As Michael Vick stood at the podium in the visitor's post-game interview room at MetLife Stadium that day, he looked and sounded like a beaten, frustrated man. He spoke of not knowing what the future held. He wondered about the effort put forth by his teammates in the beatdown administered by the Giants.
More than anything, Vick spoke openly about his next steps with the Eagles and he left open the possibility -- a strong one, it seemed then -- that 2013 would see Vick in a different NFL city.
"I don't know," said Vick when asked if he wanted to return to the Eagles. "I just have to take time to think about everything that happened this season and reflect on it. I can take the positives away, as far as what I was able to accomplish. Ultimately, I wish we could have accomplished more for my teammates. I don't know right now, I just need to get some rest."
The offseason did great things for Vick. So did the hiring of Chip Kelly as the head coach, and Pat Shurmur as the offensive coordinator and then Bill Lazor as the quarterbacks coach. Vick is a different player now than he has ever been, and his brilliance in the team's Training Camp practices and in the two preseason games to date -- Vick has completed 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown, and has compiled a passer rating of 113.2 -- earned him the starting job at quarterback moving forward.
There is obviously still much to be written before this chapter in Vick's football life is complete, but it's safe to say that No. 7 has made a remarkable improvement in his game. The system put forth by the coaching staff has feat neatly into Vick's skill set, and the improved offensive line and strong options in the passing game have taken the burden of making a big moment happen on every play off of Vick's shoulders.
Kelly announced on Tuesday morning that Vick would be the starting quarterback in 2013, ending the months-long drama and conversation. This is not to suggest that Nick Foles and Matt Barkley pack their bags and give up, because the Eagles understand that they need depth at the quarterback position now and in the future. Vick has a history of seasons marred by injury, so both Foles and Barkley must shrug off the disappointment of losing out on the starting job and improve their games on a daily basis.
The truth is that, as Kelly hoped all along, the competition at quarterback -- and let's include both Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne, because they also have performed well in the preseason -- has elevated everyone's game. Vick has never been more mentally acute, or more comfortable in a pocket, or more decisive on when to take the opening and run.
Vick has been flat-out great since the Eagles made the decision to re-work Vick's contract and narrow it down to a one-year deal, essentially saying: Prove you are a starting quarterback with whom we can win in the NFL.
And so the decision was made. With a simple "I think Mike is ahead right now," from Kelly, the long-debated "controversy" ended. And from a team standpoint, there was never any controversy. It was a good, old-fashioned competition for a starting position and both Vick and Foles played well in two preseason games. Kelly believes he has two starting-caliber quarterbacks who can win right now, and another (Barkley) who is on the come.
Vick is as alive and vibrant as he was in early 2010 when a concussed Kevin Kolb left the season-opening game against Green Bay, never to return as the team's starting quarterback of the present, or the future. In that dizzying first three-quarters of the season, Vick was a whirling dervish of a playmaker working behind a wobbly offensive line. He ducked away from pressure. He pirouetted away from blitzers. He played with heart and a derring-do that led the Eagles to a playoff spot.
Since then, of course, the league hasn't been as kind to Vick, or the Eagles. By the end of last season, as the Giants drubbed the Eagles 42-7 in the last game of an era, the future seemed so uncertain for Vick.
"I've never loved the game of football more," said Vick after last week's preseason win over Carolina. "It's a great feeling to come out here each and every day and get to work."
He's earned every bit of his starting job. Foles was good, and the Eagles need him to continue to develop, because the season is long and depth at quarterback is necessary. But Vick has stepped ahead of the pack with hard work and diligence and the hope that this system, whatever it comes -- and how exciting it is to think of the next step, when the regular season begins?! -- is the right one for him at this stage of his career.
It sure beats how Vick felt last December 30 in the misery of MetLife Stadium, wondering if he had played his final game as an Eagle. The turnaround has been stunning, spectacular and a sensational tribute to Vick and a lot of the hard work from him and the coaching staff here.