How good would Michael Vick look in orange and black? Almost as good as he'd make other Bengals look.
Even though it's a long shot , signing the former No. 1 overall draft pick out of Virginia Tech and Madden cover boy who is now on the Free Agency market would send a message to Bengals fans and hopefully to embattled signal-caller Andy Dalton.
Since the end of the 2013-14 season – and for some months before then – members of Who Dey nation questioned whether or not Dalton is capable of helping the Bengals snap their 24-year playoff win drought.
Despite being one of the winningest QBs in franchise history, his .617 winning percentage during the regular season and a 2013 division title mean little when compared to his 0-3 playoff track record.
While he has led the team to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, the first time the team has made three straight playoff appearances, the question continues to come up across the Queen City: Is he capable of winning the big game?
Last season, Dalton had three interceptions and a 67.0 rating in a home loss to the San Diego Chargers. Remarkably, that poor showing was still a noticeable improvement from the 44.7 and 51.4 ratings he had in 2012 and 2011 losses to the Houston Texans.
Let’s not get confused here: Vick, 33, isn’t a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, at least not with recent history in mind.
The 13-year veteran is 2-3 in the postseason, including an upset win over the heavily favored Packers in 2002. But he has started only one playoff game since 2004 – a 2010 loss at home to the Packers (He had 292 passing yards and a 79.9 quarterback rating).
But the time has come for the Bengals organization's brass to ask themselves: Is Dalton going to help rewrite the history books on his own?
Vick Is A Name To Be Reckoned With
There aren’t many names on the free agent market this year that scream Super Bowl contender. That’s especially true when it comes to quarterbacks.
According to a grading system by CBS sports, there are only four signal-callers who merit recognition among the top available players. Despite not being a spring chick, Vick is considered the best of the bunch.
Ranked the 35th-best overall free agent on the market, Vick’s 72.5 grade puts him miles ahead of fellow job-hunting signal-callers Josh Freeman (58), Josh McCown (58) and Kevin Kolb (38). McCown signed with the Buccaneers on Wednesday.
There are a handful of other QBs on the market or trading block, but no one else has the numbers, the resume or the name recognition needed to convince fans he's capable of pushing his team to the next level.
In a recent social media push by the NFL, the league asked fans via Twitter, "Mike Vick would instantly make ________ a playoff contender."
Fans by the hundreds tweeted their case for why the four-time Pro Bowler should sign with their favorite team, a surprising turn around from seven years ago when he was suspended and imprisoned for his involvement with a dog-figthting ring.
One of the most noteworthy responders to the NFL-prompted tweet was 2012 league MVP Adrian Peterson.
“@MikeVick would intently make the vikings a playoff team! [sic]," Minnesota's running back wrote.
The social media message was favorited 3,802 times and re-tweeted 5,296 times as of Wednesday afternoon.
Although the popularity of the message reflects social media users’ snarky response to the glaring typo in the tweet, it also shows that many fans still consider Vick to be a game-changer.
For the Bengals, a team that has historically struggled to bring or keep big names, landing a perceived marquee player who's still able to contribute on the field would tell fans the organization won't accept the level they're at.
With the loss of defensive end Michael Johnson to the Bucs, the team is looking to acquire an elite-level player to catch headlines. Landing a name like Vick or defensive end Jared Allen will help with that.
Every Team Needs A Solid Backup
It also seemed evident last year that Johnson wasn't doing enough to push Dalton to play for his job. When the former TCU quarterback went into a slump mid-season, the team didn't seem to feel comfortable making a change.
Whether or not that was because of their trust in Dalton or lack of trust in Johnson, the lack of a threat to the
starting QB position likely stifled Dalton's growth and the team's chances at winning.
Since the jury remains out on whether Dalton, who is entering a contract year, is capable of leading the Bengals to the Super Bowl, the front office needs to add a quarterback this offseason via Free Agency either to push Dalton or replace him, in case they decide down the road he is not the man for the job.
Signing Vick accomplishes that goal.
