Michael Vick: Superstar

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Eagles' quarterback emerging as an MVP candidate.

Eagles' quarterback emerging as an MVP candidate.

By Ralph Vacchiano

For years, Michael Vick had been mostly about an unfulfilled promise, and not just because of the time he spent in jail. He was a $130 million quarterback in his six years with the Atlanta Falcons, but many of those who watched him thought he was badly overpriced.

After Monday night, though, and after what he’s done this season, Vick — who is earning $5.2 million in the last year of his contract — is suddenly a bargain. For the first time in his long career, he really does look like the best and most dominant and dynamic player in football.

He might even turn out to be the NFL’s MVP.

“I could have never envisioned this,” Vick said in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after his stunning, nationally televised performance against the Washington Redskins in a remarkable 59-28 win. “All this is paramount for me, but at the same time it’s somewhat surprising.”

What Vick did against the Redskins, for everyone to see, sent shivers down the spines of players, coaches and especially fans across the country. He completed 20-of-28 passes for 333 yards, threw for four touchdowns and no interceptions and had a near-perfect passer rating of 150.7. He also ran eight times for 80 yards and two scores.

He was the first player in the history of the NFL to pass for 300 yards, run for 50, throw four touchdowns and run for two more in a single game.

In all, Vick produced 413 yards of offense and six touchdowns on his own. And he started fast. His first pass of the game was an 88-yard bomb of a touchdown to DeSean Jackson that traveled almost 65 yards in the air.

“Not too many guys can throw that ball,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “He made some plays today that I haven’t seen a quarterback make in a long time.”

Vick had already produced four touchdowns by the end of the first quarter giving the Eagles a 28-0 lead — the most points for a road team in the first quarter in the history of the NFL. The Eagles, who would rack up a franchise-record 592 yards of offense, had 280 of those in the first quarter alone.

He took big hits at the end of runs. He scrambled out of trouble and completed remarkable touchdown passes. He stood in the pocket and let the ball go at the last minutes. Vick absolutely did it all.

“I’ve had some great games in my day,” Vick said. “I don’t think I’ve had one quite like this one.”

“That was incredible,” Eagles strong safety Quintin Mikell added. “I’ve never seen anything like it, especially at the pro level.”

No one has seen anything like what the 30-year-old Vick is doing this season, in his second year since serving 19 months in prison for his role in an illegal dog-fighting ring. He wasn’t even supposed to be the starting quarterback for the Eagles this year. That was supposed to be Kevin Kolb.

But when Kolb sustained a concussion in the season opener, Vick took over and played so well that Eagles coach Andy Reid had no choice but to let him continue. Vick missed three games himself with injured ribs. But the Eagles are now 2-0, including a 26-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts, since his return.

He’s completed 62.7 percent of his passes this season for 1,350 yards, 11 touchdowns and — incredibly — no interceptions in his six starts. He’s also run 44 times for 344 yards and four touchdowns.

During his six seasons in Atlanta, when he was supposed to be the prototype for a new kind of all-purpose NFL quarterback, he was never this good. His completion percentage always hovered in the mid-50s. He had only one season in which he threw for more than 2,500 yards, and he never topped 3,000 — the bare minimum benchmark for a good NFL quarterback. Oh he could run; in fact he ran for 1,039 yards in 2006. But there were skeptics who thought that was all he could really do.

Now? People seem to be in awe, the way everyone thought they would be when he came out of Virginia Tech in 2001 as the first-overall pick in the NFL Draft. It’s taken nearly a decade, two teams, and one long trip to prison. But jaws are finally falling to the floor.

So what’s he worth these days? That could be the biggest question of the offseason, especially if the Eagles allow Vick to become a free agent. If the old Vick was worth $130 million over 10 years, how high will Vick’s new price tag go? His shocking performance on Monday night came hours after Donovan McNabb — the man he essentially replaced in Philadelphia — reportedly agreed to a five-year, $78 million contract with the Redskins. If the 33-year-old McNabb is worth that, how much higher will the Eagles have to go to keep Vick in 2011?

“Thirty-one teams need to save their money and try to make a bid on him,” said Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

After what he’s done through the first half of this season, it’s a good bet that they will. And if he keeps playing like the Vick he was always supposed to be, all that money will turn out to be very well-spent.

 

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