Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick has always had questions around him about his ability to read and diagnose opposing defenses while at the line of scrimmage. For the most part, the consensus has been that he doesn’t do it well, if at all.
It’s a notion that I usually agree with in terms of generalities, but if I was taking a test that had a yes or no question that read “Can Mike Vick read an NFL defense?”, I’d have to answer “yes.”
I mean, he has to have some level of football intelligence to him, right? There is no way you can play the quarterback position for that long without being able to recognize at least the basic defensive alignments and packages.
This subject came up again recently in an interview earlier this week by Mike Missanelli of 97.5 the Fanatic and, as pointed out by Sheil Kapadia of Birds 24/7, he called his critics “ignorant” and said they “know nothing about football.”
This, of course, was in response to a question about him being able make quick reads and get rid of the ball quickly, which is what he’ll have to do in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Here is what Vick said…
“I’m really tempted right now to just say no comment to that because like I said a second ago, you don’t last 12 years in the NFL not being able to read the defense,” Vick said. “Those people who are talking and saying that are just ignorant, and they know nothing about football. Unless they turn on the film and watch my game and see what goes on, then they’ll replace those comments with the right comments.”
When reminded that many critics have made those claims, Vick said, “But it’s incorrect. Without getting sensitive about it, it’s incorrect. So I’d rather not talk about it.”
Sounds to me that he was getting a little sensitive about it. Those are some strong words and it seems like sour grapes. Usually, when something gets under someone’s skin like that, there is at least a hint of truth to it.
But, is he correct that his critics are incorrect? That “you don’t last 12 years in the NFL not being able to read the defense?”
Well, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
As stated above, I’m sure Vick is capable of reading some defensive alignments, but he either has trouble recognizing more complex defenses or is just can’t read them consistently. It’s also possible he has trouble maintaining a mental sharpness under pressure and just lets his instincts as an athlete take over (as compared to the mental part of reading, reacting, and knowing where to go with the football very quickly).
However, Vick has contradicted himself because just last summer he had this to say as he was promoting his autobiography…
“I may have become more dedicated to the deep study of dogs than I was to my Falcons playbook. I became better at reading dogs than reading defenses.”
He basically admits to not studying the playbook or learning how to be a professional NFL QB during his days in Atlanta prior to his arrest and prison term. A huge part of that is studying defenses and by saying he was “better than reading dogs than reading defenses” is admitting that, at the least, his proficiency at this task was sub-par.
Therefore, he didn’t “last” in Atlanta by being able to read defenses…he lasted because of his incredible athleticism and the fact that the Falcons were a run-heavy team at that time.
Furthermore, last year Eagles rookie RT Dennis Kelly had this to say in an interview with Sports Illustrated when asked about Vick’s ability to read a defense…
“Peyton Manning would have seen that coming,” Eagles guard Dennis Kelly says of Vick’s not recognizing the blitz. “There are just times when he doesn’t see things. He never really had to worry about reading defenses.”
Of course, comparing most quarterbacks to Manning in regards to their cerebral ability to read defenses is like comparing a high school physics teacher to Albert Einstein.
However, the play that Dennis Kelly was referring to is one that a high school QB should be able to diagnose and is probably the most blatant example of why people think Vick can’t read a defense…
Unfortunately, I’m sure you remember the play. Besides screaming “WTF!” at my T.V, I remember thinking almost immediately that I couldn’t believe Vick didn’t see that guy line-up and come free.
In other words…how did he not read the defense and see that coming?
I know Vick is capable of reading some defenses because I’ve seen him make adjustments at the line and hit the hot receiver. The problem is, he just doesn’t, or simply can’t, do it with any regularity.
Obviously, he’s never been known as a “cerebral” QB. What he has lacked in that category he made up with on a physical level. His tremendous athleticism, toughness and strong arm are what got him to this point in his career.
To what level his ability to read defenses also gets muddled by poor offensive line play, poor play-calling and whether or not receivers are getting open or running the proper hot routes.
That’s likely some of what Vick meant when he stated to “turn on the film and watch my game and see what goes on.”
Careful what you wish for there Mike. You might not want Chip looking more closely at that film because while he’ll see some good things, he’ll also see the warts.
So, can Vick read a defense? Yes. Is he proficient at it? No.
But don’t go getting all righteous and uppity by saying that his “critics”…who could be several thousand people…are “ignorant” and “know nothing about football.”
When the vast majority of people seem to see the same thing, perhaps there is some truth to it after all.