Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid is a tough man by nature. Staring down the barrel of a television camera never poses any real threat, but at the same time, Andy Reid quite often expresses a laid-back attitude when queried on his team, never letting his emotions get the better of him.
Touch Andy Reid's quarterback though, and you're dead meat.
Several days after Philadelphia's clash with the Houston Texans in Week 13, many of the Eagles coaching staff took to expressing their frustration with late hits on their quarterback, claiming that untimely collisions are becoming a frequent problem for Michael Vick.
Vick, who has thrown for 2,243 yards, 15 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions all season long, has recently felt the pressure of opposing defenders, especially when it comes to scrambling out of the pocket and exercising his quick feet.
I guess if you were to ask any of the other 31 quarterbacks throughout the league, they would greet Michael Vick with one plain and simple statement: "Welcome back to the NFL".
As typical as this may seem from a player standpoint though, the Eagles sideline is tired of seeing Vick pick himself up off the turf each and every Sunday, and has finally decided to voice their opinions publicly in Week 13.
But as long as we are discussing Michael Vick's delicate issue of hard/late hits, are the Eagles overprotecting their quarterback a little too much with four weeks remaining in the season?
Before this debate can even be discussed, the value of Michael Vick to Philadelphia certainly has to be determined right now.
1. The Running Game
The running game in Philadelphia looked to be allocated to LeSean McCoy this season, and even though McCoy has had a breakout year since the departure of Brian Westbrook a season ago, Michael Vick's sole brilliance has overshadowed his efforts.
For the most part, the biggest reason behind the Eagles worrisome ways is the fact that Vick now must be a little more cautious when scrambling out of the pocket. Two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears, Vick was hammered for four sacks, and now that DeMarcus Ware awaits in Week 14, Andy Reid isn't taking any precautions.
"It bothers me, to be honest with you," Andy Reid told reporters on Friday. "He does run, but he's still the quarterback, and you can't treat him like he's a running back there. That's not what the rules state."
James Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers may disagree, but Andy Reid is right. The concussion rate has been immensely high this season, and considering that the Eagles did lose Kevin Kolb due to this exact circumstance in Week 1, the Eagles have a legit case.
Currently Michael Vick has rushed for 467 yards this season and 6 touchdowns. These are MVP-like stats that could take a nose dive if a concussion occurs.
2. The Winning Factor
Winning is everything to the city of Philadelphia, and with such a promising story building toward a possible postseason chance, Eagle fans certainly aren't ready to lose their star quarterback anytime soon.
To label where Michael Vick's winning ways came to form, would be to take a look at his Week 1 game against the Green Bay Packers. Kevin Kolb concussed, Vick stepped in under center for the second half, only to nearly rally a major comeback but fall short come games end.
From here on out, things have been great. Vick's winning ways continued, and although a rib injury sidelined No. 7 during a game against the Washington Redskins, the fact that the Eagles have an 8-4 record on the year paints the story.
Lastly, no Michael Vick in the playoffs could spell disaster for Philadelphia. Kevin Kolb was brilliant when filling in for Vick during midseason play, but at the same time Kolb would still be a question if things were to go haywire in The City of Brotherly Love.
3. Michael Vick Is a Team Leader
Michael Vick's "captain"-like status was always noticeable during his time in Atlanta. In Philadelphia, though? Well, it always remained to be seen.
It's safe to say after watching Vick through 13 weeks however, that the Eagles have really found a true team leader. Some may say that Donovan McNabb was capable of withholding this status, but somehow since Vick has taken over, other players have managed to step up in the mean time.
Who am I talking about exactly?
While LeSean McCoy has been mentioned, Jeremy Maclin continues to develop into a top-class receiver. In 2009 Maclin caught for 773 yards and 4 touchdowns, and with the season drawing to close this year, Maclin has already broken his own record.
This is the type of team chemistry the Eagles have been searching for, for years. The old days of Donovan McNabb to DeSean Jackson have evaporated, and now that the Eagles have a few more handy stars to depend on, this has become a much more diverse team to decipher.
Credit Andy Reid for this transformation if you will, but it's hard to say that Michael Vick isn't partially responsible.
Is Michael Vick a Protected Species in Philadelphia?
Not at all. It is only natural for a team to protect their golden boy, and with Michael Vick taking strides toward success all season long, of course head coach Andy Reid wants to make sure his winning man is in tact.
When asked on the issue following the Eagles 34-24 win over the Houston Texans on Thursday Night, Michael Vick told reporters:
"If you go back and watch the film, I'm getting hit after I throw the ball, repeatedly," Vick told WIP-AM radio . "Time after time after time, I'm getting my facemask pulled, I'm getting hit in the head. The calls are not being made.
Your preaching to the choir, Michael.
"Every time I get hit, I look up at the ref and I see no flag. I see other quarterbacks standing in the pocket, the minute they get touched, there's a flag on the field. ... This has been happening for the last four or five weeks. I haven't complained, I haven't said anything, but it's getting to a point where I'm tired of getting up off the canvas."
This is an obvious issue that officials must keep an eye on, and fortunately Vick only accumulated one sack on Thursday Night against Houston. Still, if a team were to lose their star man a week before the playoffs due to a hard hit, the NFL can expect some serious backlash.
A fine? Or suspension?
That's another debate for another time.
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Ryan Cook is an Australian Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters, plus a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.