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Vick Shines in Eagles’ MNF Destruction of Redskins by Lloyd Vance

November 16, 2010 1 comment

Michael Vick, “You Were Ridiculous!” in the Eagles 59-28 Monday Night Football destruction of the Washington Redskins

With the signing of Donovan McNabb earlier in the day to a somewhat unexpected 5-year, $78 million contract extension with $40 million guaranteed that will more than likely allow the veteran quarterback to end his storied career in the Nation’s Capital, everything seemed in place for a shining moment on Monday Night Football. 

But…Hold-up wait a minute as the quarterback that set the NFL’s favorite weekly evening drama into orbit was none other than McNabb’s former understudy’s understudy, Michael Vick.  The mercurial quarterback, who many doubted ever could become a “complete” passer, opened several eyes as he had a magical night in the Philadelphia Eagles 59-28 demolition of the Washington Redskins (4-5) on MNF.

Vick was the catalyst as the Eagles (6-3) busted out to a 35-0 lead early in the second quarter.  In a night where McNabb – passing numbers 17 for 31 for 295 yards with 2 TDs and 3 INTs in the loss — could only applaud his former Syracuse recruit.  Vick gave Eagles’ Nation something to remember for a long time. 

The Birds set team records for total yards in a game (592), points in a half (45) and had the biggest lead after the first quarter for any NFL road team (28-0) since at least 1950.  “We got outcoached. We got outplayed. They did everything right,” Redskins disgruntled DL Albert Haynesworth said after the embarrassing loss.

At the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles first mini-camp after the draft, I noted to a fellow media member the Vick looked to be 100% back and then he impressed me more by sounding like a new mature humbled individual when I talked with him after practice.  I thought, “Wow”, this guy is going to be an asset helping out new starter as a veteran back-up and serving in the Wildcat.  But none of us had any idea that the NFL’s new quarterback guru, Andy Reid, had remolded the fallen star and created MV7 version 2010, a masterpiece.

Redemption road has been a long one for the former NFL superstar turned public enemy number one for his part in a notorious dogfighting situation that cost him over two years away from the game that he so dearly loves.  But this is not your standard, “Michael Vick is Back” story as there is no question regarding whether the former 3-time Pro Bowl player can redeem himself.

No, the real question is “How Can’t Michael Vick be considered the leading candidate for the 2010 NFL Most Valuable Player Award?”  Forget about McNabb and his extension – former Eagles franchise great already has his hands full enough with a Washington team that badly needs some offensive talent – plus former Reid “anointed” starter Kevin Kolb.

Vick is playing at a level that deserves to put him in any conversation with the Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.  That’s right…I am doing the unthinkable in putting Vick in a quarterback class that some thought he could ever achieve.  Incredibly at age 30, the former Atlanta troubled prodigy has become the player everyone thought he could be when the Falcons made him the NFL’s first overall draft pick way back in 2001. 

His speed to the corner is at an elite running back’s  level, his arm is looking better than any quarterback in the league right now and under the guidance of Reid, Vick has the work ethic and pocket presence that has to be leaving everyone in the NFL scratching their heads… are you reading Greg Knapp.

On his magical night, Vick became the first player in NFL history with at least 300 yards passing, 50 yards rushing, four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a game. Ironically it was Vick’s magical legs — ran eight times for 80 yards and two scores plus moved past Steve Young and into second place in NFL history for yards rushing by a quarterback – that were an afterthought as his arm did all his talking.  The former Virginia Tech star threw an 88-yard laser touchdown pass to a streaking DeSean Jackson on his first play of the game and he never looked back in one of the greatest performances in Monday Night Football history. 

“I’ve had some great games in my day,” Vick said. “But I don’t think I’ve had one quite like this one.”  He accounted for 6 touchdowns while finishing with off the chart passing numbers finished 20 for 28 for 333 yards and four touchdowns – completed first 10 passes of the night.  But more impressive to me is the fact that Vick hasn’t thrown an interception or lost a fumble this season – sorry Brett Favre…you lead the league with 16 INTs. 

The Birds are 4-0 when Vick starts and finishes the game, which has made him an instant star in Philadelphia and galvanized a once fractured fanbase. We will see if the Vick Express can continue all the way through the playoffs, if he too can get a coveted extension, and continue playing at a level the NFL has not scene since Steve Young’s magical 1995 Super Bowl winning year for the Niners.

Eagles’ veteran receiver Jason Avant said of his quarterback’s phenomenal play, “The guy is unreal. How do you defend him when we have everything going? I have not seen anything like that. It was so much fun out there.”

But more importantly, the Eagles and Vick now have move into a NFC East first-place tie with the New York Giants (6-3) setting the stage for next week’s megawatt Sunday Night Football battle at the Linc.

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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The Redskins Win in McNabb’s Return to Philly by Lloyd Vance

Redskins QB Donovan McNabb received the game-ball for his triumphant return to Philadelphia that produced a 17-12 win for the ‘Skins

It wasn’t Picasso, but it was the best of both worlds for Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb in his Philadelphia homecoming.  The game started with the Philadelphia faithful saluting their former hero when he was announced — ironically he was loudly “booed” when he took the field under center — then like he had done 11 years prior, McNabb found a way to win.

