Both head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb sat in front of the media late into the night on Thursday and explained why they think the decision to reach out and add quarterback Michael Vick to the Eagles is such a positive move for both the team and for a young man who paid the price for mistakes he made in his life. They sat patiently and answered every question and repeated their beliefs: Everybody deserves a second chance and Vick, who has not played football in two seasons, has shown incredible remorse and is ready to move forward with his life.
So Vick is an Eagle. It is technically a one-year contract, but as reported throughout the media, the Eagles hold an option for the 2010 season. The news broke swiftly and remarkably on Thursday night early in the Eagles' 27-25 loss to New England in the preseason opener (more on that later) and by the time the game ended, the talk was all Vick, all night.
"I'm a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance," said Reid. "Michael has done that. I've done a tremendous amount of homework on this, and I've followed his progress. He has some great people in his corner that he's proven to that he's on the right track in the Commissioner (Roger Goodell) and (former NFL head coach) Tony Dungy who has spent a lot of time with Michael.
"I've also had a chance to talk to Michael a few times here just to make sure that I know exactly where he's at, and he's at a good place. I've seen people close to me who have had second chances and taken advantage of those. It's very important that people give them opportunities to prove that they can change, so we're doing that with Michael."
What Vick gives the Eagles as a football player will be cultivated over time. We don't have any idea how long it will take Vick to get into football shape, or how long he will learn the system and gain back the timing that made him one of the most dangerous and explosive players in the NFL. What happens first, of course, is that Vick meets the media on Friday morning (live on PhiladelphiaEagles.com at 10:30 a.m. with Eagles Live!) and that the Eagles understand that the media circus is coming to town and is going to hang around for a few days and then a few weeks and, depending on how things unfold, a few months.
Obviously, we know the history here. A star quarterback with the Falcons, Vick was implicated in April, 2007, and, to quote Wikipedia, "in an extensive and unlawful interstate dogfighting ring that operated over a period of five years. In August 2007, he plead guilty to felony charges, and was indefinitely suspended from the NFL. He was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison, and began his incarceration in November 2007. With loss of his NFL salary and product endorsement deals, combined with previous financial mismanagement, Vick filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2008.
"Vick was released from prison to home confinement on May 20, 2009. Falcons owner Arthur Blank stated that he did not want Vick on the Falcons, and after attempts to trade him failed, Vick was released. On July 27, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Vick, and will consider him for full reinstatement by Week 6 of the 2009 season at the latest, and possibly as soon as Week 1."
That is the nuts and bolts of the story. Vick was involved in something terrible. Awful. He deserved the punishment he received and he accepted it with great remorse. The key to the Eagles' decision is that they understand the big picture here. They know that not everyone is going to be on board with the move. They understand that there could be some out there who are outraged.
But they also understand that they did every bit of research they could to support their decision. They spoke extensively with Goodell. Reid spoke with Dungy. The team spoke with the president of the National Humane Society and everyone who had a voice in the outrage that surrounded Vick's involvement with dog fighting.
"Everyone deserves a second chance," said Reid, who has gone through a lot of soul searching in his personal life as his sons have gone through challenging and troubling times. "Michael is coming here to join the team."
This was not a hastily-made decision. Reid tracked Vick's plight and became involved in the picture by discussing Vick's situation with friends and those in Vick's camp.
By the time the signing was announced on Thursday night, Reid had made his point very clearly. He is willing to make the move to help the football team and to help a young man get his life back in order.
"I'm bringing him in to the team. It's not that I'm bringing him for Andy. That's not what I'm doing," said Reid. "I'm bringing him in for thsi football team, and it's important that I did my homework on him the best I could."
As for the football side of things, the Eagles have plenty of time to figure out how to integrate Vick into the offense. McNabb said he lobbied heavily to sign Vick, and McNabb expressed not a bit of concern that there would be any kind of "quarterback controversy." Both Reid and McNabb are convinced that adding a top-notch talent such as Vick helps the team, in whatever way that may be.
How will Vick help the Eagles? Good question. Nobody really knows. He is, and Reid made this very clear, a quarterback. Vick isn't coming in to play wide receiver. Reid said during his post-game press conference that Vick can help in a lot of ways and that he can do "a lot of things" on the football field. Envisioning Vick at quarterback with Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and McNabb spreading the field is exciting. How do you defend all of that speed? Having Vick and his incredible talents give offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg a spectacular option to consider.
