His scrambling sprints have replaced Barry Bonds at-bats as the most riveting moments in sports. You cannot take your eyes off Michael Vick -- especially if you're one of the 11 humans trying to stop him or the 10 teammates trying to anticipate his next move.
He casually fades, rolls, reverses field as if hearing a starter's pistol, jukes in three or four directions at once and accelerates the way no running back in football can.
Michael Vick, human video game.
Michael Vick, the NFL's most exciting and popular star.
Michael Vick, seventh heaven for the kids who wear his No. 7 jersey.
You love this little dynamo because, at any moment, he might do something you've never seen. Will he take off and run? Or pull up and cut loose a left-handed spiral that registers on the radar gun the way Randy Johnson's heaters once did?
You just never know.
And that's the problem for the humans trying to perform (and win) with him. Vick's absurd talent is his strength, and his team's weakness. His legs will keep Atlanta in every game -- as long as he avoids the hell-bent, downfield collision that ends his season. But Vick's arm will keep Atlanta from becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
It will, that is, until Vick realizes he must become more of a pocket passer than a sleight-of-foot magician -- more pure quarterback than scatback, more trigger man than speeding bullet.
Until Vick realizes that the ultimate object is winning -- not starring -- he will remain the NFL's most overhyped star. He says Falcons fans often boo when he throws -- but maybe that's because, deep down, they know he's a much better runner. Yes, the NFL's most dangerous breakaway threat doubles as a below-average passer.
And in this league, that's ultimately a beatable combination.
Do I love to watch this man go flying across my screen? I do, as much as the sickest Vick fan. But do I get sick of the way so many fans who barely know football from foosball go gaga over the Human Video Game? You had better believe it.
|Readers of Seth Wickersham's NFL blog voted Michael Vick the NFL's most overrated player. Read their thoughts, and his, here.|
That simpleminded idolatry reinforces the worst in Vick.
Why was another left-handed scatback of a quarterback recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Because Steve Young finally realized that the only way to the Super Bowl -- to lasting fame -- was through the air.
In 1992 and '93, the Dallas Cowboys viewed Young as by far the 49ers' best running back. Yet they also believed Young's happy feet would make the Cowboys happy in playoff games. In those years, Young's mentality was to run first, which made him frantic and impatient in the pocket, which meant he threw too many indecisive, out-of-rhythm interceptions.
But in '94, Young shocked the Cowboys by becoming a quarterback. Scrambling became an afterthought. Passing once again became a beautifully timed and often unstoppable weapon for the 49ers.
Young threw two touchdown passes as the 49ers beat Dallas in the NFC championship game. Young threw six touchdown passes as the 49ers demolished San Diego in the Super Bowl. Without those two performances, would Young already be in the Hall of Fame? No way.