The Redskins (2-2) took home a big 17-12 win over the Eagles (2-2) to take sole possesion of first place in the NFC East.  McNabb’s numbers showed that he did not have one of his best games statistically (8-19, 125 yards, 1 TD, and 1INT plus 39 rushing yards).  But it was his intangibles of leadership and moving the sticks when needed that mattered most.

When the game was on the line, Big 5 converted a crucial first down by scampering for 18 yards on a 3rd and 4 play to help wind the clock.  The win had to be glorifying for McNabb, but after the game he really was focused more on a team win and the Redskins next opponent, rather than passing out “I told you so” comments.

The Redskins knew they could run the ball on the Eagles smallish defensive front and they were successful as they produced 169 yards rushing.  Leading the way was Ryan Torain with 70 yards and a bruising 12-yard touchdown run, where he trucked Eagles safety Quintin Mikell and veteran Clinton Portis who added 55 rushing yards before leaving with a groin injury.

An unfortunate part of the Eagles-Redskins games was that a highly anticipated McNabb-Vick showdown turned into the McNabb-Kolb after Vick left the game in the first quarter with a rib/chest injury — hurt on a 23-yard run that was called back on a Max Jean-Giles penalty.  As for Kolb, he seem rather “tentative in my opinion as he went for checkdowns several times rather than throwing the ball downfield.

An odd play that showed the Eagles glaring weakness with clock managment was at the Redskins’  1-yard line  in the final minute of the first half. After Head Coach Andy Reid called a timeout, his offense still got called for delay of game on a crucial 4th down.  To the dismay of the Eagles’ sellout crowd, the Birds settled for a David Akers  23-yarder to cut the score to 17-6.

Reid tried to explain the strange series of events after the game by saying, “We had a play called. I wasn’t surprised the clock was moving, but I was surprised it was moving as quick as when it was started with the spot”.

However the game was not over until the very last play when Kolb threw a “Hail Mary” pass into the Eagles endzone that bounced out of receiver Jason Avant’s hands and was intercepted by DeAngelo Hall. 

McNabb said after the game, “It’s about winning ballgames, and that’s one that I take pride in.”

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

To Boo or Not for McNabb’s Return by Lloyd Vance

NFL nation is waiting to see how former Eagles and current Redskins QB Donovan McNabb will be received by Philadelphia fans this Sunday

Ever since the 2010 NFL Schedule came out on April 20th, one game stood out more than any other of the National Football League’s 256 regular season games. The Washington Redskins traveling to play their NFC East division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, at 4:00 PM EST on Sunday October 3rd on FOX

The game will mark the first post-trade return of former franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb –- who I believe is the most overanalyzed and underappreciated player in Philadelphia Eagles’ history.  The trade sent the 11-year veteran from the Eagles to the Washington Redskins for a 2nd Rd (37) in 2010 and a 3rd or 4th on April 5, 2011.  But you know when the entire NFL universe was circling this game, they weren’t thinking about the trade’s details.  The one thing on everyone’s mind was, “What in the world are Philadelphia Fans going to do to welcome back McNabb?”

For over a decade in Philadelphia, the name “Donovan McNabb” was a lightning rod for both passion and scorn.  It all started that fateful April Saturday afternoon in 1999 when 30 knucklehead Eagles fans got lathered up and traveled to New York City to “boo” McNabb at the 1999 NFL Draft.  The group, that included 610 WIP’s morning host Angelo Cataldi, to this day still remains steadfast that the booing was in protest to their rebuilding team not taking Heisman Winner running back Ricky Williams rather than hating on McNabb.  But it doesn’t how the “Great Donovan McNabb” debate began, because it continues on to this day.  And you can bet that this Sunday that the Lincoln Financial Field sold-out crowd of 66,000+ will be bringing gasoline to the debate fire that has raged for over 11 years.

So far professionalism has been shown by both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.  Players and Coaches on both sides have “Downplayed” any Donovan Talk by saying that they are just focusing on the game. 

Some quotes attributed to McNabb this week when talking about his return to Philadelphia include:

“Honestly, I think I will be more cheered.  No matter what the situation is, right now I’m with a different team and it’s a rival and it wasn’t my choice. We had a successful 11 years. We had a lot of exciting plays and obviously some down times, but there were more exciting things in 11 years.”

“I’ve always said that I look at it just like a normal game.  This is a game the Washington Redskins need. It wouldn’t matter if it were the Cowboys or the Giants. After the last two weeks, this is a must-win situation for us. We just look forward to the challenge.”

“We had a lot of success together.  Obviously, we’ve been through some ups and downs together. Things happen. It’s unfortunate. Was I upset at the time? Absolutely. But I’ve moved on. I learned to move on and focus on the job at hand.”

“But in reality you’ve got to remember this is a big rivalry and we see each other twice a year so there will be some realization there,” McNabb said. “Hopefully after the fact they recognize that I’m back. Just knowing that I’m with the Redskins, I’m sure (Eagles fans) won’t be happy about that aspect.”

“This is the business we’re in,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid recently said of McNabb returning.  He added, “Fortunately, [the trade] didn’t destroy our friendship. It’s part of the business. He understands. I understand. I’m sure neither one of us wanted it to come to that day. But that’s how it works. That’s how this thing works. It was a tough decision on my part.”

