In the end, Michael Vick was able to laugh about his awful performance in Sunday’s uninspiring 17-16 win over the inept Cleveland Browns.
“I gotta get out of Cleveland,” he said to reporters when asked about a play before his game-winning TD pass to Clay Harbor that should have resulted in an interception. Guess that’s why L.J. Fort plays linebacker, instead of wideout. Because the Birds had prevailed, everybody was able to laugh about Vick’s statement. But those looking for some solace in the wake of the QB’s four-interception afternoon weren’t going to find it in Vick’s comedy stylings.
And they sure weren’t going to find it in his play. It is clear that the NFL has figured out how to deal with Vick, and the quarterback does not have an answer for rivals’ tactics. Because of that, the Eagles’ season and Andy Reid’s job are in tremendous jeopardy. In fact, a couple more games like Sunday, and there will be “For Sale” signs in front of Chateau Reid, and it won’t be the fans who put them there. Reid will see the future and know that his 2013 address will either be in another NFL city or a TV studio.
After assuring us that he was a different quarterback, Vick showed even less judgment and restraint than he did last year. By throwing repeatedly into double coverage and across his body into traffic, he looked less like a nine-year veteran and more like one of the five rookies who started games under center Sunday. Come to think of it, that’s an insult to Robert Griffin III, who enjoyed a fabulous debut in the Redskins’ win over New Orleans, completing 19-of-26 passes for 320 yards, two scores and zero picks. Vick made a bushel full of bad choices and wilted under the relentless pressure from the Browns, who haven’t impressed people with their defensive prowess since Chip Banks and Clay Matthews were playing for them in the ‘80s.
The fact is that no matter how much Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg “coach him up,” Vick remains convinced that he is better than their system, more athletic than those chasing him and capable of winning games with his talent, rather than as part of a gameplan that attacks a rival’s weaknesses. It has been his M.O. since he played in high school, and he is either plain incapable of changing or so blindly egotistical that he just won’t do it.
If Vick wasn’t able (or willing) to change during the off-season, when he was no doubt presented with video evidence that his way is no longer working in a league where teams have realized that the way to control him is by bringing pressure, then the chances of an epiphany now are minimal. Sure, it was the first game, and coaches always say that teams improve greatly between weeks one and two, but with defenses like Baltimore’s, Pittsburgh’s and the Giants’ looming over the next month, things will only get tougher.
The worst part of all of this is that Reid’s reign could well crumble because the one position he has earned a reputation for coaching so well will let him down. Reid developed a symbiotic relationship with Donovan McNabb and created a scheme that played to the QB’s strengths. While the Eagles never won it all with Number Five under center, they certainly prospered. Vick has been unwilling to play by Reid’s rules, and the coach now must either change things up completely or hope Vick’s mistakes will decline enough to give the Eagles a chance.
Perhaps the solution is to go to a college-style spread attack that creates a run option for Vick after a shotgun snap and an uncomplicated three-level passing tree to one side, thereby eliminating the need for Vick to make tough reads. It worked for Vince Young when he was at the University of Texas, and it may be the only chance the Eagles have with Vick. Of course, it could open him up to more hits should he choose to run frequently, but it will also simplify his options as a passer and cut down the time he spends in the pocket.
It’s early to make such a drastic change, but the small sampling we have of Michael Vick, Version ‘12 would indicate that he is no closer to playing the kind of low-risk style championship teams require of their QBs than he is to having his uniform number retired in Atlanta. Sadly, Vick is not changing, and that (along with some other shaky moves he has made of late: Hello, Juan Castillo) could spell the end of Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia. Owner Jeffrey Lurie has made it abundantly clear that 8-8 won’t do it, and after watching Vick play Sunday, it would seem that .500 is a dream, rather than an unsuitable outcome.
Late Sunday afternoon, Vick told reporters with a chuckle that he had to get out of Cleveland. If he continues his irresponsible decision-making, he will be asked to leave Philadelphia.
And nobody will be laughing about that.
- Temple’s loss to Maryland last Saturday proves how far the Owls have to go as a program. Falling into a deep, early hole at home against an opponent that was a double-digit underdog is not the behavior of a team that has arrived. Temple has talent and potential, but it must avoid conduct that has characterized its past and play with consistency. The Owls must realize that no matter what the oddsmakers say, every game is fraught with peril.
- Phillies fans would be well advised to avoid playing the what-if game as the club inches closer to the second wild-card spot. Looking back on the frustrating first half of the season can only produce agita and digestive disorders. Best to look forward to 2013, when everything will be new again, and the horrors of April through July will be distant memories.
- The NHL and its players union are playing about the dumbest game of chicken ever. Hockey is a niche sport that has made modest gains in the mainstream over the past couple seasons. Blowing that up with a work stoppage, particularly with the NFL underway and baseball’s TV allure expanding, could cause irreparable damage. Just because people returned after the 2004-05 season was trashed doesn’t mean it will happen again. And just because fans flocked back to the NFL and NBA after their lockouts doesn’t mean casual observers will come back to hockey. Play hardball at your own risk, fellas. Your own considerable risk.