Both were immensely talented quarterbacks that had the uncanny ability to create a play out of thin air when everything broke down. Both had a cannon of an arm but struggled with reading defenses, knowing when to run and when to pass, and staying healthy over extended periods of time.
The Eagles never won a Super Bowl with Randall Cunningham; in fact, they never even came close to reaching one. The Eagles won just one playoff game with Cunningham, never so much as reaching the NFC title game.
With Vick, the Eagles have been one-and-out in their lone playoff appearance; the team stumbled to a 1-4 start and missed the playoffs at 8-8 in 2011.
Vick was highly criticized in Atlanta—and rightfully so. He was erratic, frequently injured and he showed the typical signs of a classic running quarterback that wants to tuck the ball and run, rather than wait to find an open receiver.
He showed glimpses of brilliance in 2010, winning the starting job over Kevin Kolb and turning in an MVP-caliber performance down the stretch. He catapulted the Eagles to a once-in-a-lifetime type comeback win over the New York Giants, culminating in a walk-off punt return for the ages by teammate DeSean Jackson.
Vick’s six-touchdown performance (four passing, two rushing) against Washington on Monday Night Football is the highest-rated game in the history of ESPN’s QBR formula (99.8 out of 100). Vick had the Eagles looking like Super Bowl contenders before the team stumbled to a humiliating Tuesday Night Football loss to the Minnesota Vikings, then a loss with the backups against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, and a disappointing five-point loss to the eventual world champion Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, a game that ended with a Vick interception in the final minute of action.
Vick's critics point to his obvious flaws, namely his inability to stay healthy. Vick will be 32 years old when the 2012 season starts, and given that he can be released after the season at no penalty to the salary cap, the time to win is now. That brings us to the question: Can it be done? Can the Eagles—a team that couldn’t win with Ron Jaworski, Cunningham or McNabb really win with Vick?
No question about it. I’m not saying it will happen. I don’t think the Eagles will win a Super Bowl with Vick, because I don’t think he has much time left as a starting quarterback in the NFL. But Vick is just one player on the team, and while the quarterback position obviously has much more significance than any other position on the roster, thinking the Eagles can’t win with Vick is putting too much power in the hands of Vick and too little in the hands of all the other weapons—offensive and defensive—on the team.
The Baltimore Ravens won with Trent Dilfer. The Washington Redskins won with Mark Rypien and Doug Williams. The New York Giants won with Eli Manning, back when he really wasn’t that good of a quarterback. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won with Brad Johnson.
It’s certainly not as if the Eagles have no talent surrounding them. The 2012 Eagles are significantly different from the teams Cunningham played on. These Birds have All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy carrying the ball, two standout receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, an underrated tight end in Brent Celek and a top-notch defensive line that can simply get to the quarterback.
The Eagles set the franchise record for points scored in Vick’s first year as a starter (2010), and he didn’t even start the entire season.
The loss of Jason Peters is monstrous and can’t be overstated. But Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce are entering year two under Howard Mudd’s system, and Evan Mathis was re-signed to a five-year deal. Add in draft picks like Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin and Marvin McNutt, and the Eagles have a strong rookie class that will undoubtedly help the team win some football games.
And don’t rule out undrafted rookie free agent running backs Chris Polk and Bryce Brown making a strong impact in the running game.
I’m not saying Vick is an elite quarterback. Back when Vick was with the Falcons, I hated the way he played the game, and I’m still not a fan of it. He’s too inconsistent and I still think he struggles to be the franchise quarterback Andy Reid thinks he is. But remember the tear Vick went on down the stretch in 2010? That’s really all a team needs to win the Super Bowl—a handful of games getting hot at the right time, a la the 2007 New York Giants or the 2011 Giants, both of which snuck into the postseason and utilized an efficient performance by Manning to emerge as world champions.
The NFC East is up for grabs next year, and I definitely think the Eagles can take the division. Getting home-field advantage—or at least a first-round bye—would mean the Eagles need to win just three games to win it all.
It’s bound to happen sometime. Mobile quarterbacks have traditionally struggled to win the big ones, and those that have—Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway, Aaron Rodgers—also were phenomenal passers. Vick is not a phenomenal passer.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger posting a 22.6 passer rating in the biggest game of his life, thanks to the defense and a clutch pass from wide receiver Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward.
Say McCoy carries the load like Terrell Davis in the playoffs, the defensive line rushes the quarterback like the Giants, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shut down the opposing wide receivers and Vick minimizes his mistakes and makes a few plays through the air and with his feet.
It could happen.