Quarterback Michael Vick Confounds Fans
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
No quarterback has been getting more attention lately than Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons. He's a huge talent - former number one draft pick. After a defeat two weeks ago, he made an obscene gesture toward fans as he was leaving the field. Then last weekend, he led his team in a dramatic comeback, occasionally calling his own plays in the huddle.
To talk about Michael Vick and his job at quarterback, we've reached Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Welcome to the program.
Mr. JEFF SCHULTZ (Sports Columnist, Atlanta Journal-Constitution): Good morning.
INSKEEP: Did the Falcons get the player they thought they were getting when they drafted Michael Vick?
Mr. SCHULTZ: Well, they got the fan guy they thought they were getting in terms of the number of tickets they would sell and the jerseys they were selling. As Frank just said, you never really know the kind of player you're getting, particularly at that position.
I've always likened NFL scouts to guys who kind of fall in love with, like, punt, pass and kick competitions. You know, who can throw a ball 50 yards through a swinging tire 50 yards down the field and...
INSKEEP: The real question is leadership, though, isn't it?
Mr. SCHULTZ: It is. It's all about intangibles, and you never know about that. And, you know, we don't know about that with Mike Vick. He does need to grow up a little. I would say that giving the finger to fans is a little bit out of character for him. He's never given me the finger, and quite a few people in this city have. So I'll have to assume that that's not a character trait of his.
INSKEEP: I don't want to ask what you've been doing down there in Atlanta. But in any case, it seems like both of those last two games have something in common. In the defeat, he's doing his own thing, doing what he wants, giving people the finger. In the victory, he's doing his own thing, doing what he wants, calling his own plays in the huddle and out of control in a good way.
Mr. SCHULTZ: Well, it's funny, yeah, because I, you know, Mike Vick, if you're going to liken him to one quarterback in the NFL it would be a guy named Brett Favre, who can make something out of nothing, but occasionally he makes nothing out of something.
He's a street ball kind of player. He's different. He is an X-factor, a different kind of player than the league has ever seen before. And in that sense, yes, I think it would be better served for him and the team if he sort of freelances a little more.
INSKEEP: Really? And is the team adjusting to the kind of player that he is?
Mr. SCHULTZ: I talked to Greg Knapp earlier this year and he told me...
INSKEEP: Greg Knapp is?
Mr. SCHULTZ: I'm sorry, Greg Knapp is the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. And I asked him, have you had more trouble fitting Mike into this offense than you thought you would, and he said yes. He has a very unusual skill set in that he can throw the ball downfield and hit receivers, but he can't throw short passes and hit receivers. He's faster than any quarterback there is in the league - maybe we've ever seen. And yet you don't really want your quarterback running all the time because he's probably going to get beat up.
So, it's a very delicate process and one they still haven't really figured out.
INSKEEP: So talented that you have to figure out how to use that talent.
Mr. SCHULTZ: Exactly.
INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Schultz, thanks very much.
Mr. SCHULTZ: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Jeff Schultz writes a sport column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
And I'm Deborah Amos.
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