PHILADELPHIA - Michael Vick's mediocre performances have outnumbered his spectacular ones.
The 2010 Comeback Player of the Year hasn't been so dazzling this season. His inconsistent play is one of the reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) underachieved in the first half.
Vick was 8-2 in his first 10 starts last year, and was a top candidate for NFL MVP. Tom Brady ended up being a unanimous choice for the award. Since leading the Eagles to an incredible comeback win over the New York Giants at the Meadowlands last December, Vick has been up-and-down. He's 3-7 since that game, including a playoff loss to Green Bay.
"Things happen for a reason," Vick said Wednesday. "You can only control what you can control. I don't think defences are playing me differently. Things are pretty much the same. We've got more turnovers this year than we did last year, and that's been the key."
In his first season playing full-time since 2006, Vick led the Eagles to the NFC East title last year. He set career highs in yards passing (3,018), touchdowns passing (21), touchdowns rushing (9), completion percentage (62.6) and passer rating (100.2). He also rushed for 676 yards and nine TDs.
Vick's stats are down in every category this year. He's thrown for 2,065 yards, 11 TDs and nine interceptions. His completion percentage is almost the same at 62.0, but his passer rating has dropped to 85.8. That's 13th in the NFL behind the likes of Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith and Matt Hasselbeck. While he's rushed for 456 yards, Vick has no TDs on the ground.
"It's possible they're playing him differently, but it doesn't seem like we're seeing too much different stuff," right tackle Todd Herremans said. "I know that we're getting a lot of deeper coverages and stuff like that, but other than that, I haven't really noticed anything drastically different."
Vick's timing seems off and he simply isn't making the clutch throws he made last year. In a 30-24 loss to Chicago on Monday night, Vick drove Philadelphia to the Bears 39 in the final minutes. He then threw two straight incomplete passes before completing a high toss to Jeremy Maclin on fourth-and-10. Maclin had to stretch to make the catch, fell down and was tackled a yard short of the first down.
"I just didn't make the throw that I was able to make and normally would make," Vick said. "I couldn't put the ball in the position that I wanted to put it in. Some throws, you can't have back. Some throws, you want to have back but you don't have a second chance to do it over again."
Vick isn't completing deep passes mainly because defences are keeping safeties back to cover big-play threat DeSean Jackson. Still, he's had some chances to connect and either missed or opted for a shorter pass.
"I wouldn't say he's hesitant," coach Andy Reid said. "He wants to make sure he has a clear look at it, and normally if you're taking a vertical shot on a deep safety, then you're going to need a little time to do that, so you've got to work that intermediate game and be good with that. I've got to do a better job of putting him in position to do that, you know, give him more opportunities to do that."
Vick's reward for his outstanding performance last year was a US$100 million, six-year contract that included about $40 million guaranteed. The Eagles expected him to build on last year's success and take his game to an even higher level.
Instead, Vick has regressed.
"I just know we have opportunities to win games, and when you're in that position, you've got to take full advantage of it," he said. "Other than that, there's not much you can do. You've got to win as a unit, offence, defence, special teams, all three phases of the game, and that's how you get it done."
The Eagles entered this season with Super Bowl aspirations. They'll be lucky just to make the playoffs at this point.