That is all in time. "Patience," McNabb stressed, is the key. Vick will practice on Saturday and throughout the week, but he can't play in the second preseason game, in Indianapolis on Thursday night. Vick will be in uniform against Jacksonville and against the Jets and then it will up to Goodell to determine Vick's fate in the regular season.
This is a stunning, surprising, exciting move for the Eagles. Who expected that a team as rock-solid as the Eagles at the quarterback position would make such a move? Now all three of the team's top quarterbacks -- McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Vick -- are signed through 2010. And what becomes of A.J. Feeley, who played so well on Thursday night?
There are so many questions here, and we are just now starting to understand the options. There are a lot of opinions out there, and one to consider is that of Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who believes Vick and the Eagles are a great fit. Wrote King on SI.com ...
"The signing of Vick by the Eagles Thursday night makes more sense than Vick to almost anywhere else. Coach Andy Reid has averaged 10.7 wins a year in his 10 seasons atop the Eagles. He and his offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg (entering his seventh year in Philly), both were schooled in the modified West Coast offense by Mike Holmgren in Green Bay in the nineties. The unknown quarterback coach, James Urban, is a bookish 35-year-old who coached at Penn before coming to the Eagles.
"And Vick is sure to be coached as well by one of Brett Favre's good friends, a longtime West Coast backup, Doug Pederson, who is in his first year as the Eagles' offensive quality-control coach. I expect Pederson will become very, very close to Vick now, reinforcing and teaching the things that will make his head swim with a new language in quarterback meetings. Reid and Mornhinweg will be Vick's main men, and both are solid rocks. A couple of weeks ago, I sat with Reid and told him I thought the reason he'd been able to last in a tough town like Philadelphia for a decade is that, essentially, he didn't give a crap about most of the things the media, the fans and lots of his players gave a crap about. He started chuckling, and he said he'd just been talking about that earlier in the week.
"But it's true -- and it's a good trait to have with Vick entering the Eagles' complex this weekend to begin his second career. If there are dog-lovers protesting Vick's signing because of his heinous dog-fighting history and convictions (and there are bound to be some), they'll roll off Reid. He simply won't care."
What does it mean for McNabb? He quickly dismissed the idea of the addition of Vick as a "threat" to McNabb's security here, repeating that he was one who lobbied to bring Vick to the Eagles. What McNabb wants to be is a mentor and a friend to Vick, and he wants to add another great football player to this team.
"There's no threat to me. There's not threat for (Kevin) Kolb," said McNabb. "It's an opportunity for us to add another weapon to our offense and our team. And I think for a guy who knows it's going to take some time for him to kind of get setled back into the things that he wants to do.
"You know, I think patience is everything and I think for the things that we've been able to do around here, it's nothing that's going to hold us back by any means. When the time comes, when we decide to unveil him, so to speak, I think everyone across the league will understand why we did this."
* *It was a big, bold and aggressive move for the Eagles. From a football perspective, things will unfold in time. The idea of Vick on the field with all of the talent here is appealing and exciting, for sure.
Observations From Eagles-Patriots
* LeSean McCoy is the real deal, as everyone saw. Ten carries, 55 yards and a couple of receptions. He ran hard between the tackles and showed he is already up to the speed of the NFL game. McCoy picked up the blitz well and did not make mental mistakes. Excellent job there.
* Nice job from Eldra Buckley, who scored twice and racked up yards in the running game and in the passing game in his bid to earn the third halfback job.
* Ted Daisher had some rough moments for his special teams, but he will get them ironed out. He found out a couple of things on the positive side, and one of them is that Jeremy Maclin is a playmaker. Maclin mishandled one punt, but otherwise was dynamic in the return game. Maclin also caught two passes for 44 yards and drew a pass-interference penalty.
* The pass rush really missed Trent Cole and Victor Abiamiri. Tom Brady had too much time in the pocket.
* It was hard to get a read on Joe Mays, who played one quarter. I talked to Mays coming off the field and he felt good about his performance running the huddle and playing middle linebacker. I'm sure the game film will give him a more complete picture.
* Sav Rocca wasn't as consistent as I wanted to see. He needs to be better.
* Winston Justice was just OK at right tackle. Not bad, but not dominating. I thought the reserve offensive line, on the other hand, played a tremendous game.
* Sheldon Brown was terrific. He had a superb interception on a deep Brady pass for Randy Moss.
* Quintin Demps did a good job. Ran to the ball, tackled well. I liked what I saw.
* Leonard Weaver had a couple of touches and ran the ball well and, geez, I think he is so far and away the best fullback of the Andy Reid era.