You remember where you were when word leaked that the Eagles had signed quarterback Michael Vick. Everyone knows where he was, how he reacted and the stunning next couple of days when the reality hit home: Michael Vick was a Philadelphia Eagle. I was on the sidelines at Lincoln Financial Field for a preseason broadcast as the Eagles played New England. Earlier that day, during a radio interview with a station in Canada, I was asked about the possibility that Vick would become an Eagle, a thought that was quickly dismissed.
"I would be shocked to see it happen," I said then. "It doesn't seem like an Eagles kind of move at a position where they have no need."
Several hours later, well, let's say I was stunned at the signing. And thus began a season with Vick as an Eagle, one that we can now grade on its worth to the fortunes of the football team.
Did the move to sign Vick make the Eagles a better football team? Judging by the 2009 season, of course, it would be difficult to say the Eagles benefited from Vick's presence. He had 24 rushing attempts for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he also completed 6 of 13 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
There some moments when Vick showed flashes of his elusive, lightning-quick self. He converted third downs and kept drives going here and there. In the win at Chicago, when Vick first looked like he might have back his running skills, he ripped off a 34-yard run out of the Wildcat formation and the Eagles used the big play to score a touchdown. That win started off a six-game winning streak during which was an instrumental piece, especially in victories over Atlanta and at the Giants.
But Vick suffered a thigh/quad injury during the win over San Francisco and didn't play in the final two games of the regular season, against Denver and at Dallas. In the playoff loss to the Cowboys, of course, we saw the best of Vick in his 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin to tie the game, 7-7. It was the perfectly-designed play as Vick used a play-action fake to start the play, rolled left and threw a perfect pass to Maclin. The rookie had created separation on his route and made the catch and then raced up the left sidelines for the big, big touchdown.
Later in the first half, though, Vick and fullback Leonard Weaver got mixed up over what was supposed to be a play-action fake and Vick fumbled the football and Dallas recovered, part of a second-quarter blizzard that put the Eagles in an insurmountable hole.
And that was the season. Over in a blink.
Vick, to his credit, could not have been a more model person. Understanding of a widely-publicized reaction that seemed to flame out pretty quickly, Vick did his part to begin a life of making amends as he visited the community and spread the word about his mistakes, and the horrors of dog fighting, and of hoping that kids out there would learn to accept responsibility and make the right decisions.
As a teammate, Vick was terrific. He was cordial and accommodating with the media. He was humble and hard working as a player. He kept a low profile around the NovaCare Complex. Vick fit in very well with the culture of the Eagles.
To me, the true value of making that decision to sign Vick has yet to be determined. I wonder, looking ahead, what is next for Vick and for the Eagles. The entire quarterback situation is a fascinating one, and head coach Andy Reid is correct when he says the Eagles have a great situation there with Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Vick all under contract through 2010 (Vick's deal is a team option worth a reported $5.2 million). How many teams have three quarterbacks who have won games in the NFL?
At the same time, it would be highly, highly unusual to have all three playing in '10 on the final year of their contracts. Imagine the constant questions and scrutiny and the endless speculation about the future. It would seem -- and this is merely my perspective -- that the Eagles would be best served to listen to any offers that might be forthcoming and use the quarterbacks as assets and see how they can strengthen the roster by dealing a quarterback or two should solid offers reach the trading table.
Reid has already spoken up for McNabb, but that didn't quiet the talk from fans and the media about McNabb's future here. McNabb is a tremendous quarterback, still one of the very best in the game and he had a good season in 2009 and there is no doubt that McNabb has many years of excellent football in front of him.
Kolb started two games when McNabb was injured and Kolb passed for 300-plus yards in each of those games, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to go over 300 yards in both of his first two NFL starts. He has obvious gifts and, entering his fourth season, would seem ready to start and play good football in this league.
Vick worked hard to clear off two years of rust that had accumulated during his time in jail. He worked very hard on his mechanics during practice and seems more prepared than ever to be a complete quarterback in the NFL. His running skills were just about back to that game-breaking level when Vick took the hard hit from 49ers safety Michael Lewis and then he was back to the athletic training room trying to get healthy.
Could the Eagles bring back all three quarterbacks in 2010? Yes. Could they do it without extending one or two contracts? Sure, anything is possible. But doing it that way, in this city, could make for a day-to-day quarterback drama never before experienced.
I'm not here to predict what might happen. I know what you know. Reid has backed McNabb. Reid has spoken highly of each of the three quarterbacks, with good reason. Vick has been eager to let everyone know that he appreciates the opportunity provided by the Eagles and that would make the most of whatever situation he is in for 2010.
The next step? Well, the Eagles have to pick up Vick's contract, a decision due in the next month-plus. If they don't do it, Vick becomes an unrestricted free agent and the Vick Experiment ends and the ROI (Return on Investment, in case you didn't know) would have to be judged minimal, all things considered. If they pick up the second year of his contract, then things will get very, very interesting.
Vick's contributions in 2009 didn't extend as deeply into the offense as I expected. I thought he would get a steady diet of touches. I thought the Eagles might even use Vick as a receiver from time to time, just to give defenses something to think about. Maybe I underestimated how long it takes for a player who has missed two seasons in the game to just back to the tempo of the NFL. Maybe the Eagles didn't want to disrupt too greatly the rhythm of an offense that at times operated as well as any in the league. I don't know.
As we look ahead, the quarterback position is one of great strength for the Eagles Worked the right way in this off-season, the Eagles can make great use of the assets to help the rest of the roster, if they decide to go that route. The front office has the pieces in hand; let's see what they decide to do with that. Then, and only then, can we determine the true value of signing Vick for this franchise.