C’mon guys…give us a little something to work with here.  Where is the “R” word in all of this?  I am talking about “revenge”.  Luckily the people not participating in the game, the fans, are much more interesting to talk about.  Both sides of fans in what I like to call, the “Donovan Divide”, have arguments fueled by passion that only Philadelphia can bring to table.

Some pro-McNabb comments from I what would say is a quiet majority of supporters in the Eagles fanbase have included:  “McNabb is the best quarterback the Eagles have ever had”; “Andy Reid never surrounded McNabb with enough weapons”; “McNabb played on a broken leg and won against the Cardinals”; “McNabb would have been fine if the Eagles had kept T.O”. And there are probably much more supportive words from Pro-McNabb fans, but they tend to stay off talk radio and message boards.

However the very vocal minority of Birds’ fans that are ardent McNabb detractors are more than willing to express themselves.  You can expect these ‘Boo Birds’ to be ready on Sunday as they were more than giddy on Easter Sunday when Big 5 packed up his air guitar and left the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ for DC. Wonder if any of these comments sound familiar.  “McNabb throws worm balls”; “The National Media has no idea, just how bad McNabb really is”; “McNabb is inaccurate causing him to not hit receivers in stride”; “McNabb’s parents are too involved in his life”; “McNabb has lost 4 NFC Championship Games, two of which were at home and three  where the Eagles were favored”; “McNabb smiles after interceptions”; “McNabb never scrambles anymore because he doesn’t want to be labeled a running quarterback”; “McNabb cannot win big games”; “McNabb should change his name to McChoke”; “McNabb caused the Birds to lose the last game at the Vet”; “McNabb is too injury prone” and “McNabb blew-it in the Super Bowl against the Patriots”. 

However love him or hate him…I believe McNabb deserves a warm welcome on Sunday befitting his hard-nose play and legacy in Philadelphia.  During the McNabb era there were the heights of 6 Pro Bowl selections, 5 NFC Title Games and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2004 season.  And there also were the depths of coming back from an ACL injury in 2006 and defending his play in four NFC Championship Game losses.  But fans should try and remember the good times more than the non-Championships.  McNabb holds almost every franchise passing record and Philly fans should ask themselves, “Would they boo Ron Jaworski, Curt Schilling, Ron Hextall, or Charles Barkley?”  All of these athletes, like McNabb, were all-star caliber players who shined but eventually passed through Philadelphia without attaining the city’s elusive championship.  Thankfully the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies ended the city’s 25-year drought by winning the World Series and hopefully softening Philadelphia fans a little.

We all know that a championship is the ultimate prize in sports.  But “Winning” is the first step, puts butts in the seats, and keeps fans coming back for more.  And that is what Donovan McNabb is, a “Winner”!  Yes…McNabb, head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles’ organization as a whole did not bring home a Super Bowl Championship in 11 years. Plus McNabb’s last game as an Eagles player in a 38-14 wildcard playoff round loss to the Cowboys is still fresh in some “Haters” minds — numbers of 19/37, 230 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 lost fumble. 

But you cannot forget McNabb’s value to the Eagles franchise both on the field and in the community — does all the rights things when other athletes are being toasted despite their past shortcomings off the field.  Big 5 put it on the line each and every game that he played for the Philadelphia Eagles.  He battled through injuries and criticism to put up the best quarterback resume in the Eagles’ over 75-year history.  And to me, his resume is moving toward Pro Football Hall of Fame status too. 

In eleven exciting years in Philadelphia, which is more than any fan can ask for, McNabb was a leader as he passed for numbers of  2801-4746, 59.0% completion rate, 32,873 yards, 216 TDs, and 100 INTs – NFL record for touchdown-to-interception ratio — with an additional 3249 yards and 28 touchdowns rushing.  But it is his Eagles’ starting records of 92-49-1 in the regular season and 9-7 in the playoffs that have to move fans to give the man, the respect that he deserves.

I am expecting a half-hearted welcome for McNabb on Sunday which definitely will include some boos.  If there is booing, unfortunately Philly will once again be painted with the over-used phrase, “The city that threw snowballs at Santa Claus”.  In the end no one has a right to tell money-paying fans how to react to any player as long as they don’t break any rules.  BTW: I am cautioning fans to enjoy themselves, but don’t do anything too crazy like burning McNabb jerseys or hanging Eagles No. 5 clad dummies in effigy.

As someone that has followed the fortunes of  the Philadelphia Eagles for over 30 years.  And in particular Donovan McNabb since his early days at Syracuse, I am not even going to lie and say that I won’t be quietly pulling for McNabb to play well in his return. 

Hopefully the excitement of McNabb’s return will dissipate quickly and everyone can move on to focusing on the Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) versus the Washington Redskins (1-2) in a crucial NFC East match-up. 

So as Andy Reid says in every press conference, “The time is yours” and this time I am directing it at Eagles fans as we see how they react to Donovan McNabb returning.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Season Week 3 – Parity Still Reigns

September 27, 2010 1 comment

The St. Louis Rams upset win over the heavily favored Washington Redskins shows that the NFL is still full of surprises and parity

I know there are still 14 more weeks of NFL play…But is it just me or does everyone else feel like every NFL team has a record of 2-1 or 1-2 after almost three weeks of league play? 

