September 13, 2010

The curious case of Michael Vick.

If you're Andy Reid right now, you're in a pickle. And not the delicious kind that comes with a giant hoagie.

As much as you want to win this year, you also want to be competitive every season, to avoid the 4-12, 5-11 disasters that get coaches fired. You want to last long enough to stumble upon one of those "perfect" stretches where everything bounces your way, injuries don't cripple your stars and your team marches to a Super Bowl championship.

You're also stubborn as hell. You insist that Tony Hunt is a fullback, that J.R. Reed and Greg Lewis are punt returners, that Stacy Andrews is a guard. You seem to think you can plug players into your system at will and create a winner, because it's that damn good.

And now, for at least another week, Michael Vick is your starting quarterback.

There's no question you'll reinsert Kevin Kolb when he's healthy. At the very least, the Kolb we saw in the first half of Week 1 is not the Kolb we saw last year in spot-starting duty. We know he can be better than that, a lot better, and anyone rushing to judgment in that regard needs to take a couple deep breaths.

But you'd be a fool to ignore that Vick greatly, greatly outplayed Kolb, as both an athlete and a quarterback. He was dodging tackles, breaking into long runs, rifling passes downfield; all with a decimated offensive line. Vick looked like the Vick of old.

But do we want the Vick of old? The most successful Vick-led Falcons team was the one we upended in 2004, when Brian Dawkins destroyed Alge Crumpler and the Eagles finally made the Super Bowl. The Falcons were an entertaining, inconsistent team that never came close to living up to expectations. You can argue that Vick never had DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin-esque weapons, but you can also argue that if Donovan McNabb didn't "fit" in a West Coast offense, Vick surely won't.

That being said, what Kolb will end up becoming remains unknown. The preseason hype around him grew to insane levels, even if he seemed like the most level-headed man on Earth. I still think that Philadelphians will be patient with him, but not if he comes out with stinkers like that. The city could live with a mediocre 8-8 season, but we'd want to see silver linings in that dark-ish cloud. As a friend of mine recently put it, the dream is '08 Aaron Rodgers, with the hopes of a Rodgers '09-esque follow-up. But that seems farther away than ever now.

So what's a coach to do? If the goal of a National Football League coach is to win games in the present, not set yourself up for the future, Mike Vick might be the 2010 answer at quarterback. But if you're convinced that Kolb is the Eagles QB for the next half-dozen years, you throw him back in there, cross your fingers and hope that he gets his shit together, fast.

Of course, it's much more complex than that. I forget who it was, but someone on philly.com wrote that it doesn't matter what me, you, the psychotic callers on 610-WIP or Sal from Fishtown thinks about Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. It almost doesn't matter what Andy Reid thinks. If the other 51 players in the Eagles locker room believe that Vick gives the team a better chance to win than Kolb, there's going to be trouble. And after this week's horrifying first half, trouble is probably already brewing.

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