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Opportunity knocks for Vick

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Neil Reynolds | 13:27 UK time, Wednesday, 22 September 2010

There is an old saying in the NFL that a player should never lose his starting job through injury and that he should be inserted back into the line-up as soon as he is healthy.

While that is a nice sentimental thought, I don't think the issue is very clear cut in today's ruthless, win-now NFL. If a player comes off the bench, seizes his opportunity and plays considerably better than the incumbent, surely he deserves an extended run of games?

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid obviously agrees - but only just.

Rival quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick

Philadelphia's rival quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick

Reid liked young quarterback Kevin Kolb so much that he traded veteran Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins in the off-season. But Kolb suffered a concussion in what turned out to be a shaky first half of the season opener against the Green Bay Packers and Reid turned to the rejuvenated Michael Vick.

Vick made the most of his opportunity, leading the Eagles to 52 points in six quarters of action against the Packers and Detroit Lions.

At the start of this week, Reid insisted Kolb would return as the starter for this Sunday's clash with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has since undergone a complete turnaround and named Vick as his starter.

I think that is the right move. I don't agree with Reid's assessment that Vick is one of the best quarterbacks in the entire league at the moment but I do think he is the guy with the hot hand and brings more playmaking ability to the Eagles' table.

Some will begrudge Vick his chance to shine as an NFL starter once more. His story is well-documented - he shot to fame as a Pro Bowl quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons. He was inconsistent but exciting, blessed with a cannon for an arm and the speed and moves of a wide receiver.

But his career and life unravelled in 2007 when he was suspended by the NFL and found guilty of funding a dog fighting organisation in Virginia. America was sickened. He spent 18 months in prison before returning to the NFL as a backup for the Eagles in 2009.

When Vick returned to the playing field - in brief cameo roles with the Eagles last season - it was clear he was not in the same kind of physical shape as when he had starred with the Falcons. He attempted just 13 passes during the entire year.

But this season, he looks sharp and in great shape. You might not want to root for him to succeed in his second shot at the NFL, but it is hard to deny the fact that Vick has played very well in the last game and a half.

He can still tuck the ball away and scramble downfield when necessary, but what has impressed most - particularly last weekend against the Lions - was his ability to stay in the pocket and fire accurate passes downfield.

While there is no doubting the fact he has played well this season, Vick might benefit from the timing of this move in the long-term. Sure, he played well against the playoff-bound Packers, but he really shone in Week 2 against a Detroit team that has struggled to stop the pass for more seasons than I would care to remember.

And this week he gets to pad his statistics even more against a Jaguars team that is really not very good and has trouble pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Vick has taken his chance but Kolb must be frustrated, knowing he could also have performed well against the Lions and Jaguars.

Reid isn't prone to flip-flopping between quarterbacks so it was a bold move on his part to stay with Vick this week. And I think he has done this for a couple of reasons.

First, that Eagles offensive line is definitely a work in progress right now. Kolb came under pressure in Week 1 and he struggled to handle it given the fact he is pretty much a pocket passer.

Vick, on the other hand, is a very different matter. Force Vick out of the pocket and you will live to regret it. He has breathtaking speed and athletic ability and can leave the quickest of NFL defenders trailing in his wake. Given the fact that Philly quarterbacks will have to improvise and think on their feet at times this season, Vick would seem to be the obvious choice.

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning's Indianapolis play Denver in Sunday's game on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra

Second, Kolb just hadn't built up enough pedigree to be handed the job back no matter how Vick performed. He started a handful of games in relief of the injured McNabb last term but it was this 2010 campaign in which he was supposed to shine.

And he lasted just 30 minutes. Reid feels Kolb has a bright future with the Eagles but now the youngster has to be patient and wait for his chance. And maybe that shouldn't come any time soon because flipping between quarterbacks on a weekly basis is no way to establish offensive success.

Having made the move to Vick, Reid must now give him a run of games to prove his worth. And it will take a few weeks - or maybe even a season - for Vick to truly convince his doubters because even at the height of his success in Atlanta, he had regular spells of inconsistency and under-achievement.

Vick has an opportunity that he must have felt was beyond his grasp when he was serving his prison sentence in Kansas.

There are many who find it hard to cheer Vick's success, but you cannot deny his attempts to rescue his football career make for a fascinating sub-plot to this NFL season.

