By TIM MacMAHON / The Dallas Morning News
IRVING â€“ No NFL quarterback is as electrifying a runner as Atlanta's Michael Vick. Not many are more erratic as a passer.
But Vick, who needs 66 yards to become the first quarterback with a 1,000-yard rushing season, shoots down the idea of moving to running back as quick as he bolts the pocket under pressure.
"Can't do it," Vick said. "Ain't tough enough."
Whether Vick has thick enough skin to be a franchise quarterback is questionable.
Vick might be the most scrutinized player in the league. That's part of the deal for a former No. 1 overall draft pick with a $140 million contract. Especially one with a passer rating (73.6) that ranks 25th in the league entering Saturday's game against the Cowboys.
The criticism of Vick reached a crescendo during Atlanta's four-game losing streak last month. Even Jim Mora Sr., father of Falcons coach Jim Mora, chimed in, agreeing when his Fox Sports Radio co-host called Vick a "coach killer."
All the scrutiny has Vick scratching his head.
"What have I done?" asked Vick, who completed only 45 percent of his passes during the losing streak. "Why are people criticizing me? I really can't find anything from watching the film and evaluating myself. I don't know why I take a lot of the heat."
The low point of Vick's season, and perhaps his career, occurred while he was walking off the Georgia Dome turf following the final loss of the losing streak. He responded to fans hollering at him after his 9-for-24 passing performance in the 31-13 loss to New Orleans with a double-barreled obscene gesture. Vick issued an apology in a written statement that night, saying he released his frustration in the wrong way.
"It's amazing how well he's handled it," Mora Jr. said of the scrutiny. "He had one little incident that blew everything out of proportion, but he's been a true pro. He's been fantastic."
Mora Jr. said Vick is subjected to so much criticism because he's different. If you like traditional pocket passers, Vick can be painful to watch.
Falcons fans hoped Vick's spectacular passing statistics in back-to-back wins against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were a sign that he had become the "complete quarterback" he claims to be. He completed 37 of 57 passes for 523 yards and seven touchdowns in the two games.
It appears, however, that those performances were aberrations. Vick has completed 48 percent of his passes and thrown six touchdowns in the six games since.
"You just have to manage the game," Vick said, dismissing his passing statistics as a measure of his progress. "The important thing is just to win."
Vick's supporters, including Mora Jr., point to his winning percentage as the primary reason his critics are wrong. His winning percentage (.602) ranks fifth among active quarterbacks with at least 40 starts. Atlanta (7-6) has bounced back from its losing streak with two consecutive wins to remain in the NFC playoff race.
Opponents fear Vick beating them with his feet, not his arm.
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said Vick creates problems because of his ability to make game-changing plays while freelancing. Linebacker Akin Ayodele said Vick forces defenses to prepare differently than any other quarterback.
"Once you get to that quarterback, you've really got to treat him like a running back," Cowboys nose tackle Jason Ferguson said. "The only problem is you can't slam him."
Unless you're one of Vick's many critics.
Staff Writer Todd Archer contributed to this report.
JUST WIN, BABY
The active quarterbacks with the highest winning percentages (minimum 40 starts):
Rk. Player Team W L Pct.
1. Tom Brady New England 67 24 .736
2. Donovan McNabb Philadelphia 65 33 .663
3. Peyton Manning Indianapolis 90 51 .638
4. Brett Favre Green Bay 143 91 .611
5. Michael Vick Atlanta 38 25 .602
Vick's record includes one tie (Source: Atlanta Falcons)
LEGGING IT OUT
The top rushing seasons by a quarter- back in NFL history:
1. Bobby Douglass, Chicago, 1972, 968
2. Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia, 1990, 942
3. Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2006, 934
4. Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2004, 902
5. Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2002, 777