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September 22, 2010

Eagles 2010: Farce or Tragedy?

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Written by: Vin
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andyreid_michaelvick

When the news flashed across the wires that Michael Vick was the new starting QB of the Philadelphia Eagles, I could only shake my head in disbelief. Just last week, I wrote:

“[Reid] is not going to wither under media and fan pressure to start Michael Vick. First, because he knows Michael Vick is not the long term answer at QB… More importantly, because admitting he made a mistake in anointing Kevin Kolb the future one game into the season would mean that Andy made a mistake in evaluating Kolb’s talent. For four years. … His concussion might force Kolb to sit versus the Lions but as soon as he’s healthy, Kevin Kolb will be back under center.”

Oops.

This isn’t about being wrong. This is about being wrong about Reid as a coach. Despite all the complaints about Reid as a head coach (poor clock management, passing too much, lack of a running game, arrogance, etc.), the one positive trait that always stood out was his ability to remain calm and steer the ship towards his destination. We might not have always agreed on the course he chose, but we knew that he would never panic and overcorrect. After all, that’s the type of knee jerk behavior that gets other coaches around the league fired.

So what does Andy do? He throws everything out the window and makes a knee jerk reaction. What in the name of Rich Kotite is going on here?

When Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington, the fans were told that Kevin Kolb was ready to take over as the franchise QB. In fact, an endless parade of fluff pieces in the local papers and the team’s official website made sure that the fans fully grasped how wonderful Kevin Kolb was. Two weeks into the season and we already get a nevermind. So instead of a year when Kevin Kolb would be taking his first steps toward developing into a “championship-caliber quarterback”, we are in a year where we absolutely can win a Super Bowl with Michael Vick at QB? Are we now (and have always been) at war with Eastasia?

How can Reid possibly believe the things he was saying at the press conference announcing the decision? In pushing his case that starting Michael Vick was the right choice, he repeatedly cited Vick’s stats and QB rating “in the National Football League right now.” This isn’t what Reid does. He makes it a point that stats and ratings are stuff that writers and fans point to when evaluating a player. Andy Reid evaluates players by what he sees on the field and they cannot be reduced to a set of numbers. After all, Andy is the head football coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and you’re not.

This whole affair is so outside of the norm that I have to believe something sinister is afoot here. But we’ll discuss that later in conspiracy theories. For now, let’s take Andy at his word and assume that after 1.5 weeks of play, he is convinced that Michael Vick is a better quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles this year and can win a Super Bowl with this team.

Let’s be realistic here. The Eagles couldn’t win a Super Bowl this year with Steve Young at quarterback. If Reid can make knee jerk conclusions based on a sample size of two weeks, then so can we. The offensive line is putrid and the defense sits amongst the bottom feeders of the league in almost every category and is dead last in points allowed per game.

Even if Michael Vick has become a better pocket passer than he was in Atlanta, is that enough? Many times in the Detroit game, Vick pulled the ball down in a hurry before letting the plays develop and made a play with his legs. I readily admit that Vick was sensational against the Lions. But he was sensational in the way that he’s always been sensational: by making plays with his legs and then, sometimes his arm.

I’m not trying to (as the kids say) hate on Vick. I’m revising my projection from 7 wins to 9 wins this season with Vick at the helm. With the porous offensive line, Vick has the escapability to make a few plays that could turn two games in the Eagles’ favor. However, despite all the protestations by the Eagles brass to the contrary, this has always been a transition year. The argument for jettisoning McNabb is the same as the one for not starting Vick: this team is simply not good enough to make a Super Bowl run. Michael Vick will win you a couple games this season but he is not the one to bring home the hardware.

For some fans, a 10 win season and a playoff appearance is enough. But some of us hope for a Super Bowl victory at some point in our lifetimes. By starting Vick, you are delaying the development and/or evaluation of Kevin Kolb. I don’t know if Kevin Kolb is the one to deliver us to the promised land. But I’d like to find out sooner rather than later. If Kolb is a complete stiff, fine. Let’s go draft someone and build around that guy.

What I do know is that this team, right now, is not a championship caliber team. At the start of the season, I was fine with that. This isn’t the last year of NFL football (right?) and it will take a couple of years to plug up some of the holes on the team while Kevin Kolb develops. At least that was the plan.

I had assumed Lurie and Banner would give Andy at least a couple more years to show what he could do with his second hand picked QB. But maybe there’s more pressure on Reid from the front office than we thought. It’s possible the directive is to win now and they’ll worry about the future if Vick fails. This is the type of short term thinking that will fill the coffers but will never get you the prize that matters most.

Without all the facts on the machinations of the front office, I can’t completely bury Reid. This may be out of his hands. (After all, there is a very real possibility that this decision was made by Lurie — which would mean this season is both a farce and a tragedy — and does not portend good things for Eagles fans.) But if this is Reid’s call and Reid’s call only as he stated in the press conference, then I am sorely disappointed. This is the kind of hasty decision making that is indicative of teams like the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, and the Oakland Raiders. I never thought I’d see the day when Andy Reid succumbed to the groundswell of fans’ myopia or possibly even locker room sentiment. Especially when that decision is wrong.

Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy Theories, though usually the playground of idiots, are sometimes the most fun to write about. Here are a bunch of them trying to make sense of this fiasco. (And yes, they contradict each other.)

  • The Eagles front office wants to take attention away from the Phillies and ordered Andy to do this.
  • Andy never wanted to trade McNabb in the first place. This is his rebellion against the front office triumvirate of Lurie, Banner and Howie. If Vick fails, both of them are out of here.
  • Andy knows that the offensive line is going to get his quarterback killed. He is sacrificing Michael Vick while protecting his handpicked QB until he can shore up the Oline in the offseason.
  • Andy doesn’t want to watch McNabb destroy Kolb in week 4. He can much better stomach McNabb killing Vick, who he didn’t want in the first place.
  • The Eagles are showcasing Vick in order to get a high draft choice for him before the trade deadline.
  • Even if they don’t trade Vick, Andy knows the next stretch of games will be very hard. With games against Jacksonville, Washington, SF, Atlanta, and Tennessee coming up before the bye, the Eagles only have 2 wins. If Andy reinserts Kolb after the bye, at that point, the fanbase won’t be able to clamor for Vick because we’re 2-5.
  • Andy purposefully set up Kolb to fail so he could bring in Vick, whom he has wanted to be the starter all along. How else could you explain the playcalling in week 1?

Postscript

The line on the Eagles to win the Super Bowl on the football betting sites has already moved from 40-1 to 25-1. Suckers born every minute?



About the Author

Vin
Vin
Vin is a Philly boy who shouldn't be invited into your house because he'll judge you on your book and music collection. He owns Dawkins, Utley, Iverson, and Lindros jerseys, which is all you really need to know about him. He can be reached at vin@sportscolumn.com.




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