Monday, September 04, 2006

The Running Quarterback vs. The Pocket Quarterback

The Running Quarterback vs. The Passing Quarterback

Sports writers, journalists, scouts, and fans flocked to Virginia Tech when the swift-footed lefty QB took the field each week for the Hokies. They came from all over the land to see the jaw-dropping runs and nail-biting throws this quarterback would make. Who was this QB and why was he so fascinating?

The name: Michael Vick.

Vick is not your prototypical quarterback. Vick is faster than most running backs on any level of the game and boasts a stronger arm than most quarterbacks on any level of the game of football. That is why he was so amazing. Thats why he IS so amazing.

Like anything though, there is a catch.

When Vick was drafted in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, scouts, coaches, and fans alike truly believed that Vick was going to reinvent the position of quarterback. Now, I wouldn't exactly describe Vick's career in the NFL as reinventing the position of the QB, but I would describe his career as a "solidifying example of why mobile quarterback's just don't work past the college level."

Since 2001 Vick has completed just 52% of his passes for approximately 9,000 yards, 51 TD's, and a QB rating of approximately 74.0.

On the other hand...

Since 2001 Tom Brady has completed 61% of his passes for approximately 18,000 yards, 123 TD's, and a QB rating of approximately 88.0. Oh yea, Brady also has three Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP awards to go along with those stats.

Based on those stats alone, what style of QB do you think is more effective in the NFL?

There are many reasons as to why mobile QB's like Vick have a hard time finding success in the NFL. We will start with some obvious reasons that most people probably wouldn't think are very important, but in reality they can really make or break a QB's performance.

Vick is 6'0" and 215lbs. The average sized starting QB in the NFL is 6'2" - 6'3" and 225lbs. Those few extra inches and extra weight make a big difference when standing in the pocket and delivering a throw. It is very difficult to have good vision downfield when you are standing behind those big offensive linemen (who average nearly 6'5" in height and some reaching heights of 6'7"). Having the extra weight on you allows you to take a beating when it comes, because let's be honest here, the purpose of those bid d-linemen is to put pressure on the QB when he is attempting to make a pass; and those d-linemen will put pressure on the QB's any way they can. It is a lot easier for a d-linemen to take down a QB who is 215lbs than one who is 230lbs etc.

Think about the NFL like the very bottom part of a funnel. At the top, or the wider part, of the funnel is your college-level athletes. All 119 teams in the NCAA boast a wide variety of talent at all of the skill positions, but not everyone is as talented or as fast as everyone else. The old saying goes something like "Speed kills" and in college football, that old saying holds up very very well. Vick was able to be a one-man-show at Virginia Tech because a majority of the opponents he faced on a weekly basis were not nearly as fast as him and couldn't hold a light to his athletic capabilities. He could drop back and heave the long ball or take off running and win games with his legs. Essentially, Vick was a running back who had a decent arm.

We have seen countless examples of QB's in college who dominate their opponents because they are such dual threats with their arms and legs, but when they get to the NFL they are lost. As of late a majority of these QB's have been changing positions to the likes of Wide Receiver, Safeties, and running backs. Some of the more notable players in the NFL who have done this are Antwan Randel El who was the QB for Illinois in his college days, but now he catches balls for the Washington Redskins after winning a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a Wide Receiver. Michael Robinson was a wide receiver at Penn State and then switched to QB his junior year and helped Penn State turn around a program that was starving for big offense. Now, Robinson is on the 49er's roster as a running back. Matt Jones, now a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars, once heaved balls for Alabama. The list goes on and on.

The main reason, the only reason really, why these hybrid-QB's fail to do much of anything outside of making Head Coaches pull their hair out is because in college a lot of people are fast, but in the NFL absolutely EVERYONE is fast. They can't rely on their escapability anymore because now they have to worry about the 250lb linebacker who can outrun them sideline to sideline every time. Why do you think no one run's the "Option-O" in the NFL anymore, but you see it still being used in college playbooks?

Before anyone looks at me and goes "What about Donovan McNabb? Or Daunte Culpepper?" let me address those two QB's very quickly. Those two QB's came in a few years before Vick started getting hype. They are incredibly mobile and have great escapability, but the main difference is that they quickly realized that the QB's who were winning championships at the pro-level were all great passing QB's. Look at the teams who have won the Super Bowls in the Past 10 years.

1996 - Dallas Cowboys, QB: Troy Aikman (HOFer)
1997 - Green Bay Packers, QB: Brett Favre (HOFer)
1998 - Denver Broncos, QB: John Elway (HOFer)
1999 - Denver Broncos, QB: John Elway (HOFer)
2000 - St. Louis Rams, QB: Kurt Warner (Possible HOFer)
2001 - Baltimore Ravens, QB: Trent Dilfer (Not HOF Material, but good passer nonetheless)
2002 - New England Patriots, QB: Tom Brady (Future HOFer)
2003 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers, QB: Brad Johnson (Solid passer)
2004 - New England Patriots, QB: Tom Brady (Future HOFer)
2005 - New England Patriots, QB: Tom Brady (Future HOFer)
2006 - Pittsburgh Steelers, QB: Ben Roethlisberger (Possible Future HOFer)

Not one of those QB's could EVER be considered QB's that were mobile QB's. That's what running backs are for.

The funny thing to me is that NFL coaches and owners are still thinking that mobile QB's in the NFL can work, so they keep drafting them. Other than Vick, how many of them have really done anything as of late? Akili Smith - BUST. Charlie Ward won the Heisman and went to play basketball because he figured he would have a better pro-career there. Quincy Carter - BUST. Adrian McPhereson - BUST. Seneca Wallace - BUST.

I'm not completely saying that mobile QB's are doomed to fail in the NFL, but I will go out on a limb and say that history has proven that pocket QB's are much more effective in the NFL than mobile QB's are. So why do coaches take chances on QB's like Vince Young over Matt Leinart or Jay Cutler? I don't know, I personally wouldn't. However, I do think Vince Young is somewhat of an anomaly though. He has great escapability and a lot of speed, but I also think has has the potential to be a Daunte Culpepper/Donovan McNabb type of player, if he works hard enough to become an efficient passer in the NFL, that is.

So who is the next crop of running back's blessed with arms that coaches will take a chance on? Troy Smith from Ohio State certainly rings a bell, but he is different in that he relies on his passing game first and runs second. He will do well in the NFL. Pat White from West Virginia will probably not do well in the NFL, I see him switching positions to a WR or something of that nature.

QB's like Vick are incredible to watch in action. They are some of the finest athletes around, but being a good athlete does not make one a good NFL QB. I think Vick still has a chance, but he needs to really buckle down and focus on his passing game. He has a lot of weapons around him to throw to; especially now since the Falcons traded for WR Ashley Lelie from the Denver Broncos. Maybe Head Coach Jim Mora's game plan/scheme isn't the best suited for Vick, but that is neither here nor there. I think that Vick will have a decent career, but I can't see him winning a Super Bowl anytime soon. I definitely don't see the position of QB being reinvented to accomodate speedster's with arms. In fact, what I do see in the near future is more mobile QB's turning to other positions at college and being successful on the field because they know how to read defenses better than those who have never played QB.

Explosive athletes are great fun to watch in college and in the NFL, but history has proven over and over again that pocket QB's with patience to stand tall in the pocket and make smart throws are going to win championships in the NFL and put up more consistent and better numbers each year.


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