But Vick should know that he will need to prove himself each and every week. Reid has already shown he is willing to send his starting quarterback to the bench if necessary and I doubt he would think twice about doing it again in the future if the situation arose.

NFL Week 3 on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra

We have the Wembley-bound Denver Broncos playing host to the Indianapolis Colts on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 9pm on Sunday and this will be a real test for the home side.

The Broncos could be without star cornerback Champ Bailey, who is nursing a high ankle sprain, and that spells trouble with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning boasting an embarrassment of receiving riches in Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon.

Denver would love to run the football effectively in order to take time off the clock and keep Manning on the sidelines, but their running game has been spotty at best and they leant heavily on quarterback Kyle Orton during last week's win over Seattle.

If this turns into a shootout between the quarterbacks, the Colts will win at a canter. Even if the Broncos can find a way to make life difficult for Indianapolis, I still expect Manning's men to have too much firepower and I think they will grab their second win of this young season.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog, Neil!

    I think that Vick deserves to be the starter upon his performances. He did well against the Packers and Lions. I feel sorry for Kolb though.

    But as a Bears fan I'm pleased with my team being 2-0. Cutler seems to have thrived under the Martz's system. I mean throwing no picks against the Cowboys was impressive. In addition the inexperienced wide receivers of Knox, Hester, Aramodshu, Bennett, as well as the tight end Olsen have made great strides from last year's disappointing season.

    I know that it's still early days but I hope the Bears can build on this platform and aim for a wildcard playoff place.

    Your thoughts, Neil?

  • Comment number 2.


    In the words of Boomer "C'mon man!" - forget the rehabilitation of Michael Vick and focus on the REAL game coming up. Two and O Packers versus Two and O Bears! You virtually guaranteed that Aaron Rodgers would take the Pack to the big show in Dallas and here we are with the two division rivals going head to head unbeaten. The Bears dodged a bullet with the Detroit TD that never was, but now look to be rolling again.

    I said in the last post that Julius Peppers was going to monster Rodgers. Believe the hype! The Pepper Shaker spiced up Matt Stafford's day and now heads out to flavour up some Cheeseheads! The Pain Train has arrived, with Nos 54 and 55 (Url and Lance), the Bruise Brothers in tow.

    Vick's a non story.

  • Comment number 3.


    In the words of Boomer "C'mon man!" - forget the rehabilitation of Michael Vick and focus on the REAL game coming up. Two and O Packers versus Two and O Bears! You virtually guaranteed that Aaron Rodgers would take the Pack to the big show in Dallas and here we are with the two division rivals going head to head unbeaten. The Bears dodged a bullet with the Detroit TD that never was, but now look to be rolling again.

    I said in the last post that Julius Peppers was going to monster Rodgers. Believe the hype! The Pepper Shaker spiced up Matt Stafford's day and now heads out to flavour up some Cheeseheads! The Pain Train has arrived, with Nos 54 and 55 (Url and Lance), the Bruise Brothers in tow.

  • Comment number 4.


    In the words of Boomer "C'mon man!" - forget the rehabilitation of Michael Vick and focus on the REAL game coming up. Two and O Packers versus Two and O Bears! You virtually guaranteed that Aaron Rodgers would take the Pack to the big show in Dallas and here we are with the two division rivals going head to head unbeaten. The Bears dodged a bullet with the Detroit TD that never was, but now look to be rolling again.

    I said in the last post that Julius Peppers was going to monster Rodgers. Believe the hype! The Pain Train has arrived, with Nos 54 and 55 (Url and Lance), the Bruise Brothers in tow.

  • Comment number 5.

    The headline here is how completely Andy Reid changed his mind. On Monday, he apparently said the decision to start with Kolb was "not hard at all", and now suddenly Vick starting is a no-brainer. And given it's the QB here, that sort of about-face is a very big deal.

    I'll offer one other theory as to why Reid has gone with Vick. He brings experience to an otherwise pretty youthful offensive group. And it's not just Kerry Collins type experience. I doubt very much any sort of overt player power is at work here, but it's not hard to imagine that if required to answer honestly, the likes of Jackson, Maclin and McCoy would say they're inspired when they play alongside Vick.

    Tough on Kolb, given what his expectations were a couple of weeks ago, but the case for Vick is pretty compelling.

