Philadelphia Eagles: The Curious Case of Michael Vick
Following the team’s most recent loss to the Atlanta Falcons, chants for the heads of Reid and quarterback Michael Vick echoed beyond the Linc and reverberated through all of Eagle fandom. By Wednesday, Reid dispelled questions about the immediate future of his quarterback and declared his commitment to Vick as the leader of the offense.
When asked if Vick would remain as the starter for the season, according to Phillymag.com Birds 24/7 blog, Reid said plainly , “Michael’s the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, yeah.”
Given the state of the Eagles' season, is Reid a fool or a sage for sticking with Vick?
Football veterans argue the case game by game. As the evidence mounts, many believe that Philadelphia must ride the Vick coaster all the way through to its final, fateful destination.
Offensive Line Collapse
Unforeseen injuries happen every year to every team, which is just one reason why roster depth is so vital to a winning team. Clearly, the Eagles blundered on building a skilled offensive line, particularly at center.
All-Pro Jason Kelce vanished from the line following a season-ending knee injury in Game 2. Enter Dallas Reynolds. A missed snap in Game 6 against Detroit was not Reynolds only missed assignment. At times, he appears not to know play execution or is just unable to execute his assignment.
The line has continued to flail at left tackle as well. When King Dunlap was injured early in the season, the position was awarded to Demetress Bell, giving Bell a second chance to prove his value. Unfortunately, he provided more evidence to support Dunlap as the better match for the position.
What would the Eagles 2012 record be if they had a starting offensive line?
Foles Can’t Handle the Truth (or Pass Rushers)
Which brings us to the second point: If you don’t have a start-worthy offensive line, what does that mean for the passer? Apparently, it means a weekly pound to the ground. Experts are doubtful 23-year-old Nick Foles could handle the pressure and pummeling.
According to numbers compiled by former Eagles quarterback and football commentator Ron Jaworski, Vick has been taken to the turf 103 times in Games 1 through 6 and hit an additional 44 times where he remained standing. To compare, in 2011 Vick was hit a total of 69 times in the 13 games that he played.
One-time NFL coach Brian Billick cautioned against Foles replacing Vick in an article he wrote for NFL.com.
“Don't forget the caliber of the offensive line that Foles would be playing behind as the starter. If it weren't for Vick's escapability, the Eagles would have given up many more than 20 sacks by now.”
Foles is an “untested and unproven rookie,” Jaworski said appearing ESPN Snap Decision.
On NFL live Edwards argued that the Eagles cannot replace “a $100 million contract player with a rookie.”
Edwards affirmed that Vick is the best choice for Philadelphia. “They’ve won three games. They’re built to win right now [with the current quarterback].”
Eagles beat reporter Tim McManus weighed in on Foles on his Eagles 24/7 blog at Phillymag.com.
“Not to overstate things, but Reid has to wonder just how long Foles would survive behind [offensive line coach] Howard Mudd’s mess. It’s borderline miraculous, honestly, that Vick hasn’t missed any time yet considering the abuse he is taking.”
Not overstated at all, Tim. More like you restated what so many others have said as well.
In Game 7 against the Atlanta Falcons, Vick completed 21-of-35 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown, playing his second turnover-free game of the season. Still, Philadelphia trailed and lost.
No matter who stands in the pocket, the passer requires continuous coverage to make the play. All things being equal, a QB is only as good as the wall between him and the 300-plus-pound pass rushers.
Benching Vick would have been the same as waving a white flag. Why would anyone question the Eagles’ reluctance to do that at this point? Sure, at 3-4, they face a 2.5-game deficit in the NFC East, but they are still very much in the thick of the wild-card race. And remember, the two most recent Super Bowls were won by teams with regular-season records of 9-7 and 10-6, respectively. – Brian Billick, NFL analyst
Football Outsiders uses what they call similarity scores to predict Vick’s future success. Using the FO system, Vick is matched to quarterbacks with similar stats. One of the top players most like Vick was none other than the quarterback he replaced, Donovan McNabb.
Vince Verhei of Football Outsiders draws this conclusion from the scores.
"That probably shows the influence Reid had over McNabb, and has over Vick. Essentially, Vick has become McNabb with a little more rushing ability, but also with more sacks and turnovers."
Verhei offers a final comment on the quarterback comparisons: The players found to most similar to Vick by the numbers were near the end of their careers. Six of the matches had two years or less left as starting quarterbacks.
That comparison may be the most accurate predictor of what lies ahead in the case and the future of Michael Vick.
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