Way back during the tenure of influential former NFL Commissioner Bert Bell, a man who was one of the league’s key caretakers, coined the phrase, “On Any Given Sunday”.  In Bell’s dream theory for league play, equitability was extremely high and “competition was key”.  The former league head, who for many years ran the organization from his home in Narberth, Pennsylvania, wanted a league where any team — whether top or bottom — could beat another on a weekly basis. 

Well somewhere Bell is smiling!  The NFL after three wacky weeks of play only has four unbeaten teams remaining including some teams no thought would be at the top. Now only the surprise Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) and Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0), who both unexpectedly have remained unblemished.  Along with the Chicago Bears (2-0) and Green Packers (2-0) who square-off in a Monday Night Football “Somebody’s Zero, Got to Go” game tomorrow night in the Windy City. 

I ask, “Where have the NFL’s beloved/hated dynasty bully teams gone?”  Think of Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns of the ‘50s, Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers of the ‘60s, Chuck Knoll’s Pittsburgh Steelers of the ‘70s, Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers of the ‘80s, Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys of the ‘90s, and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots of the ‘00s. 

Hard to believe during the 2009 NFL Season, the 1972 Miami Dolphins – who currently live as the NFL’s only undefeated Super Bowl Champion — were left wondering if not one but two teams might catch them.  It all seems like a mirage as both the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts went 13-0 to start last season.   So far in the 2010 NFL season, the National Football League’s current landscape is filled with “parity”. Teams can no longer just mail-it-in as shown by the formerly winless St. Louis Rams’ unexpected 30-16 victory over the heavily favored Washing Redskins in a Week 3 “Trap Game”

With the aforementioned battle between the unbeaten Bears and Packers yet to be played in Week 3, league standing show that there are two (3-0) teams, fourteen (2-1) teams, nine (1-2) teams, and five lowly (0-3) teams.  The whole parity laden league – or mess as some analysts are saying — has left several NFL fans and media scratching their collective heads when looking at current division leaders. 

You have to start with the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs, who dominated the equally surprising – for the wrong reasons – Niners by a score of 31-10 at renovated Arrowhead Stadium.  It was a battle of two teams headed in the wrong direction.  The Chiefs now hold a two-game lead over the Chargers and could be the NFL’s Cinderella story of 2010.  While you have to wonder if the Niners, who face the “red hot” NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons (2-1) in Week 4, might be looking to replace embattled head coach Mike Singletary after an 0-3 start in a season where his team had very high expectations.

The AFC South has the Houston Texans (2-1) leading by a tiebreaker over the Colts, but that maybe changing soon.  The Texan showed that they were not quite just ready for the “Prime Time” as the desperate Cowboys thumped them 27-13 in Houston while machine like Colts (2-1) easily rolled over the Denver Broncos (1-2) by an identical point difference of 27-13. 

The AFC North is looking like the NFL’s best division with the Steelers, Baltimore Ravens (2-1), and Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) all bunched near the top.  To the surprise of experts –including yours truly – it is the Steelers who are currently undefeated even though their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is serving a 4-game suspension.  Fueled by veteran quarterback Charlie Batch’s three touchdown passes, the Steelers annihilated the formerly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 38-13 in Tampa.  Now everything will point to a Week 4 battle between the Ravens and Steelers.

The AFC East also looks like a 3 team race for the top as the NY Jets (2-1), Miami Dolphins (2-1) and New England Patriots (2-1) have the same record.  But a recent two –week streak that included wins over the Patriots and Dolphins has left the “brash” NY Jets sitting on top.  To the delight of head coach Rex Ryan, the King of Hard Knocks, the J-E-T-S took care of business by beating the Dolphins 31-23 on NBC Sunday Night Football in Miami. It was a triumphant homecoming for former Dolphins star and current Jets’ DE/OLB Jason Taylor who had produced 1 sack and 1 tackle in the win.

Switching to the NFC side of the league, there could an 8-8 division winner in the NFC West, which easily is the NFL’s worst division.  Even the Niners at a record of 0-3 still have a chance in their division race.  The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are currently at the top with a (2-1) record, but both teams are very beatable.  The Cardinals benefited from a rear short field goal miss by Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski to win 24-23 and stay tied with the Seahawks, who surprised the San Diego Chargers 27-20 in Seattle.  This week’s version of Monday Night Football will settle the NFC North picture as the Packers and Bears meet for the 179th time with Chicago being the host city for this tilt. 

The Packers seem to have hit their stride led by QB Aaron Rodgers, but the Bears are hungry as head coach Lovie Smith’s job is on the line this season.  But both teams still need to be weary of the Minnesota Vikings (1-2), who behind some great running by RB Adrian Peterson (160 rushing yards and 2 TDs), finally hit their stride in a much-needed 24-10 win over the struggling Detroit Lions (0-3). And did I mention Favre and his boys will have a Week 4 bye to get healthy.