    Lastly, I think as usual, the Jags are underestimated and the Iggles will have their hands full. The Philly D has struggled against rush and pass and Jags can do both pretty respectably. But with Vick, you'd think they should be too good in the end.

  • Comment number 6.


    Name me the QBs that are doing better than Vick at the moment.

    Brees, Schaub, P Manning, Rodgers... then who?

    Vick is certainly up there.

  • Comment number 7.

    good to see the NFL blog making the main page!

    I like this call by Andy Reid, Vick is an exciting player and he can get out of trouble, which the Eagles are going to need this season.

    any thoughts on the 0-2 teams? got a chance of making the play offs as division leaders or are they already looking at wild cards?

  • Comment number 8.

    It is completely the wrong move.

    As an Eagles fan of 20 years who travels over the pond to attend the games, I (and most of the fans I speak to) can't see any benefit in this decision.

    The Eagles will not win the Superbowl with Vick. In fact I can't think of any other pure runner at QB who has won a superbowl. Steve Young was maybe the closest, but he had a much better arm.

    Given that we won't win a SB with Vick, then, why would we want to play him for the rest of the season? We don't know yet what we have with Kolb after less than a half against a great defense and behind a pourous offensive line. We do know what we have with Vick which is an exciting player who wont take us to the promised land.

    I don't agree with the 'must pick the best player to win right now' or 'must give the fans the most value each game' arguements at all. I'm also a big Phillies fan: Imagine if Utly, Howard, Werth had just been dropped when they were young and making mistakes because there were 'better players available right then' (and there were). We might have won a few more games that year but wouldn't have won a world series a few years later.

    Let's not forget that not only did we trade McNabb, to a division rival no less, because Kolb was 'ready' but we also traded away a first round pick to a division rival get Kolb in the first place. So at the end of this sorry saga the Cowboys got Anthony Spencer, the Redskins got McNabb, and we paid a fortune to a guy to hold a clipboard for 4 years and counting. Given that McNabb threw for almost 450 yards at the weekend, we also managed to replace our starting QB qith one almost as old and not as good. If we wanted to win 'right now', why didn't we keep McNabb?

    The real anger, though, is being directed towards Reid who has changed his story on this so often. He even got angry with reporters a week ago for daring to suggest Vick may start soon.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great Blog Neil,

    an amazing turnaround by Andy Reid but I think that Vick is worth a gamble. Reid probably saw this as a transition year for the Eagles as Kolb found his feet, but with Vick in form and consistent, he has a chance of the playoffs and with a bit of luck.......who knows.

    The big word is CONSISTENT. That has been Vick's biggest problem, he has had great passing games, he has had great running games, he has mixed both facets and had game winning performances, BUT he has never done it consistently!

    Worth a gamble by Andy and I actually admire him for flip flopping. It takes guts to contradict yourself and admit a mistake. Now stick with Vick until the season is over.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog Neil. I was wondering what you thought of the Buccaneers chances this year? They have gone 2-0 and Freeman's throwing is looking good.I will concede that the victories are against fairly weak teams.Still I would like to hear your thoughts.

  • Comment number 11.

    how do you think donovan Mcnabb is feeling right now?!?!

    traded away on the premise that he was being replaced by a QB who was the future only to see a veteran QB running the team two quarters into the new season!

    DO you think Mcnabb is chuckling inside his redskins helmet or feeling like they used Kolb as an excuse to move him on?

    p.s. go phins!

  • Comment number 12.

    finally philly doesn't seem like a place where you want to risk a loss for kolb, i'm suprised there wasn;t a riot when he released Mcnabb and that was due to playoff positioning.
    Vick is back and i personally can't wait to watch him play!

    and of course
    Saints! (maybe a blog on how one of the best runners in the NFL is injured?)

  • Comment number 13.

    When the Eagles traded McNabb he had value. Vick had none. He'd taken minimum snaps and most of this was Wildcat packages. He wasn't a true QB under centre.

    At the ill fate of Kolb's concussion Vick has come in and shown he's worked on pocket presence and fitness at training camp. Thus from a game and a half of football his value has sky-rocketed. Plus why change a winning formula, sport is all about winning.

    Kolb is not going to win the Eagles a Superbowl, he's just not right yet. Vick isn't Manning, Rodgers, Brees... but he offers something different that could catalyse the team. Overall, if the Eagles finish the season with a winning record with Vick at the helm and a decent shot at the play-offs everyone is happy.

