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Michael Vick. He is the greatest athlete to ever play quarterback. That makes him the greatest quarterback of all time, according to most people on Twitter and, well, essentially half of Fox Sports 1. He’s not the greatest to ever play, but his highlight reel is up there with Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders for the greatest of all time. He has the speed, agility, and athleticism of any Pro Bowl running back. But maybe you don’t believe me. Well, of all quarterbacks in NFL history, only four have rushed for 4,000 yards in a career. Steve Young has 4,239. Cam Newton has 4,320. Randall Cunningham has 4,928. And then there’s Vick. Vick and his 6,109 rushing yards. That’s more than Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren. He’s not a compiler either. Since the merger in 1970, there have been four seasons of a quarterback rushing for over 900 yards. Two of them are Vick. In 2004, Vick rushed for an incredible 902 yards.
He one upped that in 2006.
We’ll get back to what he did that year.
But what is often lost in Vick’s highlight reels is his cannon arm. He had it throughout his career, but it was really raw in Atlanta. That, combined with his 4.25 speed, is why he often ran. His arm started to come into its own in Philadelphia, but by then he slowed down from incredibly fast to just pretty fast. He missed out on two seasons where he could’ve had them both, because he decided he would throw away millions of dollars in NFL contracts and endorsements to get a few quick bucks on the side dogfighting. He would miss all of 2007 and 2008 with a suspension. Even if that wasn’t a problem, he also happened to be in federal prison for most of that time. The year before though?
He rushed for 1,039 yards.
1,000 rushing yards.
As a quarterback.
It is an all time single season record that will likely never be matched. But, as I said, he had a cannon left arm as well. This got me thinking. What would have happened if Michael Vick didn’t rush once for the entire 2006 season?
So, my first step was to go on Pro Football Reference and look up Vick’s stats for that season. They looked like this: 52.58% completion percentage, 2474 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 1,039 rushing yards, and 7 rushing touchdowns. After that, I needed every completion Vick had for the 2006 season. Yes, Vick averaged 12.1 yards/completion that season, but it wouldn’t be realistic to assume he would throw for exactly 12 yards every time. I found them all, put them all in a spreadsheet, and numbered them 1-204. The higher the number, the longer the completion. I set some rules for myself, all revolving around generating a random number. Firstly, I had to generate a number between 1 and 10,000. If it was 5,258 or lower, Vick completed the pass. If it was 5,259 or higher, he didn’t complete the pass. If the random number was 5,258 or lower, I generated another one. This was between 1 and 204. It corresponded to my spreadsheet, and whatever number was generated would determine how many yards Vick threw for on the completion. If it was 5,259 or higher, I generated a random number between 1 and 1,000. If it was between 1 and 34, he threw an interception, since his interception percentage that season was 3.4%. Little did I know, this would be a waste of time. But we’ll get to that. Only one thing was left: I needed to find every Vick rushing attempt that year. According to PFR, he had 123. Throwing out three kneeldowns- let’s face it, it’s unrealistic to throw a pass when the game is essentially decided -we had 120. Then I had to do the boring task of typing every one of Vick’s rushes into my spreadsheet, generate numbers, type said numbers into said spreadsheet, and repeat 120 times. You don’t wanna hear about that, it was just as boring and as time consuming as it sounds. Now, we can look at his stats:
52.06% completion percentage, 3,261 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
Let’s put those numbers into some context.
Those 3,261 yards are the second highest of his career (behind his 3,303 in 2011). Those 21 touchdowns tied his 2010 career high. Those 13 interceptions are still the second most he’s ever thrown in a season (behind 14 in 2011). His completion percentage actually fell. Of the rushes I turned into passes, only 50.83% (or 61 of 120) were completed passes. The random number generation was not kind to Vick here. Still, as with his real life completion percentage in 2006, it ranks near the bottom for his career. A completion percentage of 52.58% isn’t exactly great either, but it can be excused when your quarterback just so happens to be a 1,000 yard rusher. Now, without his running to fall back on, that 52.06% completion percentage looks as bad as it normally does. Another interesting thing is that Vick actually lost some total yardage. He lost 252 yards to be exact. Once again, this is because of the random number generation. In total, of his 59 incompletions, 53 came on plays where he gained yards on the ground, compared to only four where he threw an incomplete pass on rushing plays for no gain, and only two where he lost yards rushing, therefore gaining yards by throwing an incomplete pass for no gain, confusingly enough.
And that is what could’ve happened if Michael Vick decided to never use his superhuman athletic abilities to his advantage. Or, he could’ve decided to use his cannon of a left arm to throw for over 4,000 yards. I don’t know. I’m a nerd.