NFL's Michael Vick Lauded As Marquee Talent
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
A wild year in the National Football League got wilder this week with the re-emergence of Michael Vick as a marquee talent. What happened Monday night is still the talk of the NFL and fans - Michael Vick turning in a record-breaking performance, leading the Philadelphia Eagles as they throttled the Washington Redskins, 59 to 28.
Vick passed four touchdowns and ran for two more, and that shifted the conversation away from his time in prison for dogfighting, to his talents as a quarterback - at least for the moment.
NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is with us to talk about that, and more. And let's begin with a little more about Vick's performance on Monday. How good is he?
TOM GOLDMAN: Well, so good, as you said, you know, it's still the talk on Wednesday. It'll be the talk tomorrow. If he keeps going this Sunday against the New York Giants and beyond, it'll be the story of the year.
Monday night, he had perhaps the best all-around game by a quarterback in NFL history. He became the first quarterback, as you said, to throw those four touchdown passes, to throw for more than 300 passing yards, run for more than 50 yards, and score those two rushing touchdowns - and it was all in one game.
He is now the top-rated quarterback in the league. He hasn't thrown a single interception. He's been building toward this during the season. He's been steadily improving, and then he won the starting job.
And Renee, as you said, this performance shifted the story from Mike Vick, the post-prison reclamation project, to Michael Vick possible league MVP. His number 7 jersey is a hot sales item again. People are saying things like Eagles fan Sean Young(ph) did. He was quoted by the AP, saying, Vick is playing incredible. I respect people's opinions who don't like him, but isn't this world based on second chances?
MONTAGNE: Well, with his second chances, is he actually better than he was before the dogfighting revelations that sent him to prison?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, he is. And it's a surprise to people who thought he'd lose his skills by being out of the game for a couple of years. Before he got in trouble, Vick was known as a scintillating player - but not a great quarterback. That's different now, and you can credit the Philadelphia system, the coaches who've worked with him. You can credit Vick's willingness to learn the position the right way.
He's a much better passer. He's more controlled. He will stay in the pocket, and calmly look for secondary receivers when the primary one is covered. And then if that all breaks down, he's still got that amazing running ability.
MONTAGNE: And this is just the latest twist in an unpredictable season generally. Tell us more about what's going on with the NFL.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, it seems like every Sunday - after every Sunday or Monday night, we're writing new, different stories about the NFL. One team looks like the cream of the crop one week; the next week, they lose. This is the first season since 1959 that every NFL team lost at least two of its first eight games.
Now, some grumble that the league is awash in mediocrity. The NFL likes to crow that it's all about parity. And there are lots of different reasons. One NFL official told me it's a tribute to the NFL's revenue-sharing. And that creates, in his words, the balance due to a system that gives all the teams the resources to be competitive.
There's also the possible reason that the league rules to enhance the passing game have helped develop depth at the quarterback position, which is the most important position on the field. So this season, you've seen a lot of quarterbacks performing quite well, leading their teams to unexpected wins.
MONTAGNE: Very quick question about women's college basketball: The undefeated UConn Huskies - last night, did they keep up their winning streak?
GOLDMAN: The streak is alive. Huskies came back from being down eight late in the game against Baylor. They won their 80th-straight game, which started two years ago. And now, they're only eight games away from tying the record 88 straight games by the great UCLA men's teams of the 1970s.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
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