The NFC South could have witnessed the changing of the guard as the Atlanta Falcons surprised the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints by a score of 27-24 in overtime.  We will see if the Falcons (2-1) and their emerging quarterback Matt Ryan can continue staying at the top of the division.  But I think the Saints (2-1) are learning how hard it is to be the hunted, especially without playmaking running back Reggie Bush who is hurt with a broken fibula. 

The last division race is probably the most surprising as the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) may found their catalyst in quarterback Michael Vick – has gone from Public Enemy No. 1 to the leading candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player in his first game as the Birds anointed starter passed for 291 yards and 3 TDs in a dominating 28-3 win over the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars. 

The real fun will come next week when Vick and rising Eagles host former Philadelphia and current Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.  However the Skins and Eagles can’t get too comfortable as the Cowboys (1-2) are still lurking and they should get even better after a Week 4 bye.

The unexpected surprises of the undefeated Kansas Chiefs and the Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers plus the revival of the Michael Vick Experience so far show that nothing is a given in the NFL. 

And “Yes”… “Any Given Sunday” still reigns supreme in the NFL.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Reid Makes the Right Decision in Choosing Vick by Lloyd Vance

September 22, 2010 1 comment

The Philadelphia Eagles QB Controversy took a crazy turn as head coach Andy Reid named Michael Vick as his starter for the rest of the 2010 season

In a shocking and quite bizarre change of events, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid did a total 360-degree about face by naming comebacking quarterback Michael Vick to be his starter for he rest of the 2010 season.  Reid said in a September 21st press conference to announce the change, “Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. I think his play has even exceeded expectations over the last two weeks.” 

Of course in naming Vick the starter, Reid who has notoriously been quite stubborn over his 12 years in Philadelphia –- see former receivers that he told us were good enough…when we all knew they weren’t (i.e. Pinkston, Thrash, Mitchell) — definitely had to back track on his anointing of former starter, Kevin Kolb, who had been the team’s face since an Easter Sunday 2010 trade of 11-year veteran Donovan McNabb. The 4th year quarterback and first-time starter had been given a lucrative extension on April 29th with the terms 1-year, 12.26 million through 2011 with all of it guaranteed and $10.7 million in a signing bonus.  Reid even said when Kolb signed his new deal, “When given the chance, Kevin has proven to have good command of this offense and we’re looking forward to having him operate as the number one quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles”. 

I guess the coach misremembered his comments from April and a couple of days prior, because now Vick is his guy.  Reid tried to soften the blow to Kolb by saying, “This has nothing to do with Kevin Kolb’s injury. Kevin Kolb has done a phenomenal job for us here and the future of Kevin Kolb is not slighted by this one bit. He has an opportunity, obviously, to be, what I would consider, a franchise quarterback and deserving of so.”  In trying to further justify his decision Reid added, “Again, this is more about Michael Vick and his accelerated play. He’s sitting there as possibly the hottest quarterback in the National Football League at this time and deserves an opportunity to play. It also allows Kevin to continue as a young quarterback in the National Football League, his maturation process, and, again, to become a franchise quarterback in the future.”

Alright before we try to get in the mind of Coach Reid and understand why he flip-flopped in a matter of 3 Days, we have to first jump in the hot tub time machine and go over the events that led to the firestorm of activity around the Birds’ quarterbacks.  Let’s go back to Sunday September 19th around 5:00 PM EST; the Eagles had pulled off a hard-earned 35-32 win over the scrappy Detroit Lions.  Where backup quarterback Michael Vick, who was making his first NFL start since December 31, 2006, for the second week in a row had given the Eagles a noticeable spark as Kolb recovered from a concussion suffered against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player was sensational as he made something out of nothing several times, both in and out of the pocket, in the win over the Lions.  Vick finished with numbers 21-for-34 for 284 yards passing and two TD tosses, with 37 yards rushing plus he withstood being sacked 6 times behind a porous Eagles’ offensive line. 

Almost immediately after my hometown Eagles put the final touches on a good win that put them at 1-1 and we later learned a tie for first place in the NFC East, my cell phone started going crazy.  I didn’t even need to answer a single call or read one text message.  Because I knew the “vocal” majority of the Birds’ fan base –- the same ones that wanted McNabb gone and for Kevin Kolb to take over… but I digress — had now switched their allegiance to Vick.  However almost immediately into his post-game press conference, Reid tried to squelch any Vick talk by saying that his now-healthy Week 1 starter, Kolb (concussion), would be returning as the team’s starting quarterback next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.  Can you say, “Quarterback Controversy”? The move was both lauded and loudly questioned on post-game radio, television and Twitter in the Philadelphia area and nationally.

To Vick’s credit, he showed that he had moved on from his former selfish ways that plagued him during his time with the Atlanta Falcons by supporting his teammate.  Of the whole Kolb-Vick quarterback controversy brewing in Philly, Vick stepped away from the grenade by humbly saying, “This is Kevin’s team”. Vick added, “All I wanted to do was come out and get the momentum going. I’m sure Kevin will be back next week.”  But you had to think that deep down after all he had been through that even Vick -– career passing numbers 973-1801, 54.0%, 12050 yards, 75 TDs, and 52 INTs with additional rushing numbers of 4094 yards, 7.2 ypr, and 23 TDs — knew that he “deserved” to get his shot back in the spotlight. As incredibly as it sounds, the player once described as “Public Enemy No. 1” in the minds of many NFL fans had done the unthinkable, going from a hated reputed dogfighter to a playmaker.

