Vick deal: too close to call

Weeksix

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October 17, 2004|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

Four years after the trade that framed the 2001 draft, which team made out better? The Atlanta Falcons for getting precocious quarterback Michael Vick? Or the San Diego Chargers for acquiring prodigious running back LaDainian Tomlinson?

Because Vick inspired the Falcons' playoff run in 2002 - and Tomlinson has amassed more than 5,000 rushing yards so far for the Chargers - there is no obvious winner in the trade. Yet.

For the right to select Vick at the top of the 2001 draft, the Falcons gave San Diego first- and third-round picks that year, a second-round choice in 2002 and receiver/kick returner Tim Dwight.

The Chargers wound up with Tomlinson, wide receiver Reche Caldwell and cornerback Tay Cody, in addition to Dwight. Only Cody, cut after two seasons, is no longer with the team.

In the big picture, both teams got what they wanted. Vick gave the Falcons an immensely talented, if unrefined, quarterback to build around. Tomlinson gave the Chargers a cornerstone running game and what little credibility they have.

Today in Atlanta, the two teams play each other for the first time since the trade. Here is an unofficial scorecard going into the meeting.

Impact: Vick has produced 34 touchdowns and 17 wins (with one tie) in 28 starts, including the playoffs. Tomlinson has scored 46 touchdowns and rushed for 5,035 yards, and the Chargers have won a total of 20 games. Edge: Falcons, barely.

Durability: Tomlinson hasn't missed a game in the NFL. Vick played as many as 15 games only once and his broken leg ruined the team's season a year ago. Edge: Chargers.

2004: Vick has the Falcons at 4-1, completing 60.7 percent of his attempts. But he has only two touchdown passes and is 13-for-27 on third down. Tomlinson has rushed for 471 yards, helping the Chargers to a 3-2 start. Edge: Chargers.

Potential: Vick's upside is huge, assuming he can master the West Coast offense and stay healthy for a whole season. The Chargers are wasting Tomlinson's best years in the short life span of a running back. Edge: Falcons.

Conclusion: Given the development of Caldwell this year and Dwight's return ability, the Chargers probably have the advantage at the moment. Given that Vick should have a longer - and perhaps brighter - career, the Falcons could win at the end.

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