I grew up a Virginia Tech football fan. And I will never forgive Marcus Vick for what he did. Since he’s back in the news tonight, I thought I’d clue you in on a particular thing that’s bothered me for years.
Marcus Vick cost Virginia Tech the 2006 BCS Championship. I’ll explain why.
In the 2006 Gator Bowl, Marcus Vick stomped on the leg of Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil, an act that, on top of a series of indiscretions and illegal acts that would have made even his celebrated older brother (pre-incarceration, in fairness) blush, earned him his dismissal from the football team.
Virginia Tech was coming off a No. 8 finish in the BCS standings when the younger Vick was cashiered, and they went on to a respectable 10-3 finish the next season under sophomore starter Sean Glennon. But if they’d retained Vick, I believe that the Hokies would have won the BCS title.
Here’s how it goes. Virginia Tech lost twice in the 2006 regular season, in back-to-back weeks, to Georgia Tech and Boston College. Neither game was particularly close, as in the first game, Calvin Johnson overcame a Virginia Tech defense (and, in Reggie Ball, a Georgia Tech quarterback) that had hamstrung him for his first two years as a Yellow Jacket. In the second, Matt Ryan and Boston College held a one-possession lead for most of the game before pulling away in the fourth quarter.
Here’s the point. That Virginia Tech team had two future NFL cornerbacks, four future NFL receivers, a very good college running back in Branden Ore, an even better college tight end in Greg Boone, a moon of a man who moonlighted in a single-wing package called the “Wild Turkey,” the last great Beamer Ball special teams unit and the last great Bud Foster defense.
The one weak link was Glennon, the quarterback. To watch Sean Glennon play quarterback was to witness a level of panicked ineptitude the like of which I’ve never seen, before or since, in any position, at any sport. He was the Ford Pinto of quarterbacks—slow, uncomfortable and prone to blow up. He offered all the turnover potential of Michael Vick with none of the big play potential. I have never seen someone look so entirely and consistently frightened in any situation. I’ve never seen someone, in real life, tied to a pole and facing the serrated knife of a serial murderer, so I can’t say with any certainty that no one has ever been more frightened than Sean Glennon in the pocket. But even a middling ACC defense filled Sean Glennon with the level of panic that a normal person would feel facing vivisection.
It didn’t help that Bryan Stinespring was still calling the plays. Stinespring, the Hokies’ offensive coordinator, is…well, imagine the opposite of someone like Urban Meyer or Steve Spurrier. Imagine a playcaller who lives for seven-yard outs on third-and-10, who lacks even a scintilla of imagination. A strong-armed, mobile quarterback, a Tyrod Taylor or a Logan Thomas, can overcome such a feeble playbook, but Glennon was neither of those things. Glennon was Stinespring’s masterpiece, a pieta of offensive messiness the like of which Virginia Tech fans hadn’t seen since the days of Grant Noel. An orgy of tipped-ball interceptions and sack-fumbles that was less offense than pastiche. Bud Foster’s defense and Frank Beamer’s brilliant special teams scored so often more out of necessity than anything else. Under Glennon, Macho Harris, a cornerback and kick returner, was the team’s most dangerous weapon.
Here’s the point—Marcus Vick was maybe 80 percent the runner his brother was, and didn’t have anywhere near Michael’s arm strength (which still puts him in the top 1 percent all-time of dual-threat college quarterbacks), but he could hit his excellent receivers short, and he could buy time in the pocket. He’d certainly have managed to do better than Glennon’s -63 net rushing yards (including sacks) in Tech’s two regular-season losses, and maybe he’d have managed to put more than three points on the board against BC before Matty Ice put the game away.
Maybe Vick would have been able to muster something more than Glennon’s first quarter against Georgia Tech, in which he pulled down his pants, took a shit at midfield at Lane Stadium, played ninepins with with the ghosts of Henry Hudson and his men and woke up down 21 points.
An 11-0 Tech team would have easily dispatched Wake Forest in the ACC title game and gone on to face 11-0 Ohio State in the BCS title game. That Ohio State team beat a Texas team that had just lost Vince Young and Michael Griffin, beat up on terrible competition all year, then breezed past a No. 2 Michigan team, at home, to book a spot in the BCS title game. And the first time the Buckeyes faced a team that wasn’t from the Big Ten—or, put differently, wasn’t total shit—it laid the championship game egg to end all championship game eggs, capitulating to maybe the third-best Urban Meyer-led Florida team with all of the resistance and fortitude I’d put up if Alison Brie walked up to me wearing nothing but heels, lingerie and a smile and demanded that I leave my fiancee to engage in a lifetime of senseless hedonism with her. It wouldn’t have been a slam-dunk, but Marcus Vick could have led the Hokies to victory against such a team.
This counterfactual involves replacing a terrible quarterback with a good one. It’d do to the No. 19 team in the country what changing an F to an A- would do to your GPA.
So thanks a lot, Marcus Vick, because your inability not to step on Elvis Dumervil’s knee cost the Hokies a shot at a national title. I’m sure you’d rather live in a world where you’d won a ring and maybe gotten more than a perfunctory look from NFL scouts. You’d probably like that almost as much as I’d like to live in a world where I’d never been subjected to watching Sean Glennon play quarterback.
I had faith in you, Marcus Vick. But you had to step on Elvis Dumervil, and our lives are appreciably worse for it.