Michael Vick said he breathed a sigh of relief after Sunday’s 28-3 road win over the Jaguars, and it doesn’t take a psychotherapist to unearth the meaning behind that sentiment. Vick’s eye-opening aerial strike – 291 passing yards, three passing TD – validated, for at least one game, coach Andy Reid’s abrupt and controversial quarterback change two weeks into the season. Whether or not this was Reid’s original plan for Vick may never be disclosed, but we’ll bet hard-earned ticket money Coach Red will take credit now for believing that Vick could be what he has become!
Had Vick fallen completely on his face in his official starting debut, there would have been a cacophony of gasps and groans across the football world from Atlanta to Alcatraz. The man most responsible for Vick’s promotion (still debating whether or not it was Reid’s choice or the front office) would have become ripe road kill for the vultures on the airwaves and the dreaded Interweb Superhighway. Was it Reid? Was it Roseman? Was it ownership or was it fear of reprisal from two years of protestors and news articles and negative media coverage? Or is the organization just blatantly lying to us while they make up their minds week to week?
Before we hand Michael Vick the MVP and crown Reid as King of All Risky Decisions let’s view this in a broader scope. As aesthetically pleasing as the triumph was, Jacksonville simply stinks. Detroit wasn’t exactly akin to of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but at least they kept pace with the Eagles offense. The Eagles had something to do with Jacksonville’s total of 3 points, but can’t claim full credit for it.
None of Jack Del Rio’s blitz schemes made Vick blink and Jags quarterback David Garrard apparently had zero intentions of completing a pass to a wide receiver after halftime. Maurice Jones-Drew tried hard to make a mark, but he can’t play quarterback-running back-receiver and offensive line – although that sounds like a much better attack plan than what the Jags showed offensively Sunday (emphasis on “offensively”). Oh don’t get me wrong, we’ll take anything the Eagles want to put in the win column because they all count! However, this becomes problematic as we attempt to quantify Vick’s and the team’s progress over the next few weeks. There simply isn’t an opponent worth using as an accurate barometer.
Sunday’s game against the Redskins, the return of Donovan McNabb, will feature its standard amount of emotional warfare. Surely the hype will intensify this week as McNabb is certain to say something head-slapping that will command a response from Reid, Vick, Eagles fans, team ownership, the president of the United States, Christine O’Donnell (“I’m not a witch!”), or possibly all of the above.
Washington Redskins are a team that shouldn’t be viewed as anything other than a lackluster 1-2 team that so enjoyed their shocking defeat to the abysmal Rams (for the second straight year) would be a gross misdiagnoses. If any other quarterback were starting for the ‘Skins on Sunday, the Eagles would be 3 TD favorites and some fans might watch a marathon of The Andy Griffith Show instead of the game’s second half. The list goes on… Some predictions: We’ll have comments from Eagles players about how it’s just another game for them, while Redskins players get fired up to help McNabb win. Vick might talk glowingly about how it was McNabb who made the case for the Eagles to sign him. Andy Reid will get sentimental at some point. Clinton Portis will tweet a ridiculous comment about the game. Someone on Washington will make a dog fighting comment and have to apologize for it. By Saturday, we’ll be in full-blown circus mode. Full chunks of pregame shows on Sunday will be dedicated to Vick and McNabb. They may even trot out Paul Pasqualoni, the former Syracuse coach who recruited Vick to follow McNabb at quarterback for the Orangemen.
The following weekend, the Eagles make their seemingly annual trek to the Bay Area to reacquaint with the Brian Westbrook and the San Francisco 49ers, who at 0-3 may have finally realized that Alex Smith might not really be a capable enough quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Rumors are that they have calls in to Barney Fife to find a replacement.
Finally, the first real test: the Falcons at home on Oct. 17. Atlanta, which just knocked off Super Bowl champ New Orleans, qualifies as the next legit team on the docket – and first since the opener. Too bad that game doesn’t happen for another 20 days.
If Vick is merely adequate against the Falcons, then we’ll know the Eagles can seriously be considered Super Bowl contenders in a conference where previously thought-of contenders – Vikings, Cowboys, Niners – have faded faster than Lindsay Lohan’s bout with clean living.
If Vick is terrible against his former club there’s reason to believe 2010 will be a lot like 2009 – a mirage of wins, none against teams that finished with a winning record – and where do we go from there?
* I can’t help but wonder how much time Omar Gaither has left on the roster. Gaither was inactive against the Jags after he earned failing grades as the starting middle linebacker in Stewart Bradley’s place against the Lions in Week 2. Based on my observations at training camp, I was surprised Gaither made the team. Now, I’m guessing the team will sever ties at some point and promote either DT Jeff Owens or WR Chad Hall from the practice squad. There isn’t a glaring need for either right now but promoting one of them would prevent another team from luring them away.
* By the way, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said rookie Jamar Chaney would have played middle linebacker if Bradley had exited an injury. I suspect he was telling the truth although my first instinct was that Akeem Jordan would move to middle and Moise Fokou would take Jordan’s spot at the strong side.
* Much is being made over the team’s 7 TD in eight red zone trips, a major recovery from last season, but it’s hard to say how much red-zone scoring matters. The team is averaging about 27 points per game, but last year’s offense set a franchise record for points despite persistent red-zone struggles.
* Brent Celek hasn’t really had a breakout game or even become the major receiving piece of any of the Eagles’ touchdown drives this year, but I think that’ll change. Teams can’t keep risking double coverage on DeSean Jackson and leaving Maclin in one-on-ones, as Maclin’s four TD catches in six quarters of Vick is evidence that both must be guarded with more than one defender. At some point, teams will have to guard the sidelines and center field more efficiently, and that should open up the middle of the field and underneath for Celek.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org