C’mon not even Hollywood could have written a better script. The long redemption road that the former Virginia Tech star had traveled since his last start in December 2006 has been a well-documented rollercoaster, to say the least. Vick’s road back to NFL glory included an 18-month stay in Leavenworth Prison for his role in a dogfighting ring and a getting-to-know-you 2009 season where he served as a spare part Eagles’ third-stringer –- only threw 13 passes, completing 6 for 86 yards and 1 TD. But now he was back to the player that once had the NFL buzzing back when he led the Falcons to a mission-impossible 27-7 win over the Green Bay Packers at snowy Lambeau Field in the Wildcard round of the 2002 NFL Playoffs.  Surprisingly 8 years later, his 4.3 speed was back and he also added another piece to his repertoire by showing the vision needed to make passes downfield from the pocket. Even Reid couldn’t help talking about Vick’s eye-opening effort in the win over the Lions, which unfortunately for Kolb, probably forced his hand in naming Vick the starter.  Reid said after the Lions win about Vick, “You’re talking about a phenomenal football player who’s had another chance to prove himself…To see the sparkle in his eye is amazing.”   

Call me “crazy”, but Vick –- salary of $3.75 million in 2010 plus an already paid $1.5 million roster bonus — has bought into Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s coaching enough that now he looks like Donovan McNabb circa 2000.  That season the Eagles made the playoffs for the first time under Reid by finishing 11-5 even though they were a very young team.  Back then the Eagles relied heavily on their dual-threat quarterback and McNabb produced passing (over 3,000 yards), and rushing (over 600 yards) while accounting for 27 touchdowns (21 passing and 6 rushing)…Does any of this sound familiar.  In two weeks of play in 2010, Vick –-passing numbers through 2 weeks of 37-58, 63.8%, 459 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs with a career-high passer rating of 105.5 plus 140 rushing yards — has knocked off several years of rust to become Reid’s type of starting quarterback.  He no longer is settling for his first read then taking off to make spectacular running plays only, Vick is a passer first…if you can believe it. The exciting thing is that the Eagles have responded under Vick’s leadership by putting up 52 points in six quarters. 

Reid recently said in a press conference that he now is in the enviable spot of having “Two Quality” quarterbacks.  But give me break coach…you can spin it anyway you want, the reality of the situation is that Kolb -– career passing numbers of 84-140, 60.0%, 909 yards, 4 TDs, and 7 INTs with a 1-2 starting record –- was not the “right” guy for the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles.  I know that sounds harsh after Kolb has only played in basically one half of football -– passing numbers of 5-for-10 for only 24 yards and produced only 3 first downs before the concussion knocked him out against the Packers.  But today’s NFL is a “Win Now” league.  Everyone from fans to the media to the team’s management are not content with having a rebuilding season when the NFC East is there for the taking. Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw also believes now is the time for Vick.  Bradshaw said on the network’s pregame show of the situation, “With Kolb, you’re looking at a guy who really doesn’t have a resume”.  The Hall of Fame quarterback added, “He’s only started three games. I would find it very difficult for Kolb to win with the Eagles offensive line being in shambles. Vick is better suited right now to win football games than Kevin.”

The division-favorite Dallas Cowboys (0-2) are looking like they could implode at any moment and the other teams in the division, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, don’t look like they are making reservations for Super Bowl XLV either.  As always, Reid’s goal is to make the playoffs and he knew Vick was his best chance to win.  Though I am not entirely ready to say the Eagles are definitely a playoff team with Vick.  Who knows if the 2010 Eagles could possibly catch the same lightning in a bottle that caused the 2005 Steelers, 2007 NY Giants, and 2009 NY Jets to make to make strong playoff runs, despite having some regular season flaws.   

Another deciding factor for Reid had to be an offensive line that is beat-up and sorely missing their leader, Jamaal Jackson.  The Eagles’ offensive line needs to make adjustments, because as a unit they have allowed a whopping 12 sacks in two games and lost Kolb to a concussion.  Vick, who has been sacked 9 times despite running from pressure, is the Eagles’ best weapon against the fast attacking defenses that have been exploiting the team’s protection breakdowns. And I won’t even go into whether the Eagles wanted to take back the Philadelphia area’s sports fans’ attention from major league baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies who look like they are surging to their 3rd World Series appearance in three years, but that is always an item for debate.

Whatever the reason for naming Vick the starter, it was the right reason for the Philadelphia Eagles to win now.  Reid said of the decision to go with Vick, “This is my decision”.  Reid strongly added, “Listen, when you deal with a decision like this, you take as much time as you possibly need to take and so I did that. It’s not my obligation to tell people my decision. It’s my obligation to make the proper decision. That’s why I took the time to do that.”

Good Luck coach with your new starting quarterback, because you know this quarterback controversy is not going away anytime soon… especially with the passionate fans of Philadelphia. 

