Andy Reid calls the Eagles current quarterback conundrum a “beautiful situation.” If by “beautiful” he means “unbelievably complicated,” then he’s right. What caused Reid’s change of heart? Here are three possible explanations.
1. Reid watched and re-watched the film of the previous two weeks and saw an offensive line that was, well, offensive. I’m almost certain that after Sunday’s victory Reid sincerely believed Kevin Kolb would be the starting QB in week 3 against the Jaguars. Kolb is Reid’s hand-picked successor to Donovan McNabb at quarterback. He wants/needs Kolb to succeed. However, the film from the season’s first two weeks clearly indicates the Eagles have serious issues on the offensive line. When Philadelphia’s center and anchor of the offensive line, Jamaal Jackson, was lost for the season in week one, the Eagles were doomed. Furthermore, left tackle Jason Peters (who appeared to tear each of his ACL’s on separate occasions against the Lions), has been somewhat of a disappointment since coming to Philadelphia. This season, both Peters and Winston Justice have struggled to keep opposing ends out of the Eagles’ backfield. Todd Herremans isn’t getting any younger either, and Nick Cole at right guard and backup center Mike McGlynn are far from pro-bowlers. None of this is good news when you play in the NFC East AND Mario Williams, Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, and Dwight Freeney remain on your schedule. Ultimately, Eagle quarterbacks are sitting ducks in the pocket. Vick is an elusive and mobile remake of Randall Cunningham while Kolb is more of a Bubby Brister model. Who would you start?
2. The organization (Jeffrey Lurie) pressured Reid. In other words, Lurie told Reid he’s more than welcome to start Kevin Kolb going forward. However, if Kolb doesn’t improve and the Eagles resemble the offense that was miserable in the first half against Green Bay, it will be Reid’s big behind on the line. Heading into the season, I believed Reid would be granted a honeymoon season to groom Kolb. In his first full season as starting QB, one would be foolish to expect Kolb to compete for an MVP award. Bad games, inconsistent play, and growing pains were to be expected. Lurie understands as much and would give Reid a free year to allow Kolb to mature. Or so I thought. Unfortunately for Reid, Kolb was knocked woozy in his first half as franchise QB and Vick was needed immediately out of the gate. As you witnessed, Vick was a lightning rod for the offense and the team. For six straight quarters he’s led the Philadelphia offense to over 650 yards and 52 points. Inserting Kolb back into the starter’s role might make sense for the long run, but if winning is the goal, Vick must play, and now. Reid is stubbornly loyal but he’s not an idiot either. (Ok, I should say he’s not a COMPLETE idiot.) He traded McNabb to get that free pass in 2010 to groom Kolb. Had he stuck with McNabb and not reached the Super Bowl, he’d have been done in Philly. Now, I believe he’s been presented a similar position; You can roll with your QB, but if this blows up, you’re out. Reid likes his job. Thus, Vick will start indefinitely.
3. Kolb’s preseason struggles and his horrendous first half in week one may be more than growing pains. Eagle fans have been fed “Kolb is a future star” propaganda for the past three years. Although his brief appearances last year somewhat supported this notion, we should also remember he only beat the lowly Chiefs and struggled to some extent against New Orleans. We (Eagle fans) may have gotten a little carried away and probably drank too much of the Kolb Kool-Aid the Eagles were dishing out because what we’ve seen from Kolb over the past month more closely resembles the Bobby Hoying era. Kolb is young and there’s still time, but it appears he needs more work than we thought. I think Andy Reid is discovering this for himself too. Perhaps if the offensive line was stronger, Reid would’ve given Kolb the nod. It’s not, so Reid didn’t. And unless Vick regresses drastically, we may not know what Kolb is made of until 2011, if ever.
Now here’s where the situation gets really hairy. What does Philadelphia do if Vick finishes the season at starter and leads the team to the playoffs? Uhhhhhhh, yeh, this is complicated. Do the Eagles give a long-term contract to a 30-year-old QB whose offensive brilliance relies heavily on his legs? Or, do they pay less money to a QB they drafted four years earlier even though they haven’t seen him start more than three NFL games? The answer is…… “oh, crap.”
(Ok, now pretend I’m an NFL expert and you hold my opinion in the highest regard…) Listen, Vick has done all this before. He’s been a great quarterback and terrorized defenses. The NFL also caught on to his strengths and effectively exploited his weaknesses. (Corner him in the pocket by not aggressively going for a sack and force him to beat you with his arm.) Yes, Vick has a cannon but history has proven that his arm is usually in rhythm with his legs. If he’s mobile and making plays, he’s accurate and confident with his throws. On the other hand, if you keep him in the pocket and force him to consistently make precise passes, he isn’t as accurate or dangerous. It won’t be this week and it may not be next week either, but at some point, someone is going to remember how the NFL solved Vick in the early 2000’s. At that point, the Eagles should put Kolb back under center before they enter the offseason with no idea how good or bad he could be. To waste a second round pick on a “franchise” quarterback and let him leave town after only three career starts would be a disaster. Kolb’s concussion and Vick’s subsequent play have put the Eagles in a very interesting predicament. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.