He has long appreciated Tom Brady and got an up-close view of the quarterback’s ability in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Aaron Rodgers? Drew Brees? Lurie called them “some of the greatest players ever to play football.”
It was a long way of getting to his point: If the Eagles are going to be a Super Bowl team this season, it will be on the back of Michael Vick.
“We expect Michael Vick to have terrific year,” Lurie said at Lincoln Financial Field, before the Eagles’ final preseason game against the Jets. “That’s why he’s the starting quarterback. That’s why he’s been signed for a number of years. I have to say that Michael has been everything we could have asked and more in terms of the intangibles. Now we just need him to maximize that incredible God-given talent, stay healthy and deliver the kind of offensive performance that great quarterbacks can. This is a quarterback-driven league, and we will go as far as our quarterback play can take us, assuming that the rest of the team plays well.”
The story goes that Andy Reid had to convince Lurie to sign Vick back in the summer of 2009. Lurie had concerns about Vick – his past, his commitment to doing the right things off the field, the message such a move would convey to the fan base and the country.
Three years later, and Lurie’s concerns have been eased. Vick has exceeded expectations in those areas, but now the owner needs his quarterback to make progress on the field. He once again called 2011 – a season in which Vick threw 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, missed three games and was knocked out of two more – a disappointment.
Asked if he’s confident that Vick can play at the level of the other quarterbacks he mentioned, Lurie responded, “We hope so, but I’m not into prognosticating. I’m just saying we hope to see the elite Michael Vick that we saw the year before.”
And what about his chances of staying on the field?
“No matter who the quarterback, but with Michael, it’s very important that he do everything that he possibly can to try to stay healthy,” Lurie said. “It’s not a precise science, and so you’re going to have Matt Schaub going out for the year and Tom Brady a few years ago and Peyton [Manning] last year. You’re going to have things happen, but you just try to up the odds of making sure it doesn’t happen. I think there’s things that Michael can do to lower the chances of injury, but it’s a volatile game, and that’s a rough and tough position.”
It’s almost a year to the day that Vick signed a new contract with the Eagles, which paid him $35.5M in guaranteed money. But the team will have a decision to make after the season: Pay Vick $16.5M in 2013, or cut ties and move on.
“I feel like we’re there,” Lurie said, when asked about the team’s current talent level. “We’re trying to catch up, as are most teams, and yet I think humbled by the fact that there’s tremendous talent and there’s tremendous quarterback talent in the NFC that we didn’t see in the years when we had Donovan [McNabb]. We had by far the best quarterback in the division. Now you can say for the first time in many years, all four teams have pretty impressive potential quarterbacks.”
Lurie refused to tie the fates of Reid and Vick together. If the Eagles have what the owner deems a successful year in 2012, both men could be back next season. If Vick struggles, but Lurie still believes in Reid, he could allow the coach to stay and develop Nick Foles. And in perhaps the least likely scenario, Lurie could cut ties with Reid and let the new coach decide whether or not to keep Vick.
But however it plays out, the owner made one thing clear: He needs more from his franchise quarterback in 2012.
Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.