Michael Vick will most likely become the first NFL quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards either this week or next week. He is only 40 yards from breaking Chicago’s Bobby Douglas qb single season rushing record of 968 yards from 1972 and he also is 71 yards from becoming the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. These type of numbers have not been approached since “Superback” Randall Cunningham rushed for 942 yards in 1990 for the Eagles. With Vick’s incredible ability and numbers, I ask the question “Can a run oriented option offense work in the NFL?” We all know that the NFL is a “passing league first”, but with an exceptional athletes like Vick and converted college option quarterbacks like Antwaan Randle El and Joshua Cribbs on NFL rosters, teams need to find ways to incorporate the option. The option was last scene in the NFL during the 1987 strike when Bill Walsh called on Mark Blount to execute his option offense for the 49ers in replacement games.
Jim Mora Sr., who recently left his job as a commentator for Fox Sports called Vick a “coach-killer”. But I say he is an “Ankle Breaker”. With his 4.2 speed and moves, Vick is a defensive coordinators nightmare once he gets out of the pocket. He has the rare ability to be the most dangerous runner on the field regardless of position. Everyone wants Vick to be an accomplished passer, but that is not his game. After leading the Falcons to two big wins over the Steelers and Bengals by passing for 38-of-58 passing for 523 yards and seven touchdowns in those games, Vick seemed to regress in the next few weeks. I point to Falcon defensive injuries, several dropped passes by his WR’s, and not playing to Vick’s strengths as the source of his frustration. His running ability and not his passing is the Falcons biggest weapon as shown in the Saints game where he ran for 166 yards just 7 off his NFL record for a quarterback, while only throwing for only 86 yards.
The option is viewed by NFL snobs as a gimmicky dinosaur college offense that exposes your quarterback to too much punishment and they believe it should go by the way side with Barry Switzer’s wishbone offense. However I believe speed on the offense side of the ball kills and Vick has the speed, toughness, and decision making to make the option work. He has not been hurt running the ball. His only major injury a broken leg in 2003 came when he was in the pocket. Option offenses have many advantages over defenses. Most importantly there is not enough time for NFL teams to practice and prepare for teams running option football. Teams that run the option will an advantage every week. We have seen option packages in the NFL for Brian Mitchell, Kordell Stewart, and Woodrow Dantzler work with modest success. Imagine if an entire game plan was made up around the option. The system can work as it has in college for Rice and the service academies. Recently West Virginia, Texas, and Penn State all went to a spread option in 2005 allowing athletic quarterbacks Michael Robinson, Pat White, and Vince Young to make quick decisions and put pressure on defenses. Their running ability led to success on the field with all three winning BCS games including Young leading Texas to the National Championship in the Rose Bowl (200 yards rushing with 3 TD’s).
I am not saying bring on Dee Dowis, Darian Hagan, and Jamelle Holieway as every down NFL quarterbacks, but Offensive Coordinators should get inventive and find ways to incorporate the option into their playbook. If Knapp and the Falcons want to win they should wise up and work toward Vick’s strengths running the ball.