By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
The soap opera that is your 2010 Philadelphia Eagles is the continuing story of a head coach who has flip-flopped on things more than a politician running for office, a broken promise to a young quarterback and an unlikely chance for a veteran seeking redemption from a troublesome path.
This week’s theater of the absurd actually has its roots earlier this season, Jan. 11, to be exact. When head coach Andy Reid was quoted in several publications as saying that Donovan McNabb would be starting quarterback for the 2010 season.
Three months later, McNabb is headed down I-95 South to D.C to become a member of the Washington Redskins. It was the dawning of the Kevin Kolb Era, which lasted for the first 30 minutes when he sustained a concussion. Even after six brilliant quarters by Michael Vick, Reid steadfastly said Kolb was his starter as late as his Monday press conference.
And then on Tuesday…Reid flipped again and named Vick as his starter until further notice. Okay, you know the pattern. My gut feeling on this whole drama dating back to January is that the real power behind Reid’s back-and-forth decision-making exists at the twin peaks of Mount Jeffrey Lurie and his sidekick Joe Banner. Reviewing the tape of the Tuesday’s press conference, Reid’s facial expression and body language seemed to indicate to me that he was ordered to make that move.
While listening to the local sports talk shows to gauge reaction to Vick becoming the starter, former Eagles linebacker and WIP talk-show host Ike Reese said (paraphrasing) that coaches routinely tell players one thing and often do another when it comes to players future with a team. That’s certainly the case throughout the last nine months with the powers that be that run the Eagles.
That’s why it’s going to be difficult to believe anything Reid says until you actually see it. He lost lots of credibility points with this move. At the rate things are going right now being Reid’s guy might be the kiss of death.
Although I am happy to see Vick get a chance at redemption on the field, you have to feel for Kolb. While he struggled in the first half against Green Bay, it wasn’t enough time to see if he can really play the game. NFL history is littered with great quarterbacks who looked like crap in their first half as starters and ultimately became among the best of all time. Legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas had his first NFL pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Kolb deserves another opportunity to redeem himself.
Kolb has worked hard for the last three years to get ready for his time as a starting quarterback for the Eagles only to have it snatched it away after an injury and just 30 minutes of play is just unfair. The unwritten rule of a player losing his job because of an injury was definitely violated. Like any young player, Kolb needs time to grow and learn from his mistakes if he’s going to be your franchise quarterback. For all the money the team has invested in him, the Eagles organization has done Kolb a huge disservice. One half of football is simply not enough.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Kolb demands to be traded at some point. Oddly enough, there have been reports from various news sources that the quarterback-starved Cleveland Browns, whose general manager is former Birds GM Tom Heckert, are reportedly interested in Kolb’s services.
Meanwhile, Vick will assume the starting quarterback role with the understanding that he doesn’t have any room for error. Quite a few fans and football observers are unimpressed by his showing against the Packers because they were in a prevent defense after jumping out to a big lead and against the lowly Detroit Lions because they have one of the worst defenses in the league.
From this point forward, Vick has to show the world that he can be a true NFL quarterback that can stay in the pocket and read defenses. Despite rolling up 39 wins during his career in Atlanta, Vick’s detractors will point to his 53 percent completion percentage and his willingness to run first instead of going through his reads.
Among all the football media pundits and experts, former Falcons head coach Jim Mora Jr. and Reese, who played with Vick for two years, both say that Vick they knew in Atlanta back in 2005 and 2006 is not the same guy from the two weeks of the 2010 season.
What folks saw in Vick last Sunday was a guy who was going through the progressions of finding receivers while facing a pass rush that poured through the Birds offensive line. He completed 21-of-34 passes for 284 yards. He used his legs to buy time in the pass pocket and ran the ball for 37 yards to move the chains.
And that was the result of a guy who spent hours going through film study and understanding the nuances of the Eagles offense.
The real test of Vick’s transformation is will he able to duplicate the performance of his first six quarters on a more consistent basis against some of the league’s better defenses. Another question for Vick is how will handle the often times visceral criticism from both the fans and the media if he has a bad game? If he throws two interceptions in an Eagles loss, you can better believe the fans and media will be clamoring for Kolb.
The one intangible that Vick has amidst all the slings and arrows of rabid Philly sports fans will come from the strength of his own resolve to re-write the legacy of his life as a football player and as a man.
After spending over a year in a federal prison, the pressure of being the Eagles quarterback will be a walk in the park for Vick. For a man who hit rock bottom and nearly saw the destruction of his career, Vick is motivated to show people that he can be a good man on and off the field.
Vick does give the Eagles their best chance to win. He just has to go out there and do it.