Here's how the panel judged Vick in vital quarterback categories:
?Arm. Even while on the move Vick can throw the ball 50 yards with a flick of his left wrist. "His arm's unquestionably good enough," says Simms, who, along with Young, noted that Vick's front leg was too stiff when he threw, causing his passes to sail. Also, his spiral is not always tight, and his touch on intermediate throws is inconsistent. "He seems to have one speed—hard," says Walsh. Still, they all say, Vick has an excellent throwing motion.
?Accuracy. In two seasons with the Hokies, Vick completed 56.1% of his throws, which is a lower percentage than 30 NFL quarterbacks who threw at least 175 passes had last season. Vick seems to have particular trouble with timing on crossing routes and with hitting the deep receiver. "I like guys who can manipulate defenses," Young says of Vick's ability to keep a defense on its heels with the threat of a run. "But accuracy is a huge issue, and it looks like that's something Michael has to work on."
?Mobility. Virginia Tech coaches say Vick has been clocked at 4.3 seconds or less in the 40. Young watched Vick pirouette to escape three Virginia rushers, sprint to his left and launch a 23-yard pass to running back Lee Suggs. "Wow," Young said, chuckling. When he saw Vick make four Boston College defensive backs miss on his way to an 82-yard touchdown run—Vick completed only 5 of 17 passes for 61 yards that day, but he ran for 210—Young said, "That's incredible. I mean, [what quarterback] can do that? Nobody." Walsh issued this warning: "Ultimately, running like this in the NFL would be a negative. It won't help [deter him] when he makes electrifying plays with his feet in the preseason and drives the fans crazy. No matter what the coaches tell him, he'll figure he can play the same way in the NFL that he did in college."
?Toughness. Vick missed one game and most of another with a sprained ankle last season but looked plenty tough against Virginia—16 for 23, 202 yards and one touchdown passing; 116 yards and three touchdowns rushing—three weeks after suffering the injury. "Look at those hits he's taking," Simms marveled after a Cavalier leveled Vick. Big hit after big hit. Vick also wasn't afraid to hang in and take the big hit against a Clemson defense that blitzed time and again. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown with only one interception in that game.
?Smarts. Hokies coaches told the Chargers that Vick was a quick learner, and the San Diego staff got the same impression after three chalk talks with him. "He's got eyes in the back of his head," Harris says of Vick's field presence. "He's a magician."
That leaves one question for the Chargers to investigate: What about Vick's personality, work ethic and desire? San Diego's failure to get an accurate reading of Leaf's character in 1998 proved devastating. Bobby Beathard, the team's general manager at the time, bought Washington State coach Mike Price's assurances that Leaf's checkered off-field history in college was a boys-will-be-boys thing. Leaf turned out to be disturbingly immature. This time Chargers quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson has spent more than two weeks on the Blacksburg campus, interviewing Vick and his coaches and teammates. "Mike's been there so much the whole athletic department calls him by his first name," Riley says. "He swears by Michael."
"You never know, because the agents always have the rookies so polished and ready to talk to the pro scouts and coaches," says Norv Turner, San Diego's new offensive coordinator, who made his reputation in the NFL by developing Troy Aikman into a Super Bowl champion. "But all the indications are that Michael is highly competitive and that all he wants to do is win. The key for him will be to channel that competitiveness into preparing well every day to be great. That was a big key for Steve Young when he sat behind Joe Montana."
Of course, Vick is miles from where Young was when he began his career with the 49ers in 1987. Vick is 20; by the time Young arrived in San Francisco he was 25. Vick has thrown 360 passes since high school; Young had thrown 1,968 passes—907 as a three-year starter at Brigham Young, 560 in two seasons with the USFL's Los Angeles Express and 501 in two seasons with the Bucs. As a redshirt freshman, Vick was an understudy to undistinguished passer Al Clark; as a freshman at BYU, Young was an understudy to NCAA record-setter Jim McMahon. Vick's quarterback coach and offensive coordinator was little-known Rickey Bustle; Young's position or head coaches included Mike Holmgren at BYU, Hall of Famer Sid Gillman with the Express and respected coordinator Jimmy Raye with the Bucs.
Young also benefited from a continuity in coaching philosophy. Walsh, Holmgren and Mike Shanahan directed him in the West Coast offense his first nine years in San Francisco. Vick will need that kind of stability, but Riley is coming off a 1-15 season that almost got him fired. Further, with new general manager John Butler calling the shots, Riley figures to be on the hot seat this year. (Leaf had three coaches—Kevin Gilbride, June Jones and Riley—in his first eight months with San Diego.) So what is Young's advice to Vick?