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Just The Sports: Atlanta Quarterbacks

Just The Sports

Monday, December 11, 2006

Atlanta Quarterbacks

One almost has to pity those pro and college football fans who were foolish enough to ally themselves with the Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Since 2002 for the Atlanta Falcons, when Michael Vick became the starter and since 2003, when Reggie Ball took over the quarterback reins for Georgia Tech, Atlanta fans have had to endure some of the most atrocious quarterback play ever seen in the world of football. That is not to say that everything about Michael Vick and Reggie Ball is awful. While they have more than their share of warts, the Atlanta quarterback duo also have several positive characteristics: elite athleticism, the ability to retard the progress of any wide receiver they come in contact with, and being capable of Jedi mind tricking their head coaches into starting them every game when it would be more advisable to leave them on the bench.

While I have already written about Michael Vick almost ad nauseam, there is still another point which needs elaboration. For all of Vick's detractors, there are just as many apologists and enablers who want to hold everyone else but Vick accountable for his poor play, by blaming the play calling and the coaching staff in general. Admittedly, the Falcons coaches deserve some amount of culpability, but the apologists and enablers need to understand is that the Vick who sometimes amazes Falcons fans and most of the times frustrates them is the Vick who took Virginia Tech fans through the same gamut of emotions.

Comparing Vick's college career to his NFL career in his non-injury seasons, there is no statistical difference between his completion percentages so he is as inaccurate now as he was while throwing passes for the Hokies. The main differences now are that has attempted more passes per game for the Falcons (25.8 to 17.0) and also since NFL defenses are better than college defenses against the long pass, his yards per pass attempt have suffered a significant decline since leaving Blacksburg (9.8 to 6.7). The irony that Vick is still allowed to play a position for which he has the least value never ceases to amaze me.

Thanks to Reggie Ball we have evidence that it is possible for someone else to perform worse at quarterback than Vick. It is not immediately clear at present what Ball is using to blackmail Chan Gailey with, but it has to be something really good to force Gailey to start a quarterback for four years whose completion percentage has gotten progressively worse since his freshman campaign. As of right now, Reggie Ball's career completion percentage stands at a paltry 48.5%. What makes that number worse is that it is not a result of having a dearth of wide receiver talent to throw to; Ball has actually had the complete opposite at Georgia Tech, having an opportunity to play alongside more than capable wide receivers such as Calvin Johnson. Ball's poor performances leave no one to blame but himself. To put football spin on the old joke that Dean Smith is the only one who could keep Michael Jordan under 20 points, Reggie Ball may have been the only person who could keep Calvin Johnson under 100 yards receiving.

Fortunately for Atlanta football fans, the days of watching Reggie Ball throw 57 touchdowns to 55 interceptions and miss his wide receivers are about to come to an end so that Michael Vick will be the only Atlanta-based quarterback who can inflict pain on them. That is, unless Georgia Tech has another Reggie Ball clone waiting in the wings. Let's hope for the sake of Atlanta's sanity that the university does not.

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