It’s a word players and coaches alike hate to use.
Another group who hates the word are the fans. They shiver with dread at the thought of having to wait another year until their team can be a contender.
In short, a rebuilding year for a fan means no chance to brag, no chance to dance on a table in February, your expectations are lowered and nobody wants to experience that.
One team that went under severe reconstruction recently was the Philadelphia Eagles. Once a strong foundation, the Eagles had been to the playoffs seven out of the last nine seasons, and made the NFC Championship game in five of those appearances, and went to the Super Bowl once.
The boys in green were made up of the finest materials that seemed to stand the test of time.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb always found a way to stay the team’s starter even when the sea started to surge. He was benched once in 2008, dealt with fickle fans, disappointing losses last season to teams he should have beaten (cough, Oakland), and I haven’t even mentioned his feud with egotistical wide receiver Terrell Owens that feels like forever ago.
The first sign the Eagles were ready to chance their franchises course occurred during the 2009 offseason. Long time defensive leader Brian Dawkins was shown the door by the front office, a move that shocked Eagles fans.
Then it was finally McNabb’s turn to ship out, as he was traded to Washington for a second- and third-round pick. The Eagles also released running back Brian Westbrook that same year. So in two offseasons, three faces of the franchise moved on.
As they departed, you could almost sense darker days ahead.
The question regarding who would step in for those three keystones was only one of many problems Philly faced in 2010. Another problem was their offensive line, a unit that was lackluster and expected to protect a new quarterback. Also, their defense was inexperienced and couldn’t stay healthy. But perhaps most important, their team had no identity.
The guy who the Eagles had been grooming to reestablish that identity was former University of Houston standout Kevin Kolb. Viewed as the team’s quarterback of the future, it was Kolb’s turn to try and steer the Eagles towards a Super Bowl.
But although fans were refreshed to finally have a new face running their team, Kolb never seemed to have their confidence. That feeling was solidified after Week 1, when Kolb threw for a miserable 24 yards on 10 attempts.
Many experts seemed to agree Kolb wasn’t ready either. But the uncertainty regarding how the franchise would circle the wagons didn’t last long. Michael Vick, in just his second season after his release from prison, has established a new attitude in Philadelphia. He has become the means to an end, the end being a chance at a sixth division title in 10 years.
Vick is like the truss of the bridge that is the Eagles offense because he distributes weight equally to all its components. He takes stress off the offensive line with his ability to make plays on his feet. Also, the running back and receivers have more time to break off their routes and get open.
But most important, he keeps the defense honest.
You could argue that Vick hasn’t beaten a team worth noting as of yet, and I would agree with you. But at least he’s beating the teams he should beat, unlike McNabb, who lost last year to the likes of Oakland. Also, in a classic “come on, man" moment, McNabb ended up tying a terrible Cincinnati Bengals team in 2008 because he didn’t know the overtime rules.
To further reiterate how important Vick has been to the offense, consider these stats.
Vick has been on the field for a total of 10 quarters this season, and in that time the team he has racked up 80 points. Of those points, 49 of them have come from either Vick running or passing for a touchdown.
Vick also has zero interceptions and zero fumbles on the year, which is stunning considering problems with ball security plagued his career in Atlanta. I am sure he’ll come back to earth and cough up a few, but the feat itself is still impressive.
Not only has Vick given Philadelphia something to be excited about every Sunday, his talent has allowed one of the most consistently winning franchises to bypass the rebuilding phase.
This is the same phase that has kept teams like Detroit, Buffalo, Oakland, and St. Louis out of the playoff picture for years, and that only strengthens Vick’s legacy.