Monday, September 26, 2011

The Calls You Should Not Get

So with Michael Vick having his non throwing hand broken today, he felt moved to complain about the calls that he doesn't get. This isn't, of course, a new issue, and seems to only come up in moments of great frustration, such as today's loss to the Giants. Here are the money quotes:

“I felt like I got hit late. No flag. Broke my hand. That’s it. Trying to protect myself. Didn’t get a flag. And that’s pretty much been the story for the last three weeks. Obviously, at some point, something catastrophic is going to happen, and I broke my hand.”

“Everybody saw the game. I’m on the ground constantly. All the time. Every time I throw the ball, in all my highlights and just watching film in general, every time I throw the ball, I’m on the ground, getting hit in the head, and I don’t know why I don’t get the 15-yard flags like everybody else does."

“But I’m not going to complain about it, just making everybody aware and hopefully somebody will take notice. The ref has to do their job and I’m not blaming the referees by any stretch, I’m just saying everybody on the field should do their job.”

Well, he's got a point. But let's just call this out for what it is, shall we? There are, basically, five categories of QB in regards to getting a call.

1) Tom Brady and Peyton Manning -- i.e., superstar QBs who don't run, appear in commercials, have been on the scene for 5+ years, and aren't above taking every possible advantage in lobbying the refs. These guys get calls that make neutral fans queasy, and old-time football fans sick.

2) Matt Hasselbeck and Kerry Collins -- Older, non-mobile white QBs who stay in to take hits and/or don't play for particularly good offensive lines. You can also throw in Eli Manning and Philip Rivers here, too. These guys get a few borderline calls, especially at home.

3) Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers -- younger stud QBs who don't run, don't have the same level of commercial attention, and are occasionally mobile, but do have Super Bowl rings to get the benefit of the doubt. In general, they deserve the calls they get.

4) Donovan McNabb and Jasom Campbell -- older black QBs who used to be mobile, but aren't so much anymore, and take the occasional big hit because they aren't as quick as they think they are. They might get a call or two more than they were young, but they are behind the norm.

5) Michael Vick, and perhaps Cam Newton and Vince Young -- athletic black QBs who make plays with their legs and basically are treated as running backs who throw the ball. These are the guys you can pretty much still hit every play, the way that every QB was treated up until about a decade ago.

Now, the simple fact of the matter is that Vick hasn't gone from Tier 5 to Tier 4... and unless there's a remarkable metamorphosis and/or life-threatening situation that more or less martyrs the man and makes him immobile but still effective, he never will. It's the leveling that happens to a great talent or a tough player, and far from unique in athletics. Shaquille O'Neal was fouled on nearly every play of his life in his prime. Bo Jackson took huge hits. Eric Lindros in his prime was held more than any other player in the NHL; so was Mario Lemieux. The refs, when in the presence of a talent that gets to the Unfair Level, tend to level things out. It happens at every level.

Now, here's the really awful part about this, and the thing that no Eagle Fan wants to hear while Vick is the franchise... I don't want to watch football in a world where the Vicks are treated like the Mannings. I'd rather have football go back to what it was like when I grew up, where intimidating the skill players was the red meat vice that is football. But those days aren't coming back.

So why go for a world where Vick dies young? Because defense is damned near impossible to play right now as is, and if everyone got treated like the Tier 1 QBs, the game is going to be unwatchable. (And yes, it's wrong on every level that there's a clear level of racism in who is getting a call on these things -- on some level, I'd like to see Tim Tebow get some run in Denver, just to see if he leads the league in flags drawn. But let's just ignore that elephant in the room right now.)

The game's already dangerously close to pinball right now as is, with a degree of protection and security for skill players that everyone else on the field can only dream of. (Don't believe me? Take a look at the Raiders-Jets game today, where a Woo! Moment happens as a Jets DL is decleated by a lineman on a reverse for TD. Why is hitting a defenseless offensive skill player worth 15, but there is no such thing as a defenseless defensive player?)

I don't really want to see more roughing the passer flags. Just as I don't really want to see more instant replay challenges, or defensive players sacrificing their tackling technique for fear of flags and fines. But that game's not coming back.

And why, exactly, has the NFL gone to this point? Because offense gets ratings, and poor skill players are hard to watch. Consider why every other minor pro football league doesn't get run; there are no Vick-level talents in the CFL, UFL, XFL, Arena Ball Et Al. The powers that be think that pinball games are ratings magnets, but they are missing the point that it's actually artistry, not production.

Which is the clear Catch-22 at the end of all of this. As much money as Vick pulls in when he's on his game, in terms of higher ratings and jersey sales... he's never been the real pinball point guy; per capita, you're better off with Matt Schaub, really, But Schaub's highlights aren't anything like Vick's.

So my guess is that Vick's actually going to start drawing more laundry, assuming he can keep playing through the latest malady in his increasingly brittle body. But if you feel a little disgust in the pit of your stomach, Eagle Fan, as you see these flags come around? That's your conscience. And the knowledge that if Vick were on the other side, you'd want Trent Cole to take his head off without a flag, too...


snd_dsgnr said...

I'm sorry, but there was only one hit that I saw that he has a legitimate gripe about. There was one hit where the Giant defender might have been a step late and definitely went helmet to helmet.

Other than that, he gets hit a lot because the Eagles line isn't great and he holds onto the ball longer than most QB's. That isn't news.

DMtShooter said...

As the next day's comments showed, it was just the frustration talking. Green lost this game in short yardage from the 1, from Steve Smith turning a first down in the red zone into a Blue possession, and from Andy Reid deciding that slow developing running plays where the answer in fourth down from the Blue 40. The breakdowns in coverage didn't help, either.

(Which isn't to diminish a road win for your laundry, who have to be applauded for their record with their injuries.)

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