Michael Vick is Not the Answer

    The NFL playoffs may be in high gear with two rounds yet to be fought, but for the San Diego Chargers and their fans, the season was mercifully put out of its misery a few weeks ago. After tying the league’s record for futility in a 16-game season with a pitiful 1-15 record, the Chargers are obviously looking for answers.

    It seems as though I write a column about this time every year condemning the Chargers and their management for the decisions they made, but this year’s column is actually quite different. I think that this squad, which has fallen from AFC Champions to the league’s doormat in no time flat, has actually made a few correct choices, and with one more wise choice, may be on the way back up.

    First of all, the signing of John Butler as General Manager will only help matters. The guy is a proven winner. Butler’s first move, the signing of former Washington Redskins’ head coach Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, was also wise. With these two links in place, the Chargers go into the draft with a brain trust far mightier then they have had in previous years. But these two positive moves will all be for naught if they make a crucial mistake on draft day.

    A few days ago, The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a column on the front page of their sports section pleading with Chargers’ management to draft Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick with the number one pick. The article cited the tremendous upsides of Vick’s game — his run threat, pure athleticism and almost supernatural ability to avoid being sacked — as reasons for the choice being so important. From my point of view, the Chargers could not make a worse choice than drafting Vick.

    Assuming Vick leaves Virginia Tech early, and all indications are that he will, he will be a very hot commodity, and many teams will pursue the Chargers looking to trade into their No. 1 slot in the draft. I believe that the Chargers should take the best of these offers and trade the rights to the No. 1 pick for as many high draft choices as possible. They could then trade what they received for Vick to get even more, slightly lower, draft picks.

    Why go for quantity over quality? Simple. Even if Vick were Johnny Unitas’ grandson or Joe Montana’s illegitimate child, he still would not be enough to turn the Chargers around. Football is a team sport and even with God’s gift to football out at quarterback, the team would get shelled week in and week out without a good running back, linemen and wide receivers. The Chargers have none of these things. They need as many draft choices as possible to try to turn around the mess that they have built over the last four years.

    Vick simply isn’t the quarterback that the Chargers need. He can run like the wind but his arm is not outstanding, and his accuracy has been called into question many times. At best, the Chargers are looking at another Steve McNair, a good player, but not enough to warrant not trading down for the treasures that will no doubt be offered lower in the draft.

    Finally, the Chargers’ fans and management have made it dreadfully clear that they are not willing to wait for a promising quarterback to develop. We have seen this time and time again in the Ryan Leaf saga. The fans in San Diego constantly berate Leaf, but they forget that he has barely a year of experience when you factor in all the time he spent injured.

    No quarterback is ready for stardom after a year. John Elway wasn’t, Montana wasn’t, and more recently, Peyton Manning struggled his first year before launching to the heights he has now achieved. If San Diego personnel and fans cannot show the patience necessary to develop a young, raw talent, they should trade the pick and sign a veteran quarterback, possibly Mark Brunell of Jacksonville.

    The fact that Vick will probably be in this draft, along with the fact that his prowess for escaping onrushing defensive players was displayed last year in the national championship game against Florida State, makes the pick the Chargers hold very valuable. To maximize this value, the team needs to realize that one player is not going to get them out of the hole they have dug for themselves.

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