After the "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles lost to my New York Giants Sunday in a game during which Eagles quarterback Michael Vick suffered a broken hand, the multi-talented quarterback called out NFL referees for not protecting him the way they do other quarterbacks. Vick suffered a concussion in the Eagles week two loss to the Atlanta Falcons and while his injury from Sunday has been downgraded from a broken hand to a bone contusion, he said he still felt he was not being protected by officials the way he should be.
His rationale for this is that, as he claims, he is always being knocked to the ground, hit late and hit illegally and this general rough housing would not be accepted if he were a quarterback on the level of a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. Vick is inferring that if he were one of those guys, the hits on him would draw 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalties.
Sports writers all over the country have concocted a number of conspiracy theories to explain this phenomenon. My personal favorite is that all NFL referees are racist and don't protect Vick because he is black and the other three men listed above are white. It has also been suggested that because of Vick's past, meaning his conviction on charges of funding and taking place in an illegal dog-fighting operation, NFL referees don't care if he gets hurt. Both of these are absolutely ludicrous to suggest because the real explanation has nothing to do with race or jail time.
Here are the reasons Vick "doesn't get protected" the same way:
* Vick is a scrambling quarterback. You know that the other three guys have in common? Between the three of them, they represent three of the least mobile professional athletes in the world. Michael Vick is one of the most mobile athletes in the world. He consistently leaves the pocket to try and create plays. What does this mean exactly? While the other three stand behind their squad of five men who are all about 6-feet-3-inches and weigh more than 300 pounds, also known as their offensive line, Vick sheds this protection in an effort to make a big play. These linemen, as I previously noted, are all too big to fit in a regulation phone booth and aren't quick enough to catch up with Vick when he does this, leaving him unprotected, thus exposing him to more violent collisions that the other three quarterbacks don't have to deal with.
Think of it this way, the defense is like a pack of great white sharks and the offensive line is like a shark cage. The chances of you getting eaten are significantly less when you're in the cage versus when you leave it.
* Maybe a reason the league wants these guys protected is because they all have something else in common that Michael Vick doesn't have. They are these little things called Super Bowl rings. These guys are proven winners and they are also generally considered to comprise 60 percent of the list of the top five quarterbacks in the league. Michael Vick once started in an NFC championship game...in 2005.
I won't argue that Vick isn't an elite athlete, but perhaps it is more about protecting the people who actually have a chance to win championships.
* Vick's past two injuries, a concussion and a hand contusion, have been his own fault. He got the concussion from running into his own player and the contusion from getting his hand caught up in his own equipment. What are referees supposed to do, blow the whistle anytime they think you may be in danger, even from yourself? Maybe next they can start blowing the whistle when they think you're going to throw an interception or an incompletion. Maybe then you can run around and nothing bad will ever happen to you ever again.
* All three of these guys have also suffered serious injuries at some point in their careers. Peyton Manning is probably missing this entire season because he has had three neck surgeries in the past two years, Tom Brady had to sit out the entire 2008 season after tearing his ACL and Drew Brees was on the receiving end of one of the worst shoulder dislocations I have ever seen. Each of these guys has an autographed picture of themselves on some orthopedic surgeons wall saying, "I owe you." If the worst you can conjure up is a self-inflicted bone contusion then you can keep your mouth shut. The most amount of time you missed wasn't because of any injury...it was because you were in prison for murdering dogs.
* Last and certainly not least, this is football. The league is doing everything it can to try to make this a glorified two hand-touch game, but the unpleasant truth is that with these guys growing to the inhuman strengths and speeds that they are now, injuries are going to happen. Big collisions are going to happen, especially to people who run around without the protection of any blockers. I have no sympathy for someone whose entire game is built around the ability to dodge and evade tacklers, and then complain that he isn't getting protected the same way. Either become a pocket passer or get ready to get hit. Either way, shut up about it.
So there it is, the ugly truth about being an NFL quarterback. I don't want to dissuade anyone from trying to go to the NFL but it seems that unless you get seriously injured and win Super Bowls, the league isn't going to protect you the way Michael Vick thinks you should be protected. Of course Michael's thoughts and actions haven't always led him down the path of moral righteousness and fortitude, just ask the judge.