After Kevin Kolb showed he may not exactly be “Philly Tough” and Michael Vick proved he can be effective in a pass-first offense, talk is brewing that the Philadelphia Eagles could be in the midst of one of the most high-profile quarterback battles since Steve Young vs. Joe Montana.
Since Reid took a chance on Vick by signing him basically off the street (if not out of the penitentiary) back in August of 2009, he has faced numerous questions about Vick’s situation and how he planned to use him in Philadelphia.
At that time, questions surrounding Vick most commonly dealt with whether Vick was still in “football shape,” if he would ever return to his role as a full-time quarterback, or if he would just become a gadget player for the NFL’s newly popular wildcat formation.
Again, Reid wasn’t worried. Since day one of Vick’s journey with the Eagles, Reid has known exactly what the former No. 1 draft pick was capable of on the playing field.
Off-the-field questions were unimportant. Could Vick stay out of trouble, how would then starter Donovan McNabb react, and how would the signing affect public opinion of the Eagles’ organization simply didn’t matter, and Reid was smart enough and bold enough to realize that.
Reid knew one thing, and has repeated it constantly in regards to almost any question he’s been asked about having Vick on his roster: “It’s a beautiful thing.”
And it is a beautiful thing. But not nearly as beautiful as the bigger picture that Reid has painted at the quarterback position over the past few years in Philadelphia.
When Reid took over the Eagles in 1999 he showed just how important he knew the quarterback position was by selecting Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, consequently leading to six Pro Bowl appearances for McNabb, five NFC Championship games, and a Super Bowl appearance in 2004 for the Eagles.
But while McNabb has been Reid’s most publicized player at the position, it is perhaps his more recent moves at the position that are most intriguing.
In the 2007 NFL Draft, after McNabb had faced two injury- and criticism-filled seasons, Reid traded out of the first-round and selected Kevin Kolb out of Houston with the 36th overall pick.
To Philly fans, Kolb was a safety net, a guy who could push McNabb and offer a respectable replacement for McNabb’s possible benching or departure.
For Reid, that pick was the beginning of what could be one of the greatest team-building orchestras ever conducted in the NFL.
Following Kolb’s selection in 2007, the Eagles have signed Michael Vick, traded away McNabb, named Kolb the starter, drafted Mike Kafka, started Vick, and most recently, benched a healthy Kolb in favor of Vick.
All of which may seem like a whirlwind that would leave any coach a little bit dizzy. But again, for Reid it's all is going as planned.
Reid knows that to survive in Philadelphia’s hostile sports environment he has to make calls that other coaches in the league wouldn’t dream of, and at times, allow his players to deal with some of Philadelphia's hostility on their own.
He also knows that since the quarterback is the most important position in the NFL, and that because backups at the position rarely see significant playing time, he can use them to better his team in other ways than putting them on the field.
This strategy has been embedded in Reid since his days as an offensive line coach with the Green Bay Packers, in which they used Brett Favre’s durability as a way to develop and distribute the quarterbacks who played behind him.
The first was Mark Brunell, a fifth-round pick in 1993 who was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 for a third- and fifth-round pick in that year’s NFL Draft.
Next, was 1998 sixth-round pick Matt Hasselbeck, who currently starts for the Seattle Seahawks and led them to a Super Bowl in 2005. Hasselbeck was traded to Seattle in 2001, with the Packers sending him, their first-round (17th overall) pick, and seventh-round pick for Seattle’s first-round (10th overall) pick and third-round pick.
Now, as head coach of the Eagles, Reid has possibly pulled off a double switch by trading McNabb, raising Kolb’s value by making him a starter, and now opening up the possibility of dealing Kolb to acquire extra draft picks.
When Reid dealt McNabb to the Washington Redskins this offseason, he received their second-round (37th overall) pick and a conditional third- or fourth-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
The Eagles have already begun to benefit from their decision to trade McNabb by using the second-round pick from the Redskins to draft safety Nate Allen out of South Florida. Allen is already a starter for Philadelphia and has recorded nine tackles and two interceptions in just two games.
It’s a safe bet that Kolb wouldn’t quite be worth the second-, and likely third-round picks that McNabb was, but it isn’t out of the question to think that a team would be willing to spend a third- and a fifth-round pick on Kolb, which could give Reid plenty of high-round drafting power to build his team around Vick.
Maybe Reid was just trying to make the best decisions he could on an individual basis and everything just kind of fell into place, or maybe this really was how he envisioned this whole situation playing out.
Either way, Vick will have to prove that he can remain effective as a starter this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars and against the rest of his competition between now and the October 19th NFL trade deadline for the Eagles to even start taking calls for Kolb, but if he does, and if they do trade Kolb, Eagles' coach Andy Reid may have really pulled off “a beautiful thing.”
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