  • Comment number 14.

    You can't help but think Andy Reid is an amateur. Starts the season saying Kevin Kolb is the teams starting QB, but now he's saying Vick is the teams starter? I'll never understand that, you name a man, he has a poor half of football from the first game, then you're forced to make a change due to injury, then you change your tune when you swear you won't.

    Andy Reid = Rafael Benitez?

  • Comment number 15.

    All this talk of whether he should start or not misses the real issue: should he even be playing?

    That the NFL reinstated him after he was released from prison is yet another stain on that organization's already tattered record. Vick served his punishment under the law for what he did, albeit far too lenient in my opinion, but what possessed the NFL to let him play in the league again is a mystery.

    I have a Pit Bull and what that 'man' did to those in his charge means he should be prohibited from working in the limelight of the NFL ever again.

    As a result of the NFL's utterly baffling decision I gave up my 49ers season ticket, will not watch NFL games on TV and wrote to inform the league of my decision. It ignored me but I hope and trust that other animal lovers like myself will vote with their feet until the NFL is hit in the only place it cares about: its bottom line.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great Blog Neil, intriguing situation full of pros and cons. The story I read on ESPN was that Reid changed his mind after going over the game film with his coaches and seeing just how exposed the O line was leaving the QB. In that situation it could be that Vick can escape that pressure better or that they want to protect Kolb a bit more before putting him in harms way. That could also mean that Vick is considered more expendable than Kolb. Guess we won't know until they get the O line sorted or Vick gets injured! Having said that, their running game aint none too shabby! For a neutral I find Vick's unpredictability is incredible to watch and he must be a nightmare for the defense.

  • Comment number 17.


    As an Eagles fan, I'm glad you are blogging about them. I agree with your analysis but lets not forget that Andy Reid is one of the most business-savy NFL coaches. He has just found an opportunity to increase the value of Vick. A few games like this for Vick this season and he will go for an astronomical price in the off season. This would then allow Andy to buy a solid offensive line and win the super bowl next season. At least I think that's the plan...

    Keep bringing the NFL to the UK.

  • Comment number 18.

    @ Frenchiefromphillie

    "A few games like this for Vick this season and he will go for an astronomical price in the off season."

    I dunno, Vick has astronomical baggage, I'd be hesistant to guess how much he'll be worth, even were he to lead Philly to the post-season. No doubt there will be some team looking for a new starting QB in the off-season, but how much will they really be willing to trade for Vick?

    I'd be more inclined to believe Reid will play Vick until he gets injured - he's at an age where QBs are more likely to pick up more lasting damage - or his form dips, and then hand over to Kolb for good.

  • Comment number 19.

    Interesting debate on one that will be on-going.
    "I don't agree with the 'must pick the best player to win right now'"

    Big Matt, if Reid were to put Kolb straight back in and the Eagles were to lose the next 2 games what would happen then?
    Surely Reid would have to go back to Vick again and I couldn't see Kolb ever recovering his starters role. It would also put the Eagles up against it to reach the play-offs and the fans would be calling for Reid to be sacked at the end of the year if they failed to make the post-season.

    If Vick were to lose the next 2 games it would be an easier situation for Reid to deal with as he can say things like he wanted to keep the momentum and didnt want to risk having his franchise QB suffering further injury.

    It really is a tough one for Reid go with the hot hand or let your young starter develop. As fans its easy because at the end of the season our job wont be on the line if the team fails.

  • Comment number 20.

    Vick will never be able to live down what he did, even if he were to lead the Eagles to 3 consecutive Super Bowl victories, the dog fighting conviction is what people will always think of first when his name is mentioned. You can argue that his sentence was too lenient and he shouldn't have got another NFL chance but isn't it the case that when someone is punished for a crime and serves their time then they are entitled to a second chance albeit a conditional one?

    As for my Broncos, not looking forward to this! Without Bailey the secondary looks soft and Manning should have a good day.

  • Comment number 21.

    I disagree with the fact that Kolb "doesn't have the pedigree"

    1 - Reid traded McNabb within a hotly contested division. You don't do that if you feel really good about your new starter

    2 - Kolb started 3 games. Overall they were 1-2 in those 3 games. They lost to the Saints last year who went on to win the Super Bowl and this year the Packers who are one of the favourites from the league to do the same.