Wonder if Eagles fans and Reid would rather still have Big 5 still under center –- he beat Dallas in Week 1 and threw for over 400 yards in a loss to the Texans in Week 2…..Alright I won’t go there.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Preseason Week 1 Review by Lloyd Vance

Steelers QB Dennis Dixon received a Game Ball for his outstanding play in Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Preseason

Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Preseason is now in the books.  As usual the start of preseason games are welcomed by most players (want to hit someone else other than teammates) and fans (“Jonesing” for their football fix).  But after most of the starters have left preseason games, usually in the first or second quarter, everyone watching can’t wait for the “real” games to start.  Unfortunately there are usually several “training camp” players on the field after halftime, which lends to some sloppy play at times.

The week’s highlight had to be the opening of the New Meadowlands Stadium as the “Battle for New York” was center stage on Monday Night football. Friendly tenants, the New York Giants and New York Jets, battled it out with the G-Men coming away with a 31-16 win.  The biggest television-worth play had to be Giants quarterback Eli Manning having a “Y.A Tittle” moment.  Manning departed the game in the first half with a three-inch laceration to his forehead after getting caught between two Jets’ defenders with his helmet off. Blood was gushing from Peyton’s little brother’s melon, which definitely needed several stitches to close the wound.

One key element that I noticed this week and throughout the preseason is that the National Football League is “survival of the fittest”, where you can never have too much quality depth.  Unfortunately players around the league continue to drop like flies. Some notable injuries were Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson (broken hand – 4 to 6 weeks), Houston Texans RB Ben Tate (broken ankle – season), Tennessee Titans RB Stafon Johnson (his great comeback story is over for now after a heart-breaking ankle injury), Dallas Cowboys OT Marco Colombo (knee scoped), Detroit Lions LB Jordon Dizon (knee – season), New England Patriots DE Ty Warren (season-ending hip injury), Baltimore Ravens OT Jared Gaither (back tear) and too many others to list.

All these injuries are making coaches and general managers scream, “Please Let’s Just Start the Regular Season”. I have to agree with them, because too often important pieces of a team’s puzzle are lost for considerable amounts of time, including for the entire season, in meaningless games. We all know that preseason games — or “exhibition” games as I like to call them — are only on the schedule for the purpose of generating extra revenue (television dollars and local teams having two extra “home” games at full price) and they are very unnecessary. Also as Eagles head coach Andy Reid recently said of his game-planning for the his preseason Week 1 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, “We kept it pretty vanilla” – BTW: the Eagles and Jaguars play in Week 3 of the regular season.  You just are not going to see much in preseason as teams usually want to save their best for the games that count.

With today’s athletes already engaging in year-round NFL activities including OTAs and long arduous training camps, four preseason games is a bit much. Today’s NFL players’ bodies are already pushed to the max after training camp two-a-days in the hot sun, so there is already a “Next Man Up” mentality before preseason games are even played. I know coaches try to limit exposure to key veterans by getting them out of preseason games early, but the risk is always there. I believe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needs to investigate limiting preseason game, however I am not sure about removing them just to add more career-shortening regular season games.

Even though this week’s preseason games only gave a minor taste of “real” regular season NFL football action, there were some bright spot performances.  Overall though, I say bring on the “real” games, because the NFL’s preseason is just too long of a process and watching games of depth chart 3’s versus 4’s is unbearable.  For goodness sakes, Minnesota Vikings 3rd string quarterback Sage Rosenfels threw for 310 yards and 3 TDs in a 28-7 win over the hapless St. Louis Rams ….need I say anymore.

Game Balls

Redskins QB Donovan McNabb – After a slow start, Washington’s new signal-caller settled down to lead his offensive unit to touchdown.  McNabb hit young receiver Anthony Armstrong with a 4-yard strike to complete his night’s work.  For the game, Big 5 finished with numbers 5-of-8 for 58 yards in two series.

Giants WR Victor Cruz – I guess the NY Jets really do need holdout Darrelle Revis. A preseason star was born in the Giants’ 31-16 win over the NY Jets.  Cruz caught 6 passes for 145 yards and 3 TDs.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – The former 2009 Pro Bowl passer was amazing as he finished with numbers of 12-13, 159 yards, and 1 TD against the lowly Cleveland Browns.

Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen – Could there be a quarterback controversy in Carolina already?? I am saying hold your horses on that one.  But the former Notre Dame star showed good footwork and arm strength in his team’s 17-12 loss to the Ravens.

Steelers QB Dennis Dixon — Had a perfect passer rating as he finished with numbers 6-7, 128 yards and 1 TD in a 23-7 win over the Detroit Lions.

Panthers OLB Greg Hardy – Showed great burst off the edge as he finished with 2 sacks in a loss to the Ravens

Lloyd’s Lackey

Colts better get another back-up quarterback – Usually try to not give out a “Lloyd’s Lackey” this time of the year.   But there was an awful performance that must be noted.  In case Peyton Manning gets hurt — not that No. 18 ever gets hurt — Indy has no shot of winning games with back-up passer Curtis Painter.  The former Purdue star was awful in a 37-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.  His line for the game was 9-for-19, 64 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

My View from the Washington Redskins Press Box by Lake Lewis

Optimism is all that any Washington Redskins’ fan can ever hope for after a horrid 2009 football campaign. Last season contained former Redskins head coach Jim Zorn — now Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks coach — routinely questioned by fans and the media for his coaching tactics.  Former starting quarterback Jason Campbell’s leadership was questioned and many debated if he even was a legitimate playoff caliber signal caller.  And lastly, the ‘Skins defense was often criticized for not playing in a free-flowing attacking style. 

