The scene in the locker room following the Miracle at the New Meadowlands was about as memorable as the game itself. The players were absolutely euphoric. They had just erased a 21-point fourth quarter deficit on the road against their top rival, then plunged a stake through the Giants’ hearts with one of the top plays in franchise history — a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by DeSean Jackson with no time left on the clock.
But it wasn’t Jackson’s name that was echoing off the walls in the bowels of MetLife Stadium. It was Michael Vick‘s.
With the party already in full swing, Vick — who magically whipped up three scores (two passing, one rushing) in a span of about six minutes to set up the dramatic finish — made his way into the locker room. “Mike Vick!” one player called out. Then another. “Mike Vick!” Then another. “Mike Vick!” They were calls like you would hear from a fan to an idol.
“I joke with Mike all the time about in high school, my whole team had his cleats when he was playing in the NFL,” LeSean McCoy said back in 2010 following a comeback win over the Texans. “Now I’m in the same huddle with him, locker room with him, joking with him, texting him, calling him. I’m a fan of his. I just can’t show him too much. But it’s different. It’s the same for me, for Maclin, for DeSean. Us young guys, to be playing with him, we’re excited. We look up to him.”
This helps us put the current quarterback competition in its proper context. It shows us the challenge that may lie in front of Nick Foles.
Given Vick’s stature, it should come as little surprise that Jackson would predict that Vick would win the job, or grab his back when the QB said he’d like a starter named before camp. He’s like a big brother, only instead of playing against him in Madden growing up, you played as him.
How does Foles compete against that?
“I think what Nick has to do is be himself,” answered quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor Thursday. “His teammates will respect him when they know who he is and that he is genuine. What I see on the practice field is that when we’re out there and he’s running the offense, when I watch him get other guys lined up or tell them what to do, I see them react because they trust that he knows what they’re supposed to do.”
Chip Kelly is looking for accuracy and decision making out of his quarterback above all else, but there are obviously intangibles that are a big part of the position as well. A QB needs the team to respond to him and follow him. Lazor feels like Foles has managed to capture the respect and attention of his peers, even with the presence of someone like Vick on the roster.
“That’s all he has to do: be himself, be assertive when he needs to be assertive. If you walk out onto the field and your teammates know that you are the most prepared person that day for practice, then you’ve got their respect.
“I’m not in the showers with them, but everything I’ve seen on the field, he’s gotten the respect he needs from his teammates.”
Kelly said that every quarterback competition he held at Oregon produced a clear winner. If Foles outshines Vick this preseason, he should have no problem getting the team to rally behind him. If it’s close, you wonder if the legend of Vick comes into play.
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