Eagles’ Biggest Mistake: Letting Vick Be Vick

Plus: the most touching post-game speech you'll ever see. (Grab some tissues.)

It’s amazing that there are some rational people who believe the Eagles’ offensive woes can be corrected by letting Michael Vick run around the field and try to freelance his way to big plays.

If we have reached the point where “letting Vick be Vick”–in other words, a halfback masquerading as a QB who substitutes disciplined play for the enticing but ultimately disappointing hope of big payoffs–is the answer, then this season is in bigger trouble than I thought. The problem isn’t that the Eagles have limited Vick; it’s that the rest of the NFL is doing it, and Vick isn’t capable of countering. As a result, the Eagles offense has become stagnant, and it’s clearer every week things aren’t going to change.

The Eagles can’t throw the ball deep, because teams are double-covering DeSean Jackson. Stripped of that option, Vick is forced to work the ball upfield methodically, hardly his strong suit. Allowing him to run around more and work outside the confines of the Eagles’ attack could well make the Saints defense, which has been historically bad to this point, look good. That’s the problem with Vick. He’s not a pocket passer, and opponents have figured out how to contain him when he runs around. In other words, the Eagles are not in very good shape with him under center.

It’s easy to think the solution to the Eagles’ offensive woes is to turn Vick loose. If he hasn’t been effective for the past season-plus, it can’t possibly be his fault. It must be coach Andy Reid’s unwillingness to let Vick be true to his essence. If only the quarterback were able to be himself, to be free, all would be right.

That’s a crock.

Letting Vick run more, take more chances and engage in risky behavior on the field will eliminate any chance the Eagles have of winning. Not only will he turn the ball over in bunches, he will also make himself more vulnerable to giant hits in the open field. For some, it’s the ultimate risk-reward. They believe if Vick takes some chances, he will make the kinds of big plays necessary to win. That’s the kind of poor logic that led many to become infatuated with Vick in the first place and convinced two different teams to bestow nine-figure contracts on him. Vick may be exciting when he’s darting about, but he hasn’t been effective in the past 25 games playing that way. The NFL has figured out how to contain him by making him a pocket passer, the last thing he wants to be.

Another reason the generic, “let Vick be Vick” plea is a mistake is that it furthers the me-first culture that seems to have infected the team. Certain players believe that they alone are responsible for lifting the Eagles out of the mire. If Vick is given more freedom to operate outside the constraints of an offensive system that has been successful repeatedly during Andy Reid’s tenure, he undermines a team-first approach that is necessary for overall success. Then again, as someone who has pretty much spent his career creating an image that has been anything but team-centric, it would make sense that Vick wants to be set free.

Against the Saints, who have been rotten defensively this year, it might work. But it won’t be successful in the long run. That is the problem with handing the offense over to Vick. He is unable to run a classic attack that requires him to make sound reads and consistently good decisions. He has always been in search of less-structured situations, the better to rely on his ability to run. That’s not how quarterbacks win big in the NFL, and it’s not how the Eagles are going to mount a rally over the final nine weeks of the season.

One gets the feeling that Reid is struggling mightily to figure out how to coach Vick. At first, he allowed Vick the freedom to improvise. But once the Giants taught the league how to stop him in the Miracle in the Meadowlands II game, that approach was rendered useless. From that point, it has been a matter of trying to fit Vick into an attack that is not tailored to his skill set. Reid has tweaked things from week-to-week, but the results have been spotty. Now that the Eagles are struggling, and the offense is bland and unproductive, there is a tendency to blame it on the attempts to make Vick play a more conservative, structured game. What’s the antidote? Turn him loose.

That’s not the answer. If the Eagles want to mount a playoff run, they need a quarterback capable of playing well within the confines of Reid’s attack, not someone who wants to chart his own course. Don’t let Vick be Vick. Hope that he can be a winning NFL quarterback.

For a change.


  • The Sixers are going to struggle without Andrew Bynum, and Sunday’s loss to the Knicks shows they don’t have much of a margin for error without the center. The Sixers had trouble defensively, didn’t shoot the ball all that well and turned it over too much. It’s going to be a while until Bynum is ready, and the Sixers had better hope they hold it together until he can play.
  • What do you know? The boneheads who run hockey and the players’ association might have had substantive talks over the weekend. They say they want to keep working. Yahoo! Of course, the NHL has already cancelled the one game everybody in the country wants to see, the Winter Classic. Keep holding to the hard line, folks. See how it hurts your sport.
  • If you haven’t seen the post-game speech given to the Colts by ailing coach Chuck Pagano, who is fighting leukemia, watch it immediately. Pagano is defiant, emotional and resolute in applauding his 5-3 team. If you don’t get chills from watching it, check your pulse.