As the end of Andy Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia creeps closer (it could actually come Tuesday, if the Eagles are suitably embarrassed on national TV by the Panthers), it has become fashionable to list the reasons he has reached the point of walking the plank. The defensive coordinator debacle deserves plenty of credit for his current predicament. So do some crashingly bad draft decisions. (Brandon Graham over Earl Thomas? A killer. The Fireman? Worse.) But when the final analysis is completed on Reid’s fall from power, one decision stands out as the most crippling.
Add the rest of them up, and they don’t equal the impact of the move to install Vick as the starter. After 11 years of running a West Coast attack with Donovan McNabb, Reid tried to force a run-and-gun player to play within a structured offense. Not only didn’t it work, but it also ruined the Eagles’ offense. As a result, the team was unable to develop an approach that was true to the coach’s personality. Reid tried to make Vick something that he wasn’t, and more importantly, could never be. And the most mystifying thing about it was that everybody in the NFL knew that to be true. Forget about the dogfighting mess. This was about Vick the player.
From the moment Vick entered the league – hell, from the first day he put on a helmet – he was not going to be a pocket passer. Ever. Vick wants to hold onto the ball. He wants to make big plays, all the time. That’s not what Reid wants or his system requires. Vick has never been an accurate passer. In his final two seasons with the Falcons, he completed 55.3 and 52.6 percent of his throws. In a league where 65% is the benchmark for excellence, that’s beyond poor. Aside from his 2010 season, when Vick converted at a career-best 62.6%, he has been back in the 50s, with a lot of interceptions. Even in his first full season as a starter, McNabb didn’t equal the 14 picks Vick threw in 2011. Vick has only matched the 21 TD passes McNabb threw that year on one occasion. And Vick had better receivers.
Back in 2010, when Reid announced that Vick would be his starter and not Kevin Kolb, he did so a day after announcing that Kolb would be the man. Allow me to channel my inner Oliver Stone here and suggest that perhaps Reid’s flip-flop wasn’t entirely the decision. Maybe, just maybe, he had a little input from above. With the Phillies’ heading toward the playoffs – again – and the fan base not exactly enamored of Kolb and his sketchy resume, choosing Vick and his hot hand was one way to get people energized about the team. It sure worked out well in the short term. Until the Giants showed the league how to defend him, Vick was sensational. Since then, things haven’t gone so well, and the Eagles’ fortunes have taken a tremendous tumble.
Think about Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia. If there is one thing that has characterized his behavior it has been his assured approach to everything. Fans and media have criticized his sometimes-arrogant way of sticking with players and philosophies, even if they haven’t worked. The guy has been unwilling to admit when he was wrong, other than to say, “I have to do a better job.” For him to pull a Diamond Joe Quimby and flip-flop on such a big move suggests Reid had some other forces with which to contend.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not excusing Reid. He has ultimate control over football decisions, and even if Jeffrey Lurie or Joe Banner coerced him to go with Vick, Reid’s name is on the move, and he deserves the blame. Plus, there is no evidence that sticking with Kolb would have yielded better results. He hasn’t exactly torn it up in Arizona, and he has Larry Fitzgerald on his team. If Kolb wasn’t the answer, the blame still goes to Reid for drafting him to be McNabb’s successor.
Installing Vick as the quarterback was the beginning of the end for Reid. The offense hasn’t been the same since the end of the ’10 season, and Vick has not been able to become the kind of passer Reid needs for his version of the West Coast attack to work. Given Vick’s history and predisposition against reading defenses and making quick decisions, it’s odd that Reid would try to adapt to a player, rather than fitting an appropriate piece into the most important spot on the field. Perhaps his overwhelming self-confidence led him to think he could turn Vick into a traditional QB, and if that is so, it was complete folly.
Vick is not a great quarterback. He’s fast and can be exciting, but he isn’t a consistent NFL passer. For Reid to think he could be that was dead wrong and ultimately led to his demise. It will be interesting to see if another organization makes the same mistake next season.
It, too, could be fatal.
- You can’t blame Jack Taylor for hanging up 138 points last week in Grinnell College’s rout of overmatched Faith Baptist Bible College. The kid was on the court. He was open. He shot. The culprit in this disgrace is Grinnell coach David Arsenault, who played Taylor 36 of 40 possible minutes, even though the Pioneers won by 75. (That’s right, 75.) Humiliating an opponent like that shows no class and can’t be the way the fine liberal arts school wants to be identified.
- Now Andrew Bynum is out “indefinitely.” There’s $16 million-plus down the drain, along with promising rookie Maurice Harkless and a future first-round draft pick. Four independent doctors examined Bynum’s knees and said they were all right. Four. The Sixers need to find some new doctors.
- Although the Big Ten’s decision to bail out the sagging athletic programs at Rutgers and Maryland seems ridiculous, understand that college sports have been changing for decades. At one point the Ivies were football powerhouses. Remember the Southwest Conference? Sure, realignment today is motivated by money and TV network expansion, and not tradition or geographical logic, but change has been a consistent part of college athletics, and that isn’t going to stop.