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Loss of Vick not as bad as it seems

By By Josh Taylor/staff writer
August 24, 2003
In case you haven't heard yet, which is nearly impossible, the Falcons were dealt a major setback last week when superstar quarterback Michael Vick went down and didn't get up on his own.
The almost mythical Vick has been portrayed as Atlanta's savior. The most exciting player in the NFL had the desolate Falcons on the road to the Super Bowl.
Now, those shoes are being filled by the thrilling, astounding … Doug Johnson?
Trust me, it's not as bad as it looks.
The Falcons acquired Johnson as a rookie free agent in 2000. He spent his college career playing for Steve Spurrier at Florida.
In his three years with the Falcons, Johnson hasn't played all that many games, but the ones he did play were pretty impressive.
Johnson had his first start with the Falcons on Dec. 3, 2000 versus Seattle. In that game he completed the most passes (17) for the most yards (233) ever by a Falcon rookie.
Johnson's highest quarterback rating was 110.8 in 2001. His completion percentage has risen every year he's been in the league.
It went from 53.7 in 2000 to 60.0 in 2001 and 64.9 in 2002. That's not bad numbers for a quarterback.
Vick's completion percentage has risen every year as well, but they are lower than Johnson's. Vick had a 44.2 completion percentage in 2001 followed by a 54.9 percentage in 2002.
Interestingly enough, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays actually drafted Johnson in 1996 to play Major League Baseball. After spending two years in the minor leagues he came back to football.
There is bad news. Vick's total rushing yards over his two-year career total 1,077 yards.
Johnson's total rushing yards after three years with the Falcons comes to a grand total of 24 yards. Yes, I said 24 yards. Although, over a 17-year career, Dan Marino only had 87 rushing yards.
The point is that the Falcons are not as bad off as everyone thinks. Johnson is simply a different kind of quarterback than Vick, but not necessarily a huge step down.
Granted, Vick is a future Hall of Famer, without a doubt. But Johnson is probably the best backup quarterback in the NFL. If the Falcons have to suffer through a hurt starting quarterback, Johnson isn't a bad choice for your backup.
If Atlanta is smart enough to take advantage of a pocket passing quarterback, they will be fine.
It could be worse. The Falcons' number three quarterback is Kurt Kittner.
Vick is scheduled to return to the playing field in week five of the season. Have you looked at the Falcons' first four games yet?
Atlanta opens the 2003 season at Dallas. Granted, the Cowboys will be tougher than they have been, but it's still the Cowboys. They haven't been all that impressive the last few seasons.
The Falcons next game is at home versus the Washington Redskins. Need I say more? This will be the Redskins first ever trip to the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons do have a tough battle in week three when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town, but this would have been a tough game with or
without Vick.
It's also a division game.
For the fourth game of the season the Falcons will be traveling to Charlotte, N.C. to face the Carolina Panthers.
Just like the Redskins, need I say more?
All in all, Vick's injury should not have a major effect on the Falcons.
If they can't win a few of these early games without Vick, they probably are not much of a team to begin with.
Football is the ultimate team sport. To say that a team goes from first place to last place based on the health of one player belittles every other player on that team.
Honestly, I don't think that the Falcons, with a healthy Vick, had what it takes to go all the way in 2003. I'm picking the Falcons to finish third in the extremely tough NFC South, with or without Michael Vick.