Set aside all those questions about whether Vick is really a changed man, whether he will be better able to handle his money after paying off all his creditors and getting off the court-approved budget plan. Is it worth it to pay a pretty large long term deal for a quarterback who relies on his legs and takes as many hits as Vick does?
Michael Vick breaks the mold. I mean, there are big, athletic quarterbacks who could scramble and use their legs to pick up first downs, like Steve McNair or John Elway. There are other lefties who could get outside the pocket to throw or run, like Mark Brunell or Jake Plummer [edit to add: Jake Plummer wasn't a real lefty, though he was known to dabble with the correct hand]. Vick, though, is at so far an extreme that I’m not sure any estimate using historically similar players is going to fully capture the risk of Michael Vick as he ages. He has the second most combined rushes plus sacks taken through age 30 (behind only Randall Cunningham), even with missing what was in essence 3 seasons in prison and sitting the bench in Philadelphia while getting back in the league, playing sparingly his rookie year, and missing most of 2003 with a fractured fibula.
I’m going to try to look at mobile quarterbacks who ran and took sacks, though, through age 30. I started with a list of every quarterback since 1970 who took at least 100 sacks and ran the ball at least 300 times by age 30. From there, I cut out everyone who was done as a starter by 30, and included only those that were above average passers at age 30, so that guys like David Carr, Daunte Culpepper, and Aaron Brooks aren’t affecting the results.
Here is everyone, including Vick, who was still included (McNabb is the only other currently active player). I list for each the number of total starts they had after 30, and their age during the last season they were able to start at least 8 games at quarterback.
It’s easy to think that Vick was so awesome last year that we can’t truly capture it. He did have a breakout as a passer, but by the numbers, many other running quarterbacks on that list had as good a passing year as Vick at 30. Steve McNair was the league MVP. Terry Bradshaw had probably his best season as a passer when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 1978. McNabb missed 6 games, but was fantastic when he played in 2006. Archie Manning and Jake Plummer had arguably the best seasons of their careers as passers at age 30.
John Elway and Brett Favre are extreme outliers. We don’t think of them as stylistically similar to Vick. Elway continued to run in his 30’s, but were talking 200 rushing yards a season, not Michael Vick. Favre basically became a complete pocket passer at age 30, and hadn’t had 200 yards in a season since age 25. Still, both did take their share of hits at a young age.
Obviously, including Elway and Favre will shoot up the averages. If we still include them, but instead look at medians, the median number of remaining starts for the above group was 50.5 games. If we’re looking at it from the team perspective, most of those quarterbacks got starts with organizations other than the one they were starring for at age 30 also. The median age the last time the quarterbacks were able to start at least 8 games in a year was 34.
If you gave me the option, given Michael Vick’s build, his injury history, how much he still ran at age 30 compared to these other guys, I would take the under on that 50.5 starts with the Eagles, and overall.
The Eagles paid him a reported $40 million in guaranteed money on a 6 year, $100 million deal. Now, the going rate for a very good quarterback season, judging by what teams were willing to offer veterans like Kurt Warner and Brett Favre, is north of 20 million a year. If the guaranteed money is front loaded and the Eagles can get out for around $50 million over 3 years, then it’s probably okay. If a decent amount of that guaranteed money is beyond 2013, then I think they may have overpaid for an extreme running quarterback vulnerable to injuries and rapid age and hit related decline.
[photo via Getty; table courtesy Mark Mize, aka Mizerle06]