An established backup also allows the organization to draft a young prospect like Georgia's Aaron Murray or LSU's Zach Mettenberger to develop in the No. 3 spot without any pressure to get them in the game right away.
Even though Vick stated publicly he doesn't want to be a backup and plans to delay signing until after the upcoming draft in May to see what team is need of a starter, it's not clear he holds the cards at this point.
Making A Solid First Impression
Vick has a track record of bringing early success with him wherever he goes, dating back to the National Championship game he led his Hokies to as a red-shirt freshman.
As a professional, on Jan. 1, 2003, during his second season in the league, Vick led the Falcons to an upset victory over the heavily favored Green Bay Packers 27–7 in the first playoff round. Vick was named to his first Pro Bowl after the season.
After an injury-plagued third season, Vick returned in 2004 to help the Falcons to a division title and victory over the Rams in the first round of the playoffs. He also was named to his second Pro Bowl.
In 2007, after being suspended and serving a stint in prison, the Falcons released Vick and his career appeared to be over.
That was until 2009 when he signed a one-year deal with the Eagles.
While he played sparingly in 2009, he reemerged on the scene with a breakout season in 2010 and earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection.
New Bengals System Requires New Type Of Talent
At least for next season, Vick’s style of play would align with the Bengals expected paradigm shift on offense.
In many ways Vick was the first of an influx of athletic quarterbacks who’ve slowly but surely pushed aside the more traditional dropback-style passers.
Today, the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson, who can all throw the ball down-field but also outrun linebackers, are becoming the norm under center.
Some may argue that Vick has lost a step, but he’s still one of the most elusive dual-threat QBs in the league.
In just seven games last year, including six starts, he had 306 rushing yards – or roughly 45 yards per game – and two touchdowns.
It’s not like he took off running on every play, either. He only averaged five carries per game that he judiciously turned into an 8.5 yards per carry average. Four of those rushes went for 20-plus yards.
He also turned nearly half of his carries (17) into first downs.
In short: He still moves the chains.
Vick has acquired some talent when it comes to airing it out, too.
When he was the No. 1 draft pick in the 2001 draft, Vick was known as an athlete with a huge arm, an amazing 40-time and Barry Sanders-like cutback ability. He was never considered a West Coast-style quarterback, nor was he expected to play like one.
For his career, Vick has a 56.2 percent completion percentage and only a single season where he passed for more than 60 percent. That was his second year in Philadelphia in 2012 where he connected with receivers at a 62.6 percent clip.
Even though he’s not Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, as his feet have begun to fade, Vick has evolved into a better passer.
During his days in Atlanta, Vick never threw for 3,000 yards. But in addition to reinventing his image in 2009 when he moved to the the city of brotherly love, Vick has cultivated himself into as close to a pocket-passer as he’ll ever be.
In both 2010 and 2011, Vick had more than 3,000 yards passing despite missing at least three games in both seasons.
He was on pace to reach that benchmark number in both 2012 and 2013 as well before he was sidetracked by injuries.
Last year, Vick started out strong with back-to-back performances with quarterback ratings of well higher than 110 against the Washington Redskins (112.6) and Chargers (123.4). He tallied four total TDs, no interceptions and 631 yards in those contests, thanks in part to a 482-yard performance against San Diego.
Something Left To Prove
If Vick were to decide Cincinnati were the place for him, he’d in part be responsible for an offense featuring arguably the top wide receiver in the league, a pool of talented running backs and an organization on the cusp of achieving greatness.
It would also let him prove his doubters wrong.
Vick opened the Eagles' 2013 season as the starter but was eventually supplanted by breakout star Nick Foles. Injured in a Week 5 win over the New York Giants, Vick would only appear in six games during the 2013 campaign, throwing for 1,216 yards and five touchdowns.
While there are a handful of teams vying for Vick’s services, most notably the Jets, the
Jaguars and the Vikings, the Bengals offer him something no other team does: A chance to win right away.
If he could come to the Tri-State and help the Bengals to their first playoff win since 1990, he would breathe new life into his career – and the local football fan base along with it.
Based on his track record, doing so isn’t outside the realm of possibility.