    3 - Vick has "only beaten the Lions". Yes, the Lions are massively improved, but that secondary is pretty poor still.

    4 - A lot of time and effort has already gone into the development if Kevin Kolb who has sat behind one of the better quarterback's we've seen in recent history, Kolb deserves his shot, two and half games is clearly lot enough for him to prove himself and bed in. This isn't Oakland, he deserves better and Andy Reid should know better.

    Reid has made a knee-jerk reaction that I would expect only from an Eagles fan, who at the first site of a 3 and out or a wayward pass, begins to boo as if the pantomime villain has just appeared on stage.

    Having seen the front cover of the Philadelphia Daily news this week, I'd say Philadelphia and Michael Vick deserve each other.


  • Comment number 22.

    Great response guys... some really interesting thoughts here.

    A couple of replies to particular posts.

    Yousef738... A good start from the Bears but I just cannot see them succeeding in the long haul - I worry about that offensive line. The defense looks good and Jay Cutler has made plays, but he does come under a great deal of pressure. It seems to have been a good start from Mike Martz in Chicago but I am just not sold on them yet.

    Jonzee... I do accept that Vick has been playing well, but I would still take quite a few quarterbacks ahead of him in the NFL. Brees, Manning, Schaub, Rodgers, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Brady, Ryan, Romo, Henne - I'd take all those guys over Vick.

    Superspursdirector... Out of the 0-2 teams, I would say San Francisco have best shot of winning their division, mainly because that division is very weak and even with an 0-2 start they remain just 1 game out of first place. Dallas can come back in the NFC East and I think they will bounce back and win the division... But I fear for the Vikings at the moment and can see no way of them catching the Packers. Favre is lacking receiving targets right now and they need to get some playmakers in the passing game. The lack of production from Bernard Berrian and the injury concerns surrounding Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice have been well documented. These Vikings might be able to right the ship and challenge for the playoffs, but I don't see them toppling the Pack.

    Thomondstreasure... I like what Tampa Bay is doing defensively under Raheem Morris and they have got young in the front 7. I think that unit is heading in the right direction. And I really like Josh Freeman - in terms of his physical and mental make-up. He has a strong arm, can make all the throws and the game doesn't appear too big for him. He takes care of the football, which cannot be understated given how some higher profile passers are giving it away at an alarming rate (see Favre)and on one play downfield to Kellen Winslow last week he was shrugging off tacklers and looked a lot like Roethlisberger in his prime. The word of warning - the Bucs have only beaten Cleveland and Carolina. But they can only beat those in front of them - they face a long road back and I don't see them in the playoffs this season, but they have made a positive start.

    Grover... Should Vick be playing at all? I didn't really want to go there in this article. But let's just say I am not his biggest fan - and I am surely not alone in that sentiment.

  • Comment number 23.

    Our O-line stinks especially now Jackson's injured again, but our o-line stinking is not really news, everybody knew our o-line was going to stink, it should have been addressed in the draft, rather than picking up 3 defensive ends, don't get me wrong our whole draft was pretty good and Graham and Allen are great pickups, but there was a clear need for offensive line personnel that wasn't addressed, so Clay Matthews absolutely schooled them in the first game and Detroit had a hell of a go at it in the second. Kolb would get killed behind this o-line, I almost mean that literally.

    That said Vick has had 2 games one against a Packers defense that had gameplanned for a pocket passer and the other against the Lions who are honest triers but have a woeful secondary. I think there's a real risk that we've seen the best of Vick already this season, it could be a long season in Philly.

    So it's not necessarily a decision I disagree with, but only because everybody but the Eagles front office could see that we needed o-line in the draft and they chose not to address it, leaving them with an O-Line that is unfit to protect their quarterback.

    On the other QB issue, when Jason Campbell going to catch a break? He's had to learn 5 offensive schemes in 4 years and has just been benched after less than two games for the Raiders, I'm not sure what Al Davis expected him to do with perhaps perhaps the weakest WR corps in the NFL, I feel for Campbell, he's been treated pretty shabbily all round for the past couple of seasons.

    Dallas to come back and win the NFC East Neil? that has to be based on something other than football Neil becuse they have been pretty ordinary so far.

  • Comment number 24.

    Would you still take those QBs over Vick after yesterdays games? Especially Henne?


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