Lamar Jackson has set the football world on fire this season, posting videogame numbers and leading the Baltimore Ravens to a 10-2 record and likely AFC North division crown. He’s completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,532 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. He’s also rushed for 977 yards and seven touchdowns on 140 attempts, on pace to shatter Michael Vick‘s record of 1,039 yards on the ground. Jackson’s ascension to greatness magnifies the disappointment that characterized Vick’s career. This MVP season poses the question: what prevented Vick from tearing up the league like Lamar has done this season?
Lamar Jackson: What Michael Vick Could Have Been
The first answer to this question lies within the man with the headset. This season, head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have designed an offense that is fully catered to what Lamar Jackson does well, filled with designed runs and play-action passes. They have allowed Lamar to run without restrictions.
Conversely, Vick never had a coach that developed a scheme that put him in the best position to succeed. Jim Mora Jr. coached the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-2006. During his tenure, he tried to fit Vick into the West Coast offense, built on short passing plays that allow wide receivers to produce yards after the catch. There were no designed runs, so Vick accumulated his yardage on the ground through improvised scrambles.
Poor Attitude and Work Ethic
Vick was quite possibly the most physically gifted quarterback that we’ve ever seen, with a cannon arm and unmatched speed. Unfortunately, Vick’s work ethic did not match his athleticism; his lack of focus often infuriated his teammates. Reportedly, Mora would send Vick home with DVDs filled with film to study, but the polarizing quarterback would have them “pile up in his car.” There were also off-field incidents, as his arrest for marijuana possession at Miami International Airport, flipping off the hometown fans, and of course, being arrested for his inhumane dog-fighting ring. It was not until Vick was released from prison and able to join the perfect coach to allow him to re-adapt to pro football.
Lamar Jackson vs Michael Vick: Limited Time In A Perfect Scheme
Vick signed with Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. After spending his debut season as the backup to Donovan McNabb, Vick took over as the starter in 2010. He proceeded to put up the best numbers of his career, completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,018 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He also ran for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. Vick followed up this season with another two solid years before being benched for Nick Foles. His time in Philly provided a glimpse of what Vick could have been had he been surrounded by a coaching staff that developed a scheme that suited his talents.
Playing in the Wrong Era
Vick played in an era where pocket passers were believed to be the only quarterback style that could succeed in the NFL. Even a quarterback like Vick, who could run faster than most players in the league, was encouraged to work on his passing in the West Coast offense. There were no read-pass-option plays or designed quarterback runs – there was even much less play-action. What would have happened if Vick played with Reid for his entire career? Better yet, what if he was able to play for a coach that allowed him to lead a run-heavy offense like Lamar? When looking at Vick’s career juxtaposed with Lamar’s success, it makes you wonder how many careers are negatively impacted by poor coaching and lack of work ethic.
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