On Tuesday evening, this Philadelphia Eagles organization abandoned all of their former pretenses and made such a grand departure from their characterized approach to football that I really had to wonder, “Whose football team has this become?” In naming Michael Vick the starting quarterback, they’ve reversed position on more than just the statements they had made in the wake of trading Donovan McNabb to the rival Washington Redskins. They’ve also reversed position on a number of reliable tenets that the fans have come to expect in regard to this organization’s behavior.
The Eagles seemed to throw out their position on the high character locker-room when they signed Vick. In fairness, that’s a little misleading but they did seem willing to gamble their credibility on the premise of Vick’s talent (which is immense) versus his ability to keep his name out of the papers (which is impossible). Vick’s commitment to community action and dispensing his own personal cautionary story to the people has come across as perfunctory at best but the man is an athlete, not a public speaker.
As heinous as his crimes were, I genuinely felt that Vick had served his time for his transgressions against society and if some football organization had enough trust to put him on their roster, then he deserved the opportunity to prove himself. Unless it’s Philadelphia, because Philadelphia can’t handle it. This city, with it’s perpetual quarterback controversy, thinly-disguised racial tensions and seemingly psychological desire to be hated and reviled, seemed to be getting on the right track before the Vick signing. In the wake of a 2008 World Series win, a surprising number of people had been reinvigorated by the appeal of Philadelphia sports. Many had little to no interest in sports prior to the Championship win, but that’s what Championship wins do. They draw in a completely new audience, many of them entirely new to the appeal of professional sports. The Vick signing erased a lot of that piqued interest, at least for the Eagles. The decision was simply too controversial for people who were unfamiliar with professional football or this organization and in some cases it was too controversial for even the die-hard Philadelphia sports fans. After all, we’re talking about the most hated man in professional sports, a title Vick has held for the past two years. From a public relations point of view, this stunk out loud. But we all know that winning is the best deodorant.
Which I imagine is the primary influence the Eagles were acting under when they arrived at their final decision to name Vick the starter: They want to win and they want to do it now. It’s another character point the Eagles have reversed their position on by naming Vick the starter. Gone are the days of building for the future. Sure, the Eagles kept an astounding nine of thirteen 2010 draft picks on their 53 man roster. There are only two starters over the age of 30, who also happen to be the only holdovers from the 2004 Super Bowl team: Kicker David Akers and Safety Quintin Mikell. The average age of the Eagles roster is 25 and for the past six months, we’ve only heard positive things from this front office on the youth movement in this locker-room. The Eagles consistently shied away from the term rebuilding. They had traded away their 11-year-starting quarterback, the veritable face of the franchise Donovan McNabb. But Kevin Kolb has had three years to acclimate himself to the NFL and his two starts in 2009 had instilled some confidence in both the players and the fan-base as he racked up 300 yards in two games against the lowly Chiefs and the Super Bowl Champion Saints.
Maybe the Eagles should have leaned on rebuilding a little more. Perhaps they should have tempered expectations not just for Kevin Kolb, but for the young players who were expected to grow with him in this offense. Those young players have now had their confidence in Kevin Kolb rattled. As well, they should have their confidence in the offensive line rattled. Their confidence in themselves as young players, rattled. Their confidence in the loyalties of their head coach, rattled. Reid is a coach who has until now seemed loyal to a fault and up until yesterday the people of Philadelphia had heard so much of his faith in Kevin Kolb. It’s another one of those tenets that the Eagles had reversed position on with this move. The front office is now acting with the fickleness and flawed judgment of the Eagles fan-base, flitting from one quarterback with the fleeting infatuation of a teenage girl. Kevin Kolb was given ten passing plays to prove his mettle, and it was ten too many for the fans. I was shocked to find that it was ten too many for the coaches.
We’ll move on to watch the season with the only expectations anyone should have after the violent roster moves of this season: a Super Bowl win or falling short, a stunning farewell to the Andy Reid era. Then we’ll see how these Eagles feel about the word rebuilding.