 40-yard dash speed would be nearly impossible for any defender to catch with a little more separation or the downhill head start the shotgun formation offers.
In Atlanta, Vick typically positioned himself under center. He didn’t receive many designed quarterback runs either.
The most Vick ever carried the ball was 123 times in 2006, when he led the league as one of three quarterbacks to run more than 50 times. Last season, 11 quarterbacks surpassed 50 carries, and Jackson paced everyone with 176.
And if you feed a man who averaged 7.0 yards a pop in his career 50 more carries in a season, he’s going to pile up the yards. That’s Vick.
REMEMBER THE TIME
In Vick’s days of playing for coaches like Dan Reeves in Atlanta, players conformed to systems, instead of play-callers tailoring their approaches to their stars’ strengths.
Now, even the much-maligned Dirk Koetter would probably trash his old play sheet and design an entirely new offense around Vick’s strengths.
He’d be viewed as a multi-talented mega-star from the get-go in today’s NFL instead of a gimmicky athlete who would have to gradually win over the masses at quarterback. He wouldn’t have to set the precedent, and teams would better utilize his skill set.
It’s a fun thought.
I guess we’ll have to put away the red pens and let Vick’s insanely long highlight reels live in history, though.