Well, the 2010 season has brought eternal hope for all around our Nation’s Capital.  And if last night’s Redskins preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills was any indicator, then the new season should bring a sort of giddiness seldom bestowed on this franchise over the last decade. The Redskins came out and imposed their will on the Buffalo Bills in route to a 42-17 alley-slapping.

In the Redskins’ preseason opening win, the three most important off-season acquisitions, in my opinion, of Head Coach Mike Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and Quarterback Donovan McNabb did not disappoint in their burgundy and gold debuts – BTW: I didn’t count General Manager Bruce Allen as he joined the team at the end of the 2009 season. 

After a shaky first series, the Redskins’ offense -– 2009 NFL rankings of 22nd in total offense and 26th in scoring — showed signs of life.  On their second possession, the new look offense led by McNabb orchestrated a twelve play, 70-yard, drive culminating with the former All-Pro passer connecting with first-year player Anthony Armstrong on a four-yard touchdown strike.  The touchdown pass showed that finally the Redskins seem to have the most important position on the field covered. 

McNabb’s improvisation skills were on full display on the touchdown play as he showed foot movement and presence in the pocket.  The former Philadelphia Eagles starter kept the play alive by moving around to find his receiver despite some pressure from the Bills.  Overall, McNabb who took the snap from center 17 times — was scheduled to take only 18 snaps actually — completed five of eight passes for 58 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. The former 6-time Pro Bowl player also turned in a more than respectable 124.0 quarterback rating for the game.

In his postgame presser, McNabb said that he felt good after having played his first game with the Redskins.  The new leader of Washington’s offense said, “It was an exciting time.  When you play your first game, obviously, with a new ball club it takes you back to the first game you played.”  The 12-year veteran added, “Your adrenaline is high and you have to settle down a little bit.  The second time we went out, after our first drive, it led us putting up some points.  Then good things happen.  There are a lot of things we have to work on but I thought offensively we were able to progress today.”

The strong performance of the Redskins did not stop at McNabb’s doorstep.  Back-up quarterback Rex Grossman, a former Super Bowl lead guy in Chicago, may have helped ease any discord about who will replace #5 should he have any kind of setback.  Grossman showed complete command of the Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which he was already familiar with from having been coached by the younger Shanahan last year with the Houston Texans.  For the game, Grossman played two quarters while completing eleven passes for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns. The former Florida Gators passer also finished with a great quarterback rating too (122.5).

One of the recipients of Grossman’s two touchdown passes was gifted receiver Devin Thomas.  The former Michigan State receiver had recently been under intense scrutiny for his participation in a music video with R&B star Fantasia.  But he rebounded to have a nice game as he pulled-in three catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.  Some people, who I talked to during the game, thought that Thomas should be bypassing any outside distractions and just focusing on football. 

However Thomas showed why he was a top-rated receiver prospect on many boards back during the 2008 draft.  Yesterday’s game could be the confidence booster for Shanahan’s offense and the third-year pro that the Redskins have been looking for.  After briefly talking to Thomas after the game, I can safely say there is not a more engaging player who knows exactly what is expected of him in the locker room.  I truly expect a breakout year for the developing receiver and for Thomas to also be the starter opposite veteran Santana Moss come opening day.

On the defensive side of the ball, there were some things from the game that I believe need to be corrected including over-pursuit and poor tackling.  But for the most part, new defensive coordinator Jim Hasslet’s unit showed the attacking style that most Washington fans have longed for since the departure of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.  The other major off-season drama, the Albert Haynesworth situation, also definitely seems to have been put to bed.  The $100-million dollar man started his long climb back up the depth charts and ‘Skins Nation’s hearts by playing a solid game.  Haynesworth entered the game in the second quarter, with the second unit, and although he did not record a sack or a tackle, his presence helped several players.

Redskins Game Notes:

First-year players who made an impact on the game were:

— LB Perry Riley who played well and was credited with a tackle for a loss.

— WR Anthony Armstrong caught his and Donovan McNabb’s first touchdown as Redskins.

— RB Keiland Williams showed that he could possibly breakthrough an already crowded backfield to make the final roster.

— CB Ramzee Robinson made several special teams gems.  And as always this is what separates young players who make NFL rosters.

— WR Brandon Banks showed the 4.2 speed that has caught the eye of many around the NFL.  Banks did not waste any time as he returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown.  His effort should help add greater debate about getting the young speedster more opportunities.

— RB Ryan Torain was impressive with 17 rushes for 62 yards.

— Former Pro Bowl TE Chris Cooley looked comfortable working with McNabb as he produced 3 catches for 33 yards.

— CB DeAngelo Hall had a nice interception, which he returned for 33 yards.

 

Lake Lewis is the head of the Sports Journey Broadcast Network and their daily drive-time radio host.  He also is a credentialed member of the media by the NBA, Washington Redskins, and Baltimore Ravens.