"You have to become an artist to be a great quarterback in the NFL," he says, "and with Michael, there's obviously a tremendous amount to work with. I think NFL quarterbacks go through three stages. Stage one is, I'm in the NFL and I've got to make something happen. You figure, Why throw the ball five yards when I know I can make it myself? The next stage is learning when to take hits in the pocket, when to give up on plays. When you do run, you get what you can and get out of bounds. At stage three you realize the real truth about playing quarterback: You can't win a championship keeping the ball in your hands. Too many turnovers. Too many injuries. Now, your first thought on every play becomes, How do I get the ball to the talent? Even with his great gifts, Michael will learn—at least this is what I'd tell him—that the only way to win consistently is to spread the ball around."
With the exception of Walsh—he likes Vick's playmaking ability under pressure and his arm strength but figures it will take him too long to learn how to play quarterback in the NFL to warrant being the first pick—the panel thought Vick was worth the Chargers' risk. Of course, the opinion that matters most is Riley's. "The risk involved in making another big investment at quarterback is real," he says, "but we don't want to be scared away by it. We see Michael Vick and see he's special. Question is, can he transfer that to the NFL? We think so."
Barring a startling, last-minute trade opportunity, there is no alternative.