METAIRIE, La. — Michael Vick hasn’t impressed Philadelphia fans this season, what with his eight interceptions and five lost fumbles.
Saints acting head coach Joe Vitt doesn’t care what those Eagles fans think.
He knows just what Vick can do to a team that isn’t respecting what he can do.
“My biggest nightmare against Michael Vick was in 2004 in a playoff game when I was with the Rams,” Vitt said this week. “That was my first exposure to him and he ran for 180 yards. I want to say this about Michael Vick, he is truly one of those gifted athletes that, from a coaching standpoint, can keep you up at night.”
Vick, however, hasn’t been the unbeatable force the Eagles were envisioning when they signed him to a six-year, $100 million contract prior to the 2011 season. The Eagles missed the playoffs in 2011 and are off to a 3-4 start. Philadelphia already has fired its defensive coordinator and, from reading news reports, appears close to imploding.
And a lot of the blame is falling on Vick whether it’s deserved or not.
He’s completing only 59 percent of his passes this year and has only nine touchdowns to go with eight interceptions. He has been sacked 20 times for minus-103 yards.
Philadelphia’s offense is 13th in the NFL in total offense and 15th on third downs.
Yet, those in the Saints locker room who must stop Vick believe he hasn’t lost any of his elusiveness.
"It's tough,” Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said. “He's dynamic. You still see him making plays he made a long time ago. For us guys who were here when he was in Atlanta, we dreaded it every week.”
The Saints have had their successes against Vick. In his final two games against New Orleans when he was with the Falcons in 2006, they held him to no passing or rushing touchdowns and just 38 percent passing.
In fact, in seven career games against New Orleans, he averages just 49.4 percent passing with 161 yards while rushing for another 75. He has only eight passing touchdowns and six rushing scores against the Saints.
New Orleans isn’t buying that he’s washed up, though.
“I don’t know about the question marks at the QB position,” New Orleans linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “I know that we’ve faced Michael Vick when he was with Atlanta. He’s certainly a player that can extend a down. He’s certainly a player that can make you miss and has big-play ability. I, for one, do think he has an accurate arm.”
Those questions have affected Vick this season. Eagles coach Andy Reid had to declare this week that Vick would remain the starter instead of it being an understood move.
“That whole conversation just took a life of its own,” Vick said. “It took a lot out of the game of football for me for a while. Trying to play conservative and trying play not to the turn the ball over. That’s not the way to play football. I have to go out there and give it everything I got. I would rather go out there and give it everything I have then to not do it.”
He doesn’t have to tell Vitt that he’s fine. Vitt knows first-hand.
“I can wholeheartedly disagree that he cannot beat you with his arm,” Vitt said. “I do think he’s accurate. I think there are some blind throws that he can make that are outstanding. I’ve got great respect for him.”