Why It’s Time for Eagles to End the Michael Vick Experiment
By this time next week, the NFL will have crowned the 53rd consecutive champion not named the Philadelphia Eagles. While the Birds prepare for their exciting, new world under Chip Kelly, a huge decision looms over the next 10 days.
Actually, the judgment on whether to pay Michael Vick $3 million on Feb. 6th isn’t all that difficult. If the Eagles are interested truly in charting a new course, they absolutely cannot keep the quarterback who helped hasten their slide into NFL mediocrity. Paying Vick even a nickel more than the team has already sent his way would be a huge mistake. During his four seasons here, Vick has had one very good stretch—his 2010 aberration—and plenty of the infuriating play that came to characterize his final seasons in Atlanta. We don’t need any more of that here. Even if Kelly has to recycle one of his former Oregon QBs to operate his offense, it would be a better situation than even one more day of Vick in the Eagles’ world.
Vick is not an accurate quarterback. His decision-making skills are poor. He is not a leader, is injury prone and isn’t half the devastating running threat when he first came to town, much less during his run-around prime in Atlanta. Mistaking his propensity to bolt from the pocket at the first sign of danger, usually after a poor pre-snap read, as an indication that he would be perfect for Kelly’s spread option offense is dead wrong. The belief that QBs in the Kelly scheme are primarily runners is incorrect. They are first and foremost decision makers, and that is hardly Vick’s forte.
It may seem logical and easy to use Vick to help with the 2013 transition from Andy Reid to Kelly, but it would prohibit the Eagles from moving forward. Vick is clearly on the downside of his career, and thanks to the concussion problems he has had over the past couple seasons, is one big hit (or maybe even a small one) away from being shelved for good.
More than that, he represents the last gasp of Reid’s tenure, when the team was less interested in finding players who could actually contribute and more prone to signing flashy performers who couldn’t fit into a winning team concept. Vick was fun at times to watch, but he ultimately was ill equipped to run an NFL offense. Even if Kelly’s system is better suited for the college game, Vick is not his man.
By the way, the Eagles don’t owe Vick a thing. What began as a reclamation project and a grand gesture by Reid at a time when Vick was considered the football equivalent of yellowcake uranium by many NFL teams grew into more than either party could have ever imagined. If the Birds cut Vick, he won’t be able to collect the full $100 million from his contract, but he will have earned about $40 mil and have taken a large step toward financial solvency. He will have also shown some desperate teams—perhaps even Reid’s Chiefs—that he has enough left to be a stopgap starter in the league. But not in Philadelphia.
Though the 2013 season is likely to be about stopgap solutions at many positions for the Eagles, they can’t entrust the offense to Vick. His time is through in this town, especially after his comments following the season-ending debacle in the Meadowlands. If he were truly a leader, Vick would have spoken to his teammates away from the media eye and motivated them to play harder and more selflessly during the season’s ugly middle section. Instead, he was unable to help create a culture of professionalism in the locker room and chose to explain his shortcomings this year as a by-product of his teammates’ ineffectiveness and poor attitudes. His comments about many Eagles’ performances may have been dead on, but by choosing to air them publicly, rather than handling that business in a team setting, Vick showed just how selfish he can be. Kelly doesn’t need that kind of me-first player on his first team, especially at the most important position on the field.
Vick will be remembered by some for the stretch of time in 2010 when NFL defenses couldn’t solve his skills, and he helped the Eagles to the NFC title. Others will focus on his decay over the past two seasons, when injury and wise opposing defensive coaches conspired to render him ordinary, and at times, so turnover prone that he was a huge detriment to the Eagles’ attack. The deadline for Vick’s bonus payday is fast approaching, and the team must let it pass without cutting another check to the quarterback.
The Reid Era is done. It’s time to conclude the Vick Experiment, too.
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