Is Michael Vick On Track For Having A Better Career Than HOF QB Steve Young? by Barry Barnes

Since being successfully tutored by Eagles head coach Andy Reid on the nuances of the West Coast Offense over the last couple years, some are comparing Michael Vick to Hall of Famer Steve Young

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick celebrated his 31st birthday on June 26, his offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg gave him a surprising, but realistic compliment. 

The former NFL head coach told the Philadelphia Daily News: “Mike’s got a long way to go, but, you know what? I think he can be better than Steve.”  The perception of this comment appears to be a joke in the eyes of many football fans.

However, was Mornhinweg’s comments laughable because of Vick’s past, regarding his style of play and his trouble with the law, as many in society (mainly outside of Philly) has not and will not forgive him?  Is it because of the person, in Mornhinweg, who stated the prediction or was Young’s career so great that Vick could never achieve the Hall of Famer’s success?

According to the circumstances and numbers, Mornhinweg’s comment is not far-fetched.

“Here is the situation Mike is in. He’s got uncommon athleticism, so he can get away, on occasion, back-dooring it,” Mornhinweg also told the paper.  “There’s that fine line when you need to throw it away or get it out to a hot receiver or use that athleticism to make that great play.”

Mornhinweg is an established, well-respected coach in the NFL community for his ability to develop talent, especially quarterbacks.  Through his tutelage, future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb were able to lead their teams to a Super Bowl (Favre went twice and won it all in 1996).  However, someone’s last impression is judged the most and to many football fans,  Mornhinweg’s first shot as the head man on the sideline was a dumper fire, which continues to smell and burn in Detroit.

In two seasons as the Lions head coach, Mornhinweg led them to a 5-27 record.  When Mornhinweg is mentioned, his outing with the Lions is the first thing that comes to mind.  Not for developing Favre and McNabb nor his ability of rejuvenating Young’s career when many critics believed he was getting washed up at the time.  In Mornhinweg’s first season with the San Francisco 49ers in 1997, he helped Young to finish his final two years as a Pro Bowl quarterback.

If there is anyone who can speak on a quarterback’s potential and ability, Mornhinweg’s words should be heard loud and clear and be taken seriously.

“Absolutely,” said Mornhinweg discussing the potential greatness of Vick. “Here was a man who hasn’t played for a couple of years.  However, if he did it the right way, I thought he could be a Steve Young-type player.”   

Young is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, as he was the first left-handed signal caller to be elected to the Hall of Fame.  Third all-time in NFL history for his passer rating of 96.8, six passing titles and a three-time Super Bowl champion, as he capped with a record-setting six touchdown passing performance in 1995 for Super Bowl XXIX.

To top off Young’s remarkable NFL career with many NFL records including 43 rushing touchdowns – the most for a quarterback, his number 8 jersey was retired in 2008.

So how can Vick compete against that?

Both players are very similar in style of play, in terms of their scrambling and playmaking ability.  Young’s numbers are impressive.  However, Young started to compile his Hall of Fame numbers when he turned 30, the same age as Vick and he is not far off.

Young’s first seven years as a professional quarterback were garage seasons as he played for the Los Angeles Express of the USFL (where he received some success before the league ceased operations in 1986) and the Tampa bay Buccaneers (where he struggled mightily). 

Eventually Young, who is currently a NFL analyst for ESPN, journeyed to the 49ers where his life and career changed as he learned from the best in Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh, watched (to be nice) Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana and played with a load of talent around him.

It’s not Young’s fault that there was no salary cap issues and he was surrounded with first class talent.  However, those factors contributed to Young’s numbers and masterful NFL career.   

“Marty got to see Young grow into an elite quarterback, and a lot of what Young could do is run and he had to evolve into a complete quarterback,” said legendary Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Famer wide receiver Antonio Freeman told me via text, who also was a part of Mornhinweg’s tutelage.  “With guidance from experts of the West Coast off like Holmgren and Walsh; all while Mornhinweg was an assistant working his way up the ladder. 

“He (Mornhinweg) obviously sees that Vick has that same stunning potential under the guidance of he and coach (Andy) Reid,” he continued.  “You see what Reid did for Donovan’s career in Philly.  Vick has the potential to for 4,000 yards and rush for another 650.  Those are Steve Young type numbers and Vick can certainly flirt with those numbers.”

Since Vick stepped on a NFL field, he has been electric and breathtaking.  Countless highlights of his play will last as long as football in played in America.  Unfortunately, there are a couple of things that haunt Vick in the general public’s eye, in which many in society will hold over his head and do not want to see him success.

Vick spend six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and led them to a NFC Championship game in 2005, but is labeled and knocked as a running quarterback – relying on his legs rather than his arm.  During Vick’s stint with the Falcons, he had talent around him, just not the right type and not at the level of Young’s contributed cast.  Although tight end Alge Crumpler was his favorite talent, the likes of Peerless Price, Dez White, Michael Jenkins, and a young Roddy White did not fit the bill for Vick.

Atlanta was highly respected as a running team than a passing squad with the likes of Vick and running back T.J. Duckett and Warren Dunn.  Jim Mora Jr. was a young head coach as he coached Vick, but the young Mora’s system was in no comparison to the legendary West Coast offense of Walsh, in which Young exceled.

Unfortunately due to Vick’s conviction of having a dogfighting ring, which caused him to served close to two years in federal prison in 2007 and 2008, many in society cannot get pass his crime and will forever bet against him.

So comparing him to Young is laughable to many in society – but don’t laugh yet.

In Young’s and Vick’s first season as starters, as their careers took the turn for the better, Vick had a much better year.

In 1991 when Young took over for the 49ers, he finished that season with 2,517 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions at a 101.8 passer rating, while missing five games.  In the 2010 NFL season as a starter for the Eagles, Vick (30 at the time) finished with 3,018 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, while missing four games at a 100.2 passing rating.

Whether if liked or not, Vick is right there with Young as this time of the Hall of Famer’s career.

“I have the utmost respect for Steve Young and his body of work and he’s one of the best QBs to play the game, hands down,” said former NFL safety Keion Carpenter via text, who played for the Buffalo Bills and the Falcons and is a close friend, mentor of Vick.  “I think Mike has a long career ahead of him and more work to do and giving his continued improvements, I think he has a real good chance to be as good as Steve or even better.

“Some championships for Mike would definitely help, but if I had to put my money on any player being close to Steve, via the same style of quarterback, than I’m riding with my boy, number 7, 100 percent hands down.”

Vick finally have a great staff, a piece of what Young had, to provide him with the instructions to lead and have the right talent around him to execute effectively.

Young finished with 33,124 passing yards for his career, Vick currently has 14,609 under his belt.  Vick surpassed Young’s rushing yards at 4,640. Young finished with 4,239 and Vick should eventually pass Young’s rushing touchdown record, where he currently has 32. 

Vick recently accomplished a major fit by working his way back to being the most exciting player in the NFL, along with another $100 million deal.  Vick signed a six-year, $100 million deal with the Eagles on Monday, with not only put money back into his pocket, but to pay off his debts which is an ultimate life win.

Vick will probably not eclipse Young’s passer rating of 96.8. But with one championship win and if he can average at least 3,000 yards per season for the next seven years, No. 7 will have more passing yards Young and Mornhinweg’s words would be prophetic as Vick would be the ultimate victor.

 

Barry Barnes is an NFL Blogger formerly of AOL Fanhouse.  You can reach him at barry.barnes@fanhouse.com

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