Coach Andy Reid has decided to stick with Michael Vick as the starting quarterback...for now. Let's take a look at why Reid made this decision. What does Vick need to do to keep the job? Can the coaches help him out?
It was reported on Thursday that Andy Reid will keep Michael Vick as the starting quarterback. Reid will also continue to have offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg call the plays. I think this is a wise decision for Reid. The Eagles are 3-3. This isn't the time for drastic measures.
But wait you say, what about firing Juan Castillo?
I don't see that as a drastic move. The defense wasn't awful. They were just outside the top 10 in points and yards allowed. Reid fired Castillo because he simply felt that Castillo wasn't the man to put the defense where it needed to be (in the top 10). Also, Todd Bowles was already in place on the staff. This isn't like bringing in someone from the outside. There won't be major schematic changes. The players know Bowles. He knows them. He knows the system and the playbook. Bowles just needs to do a better job of running the defense.
Back in 1998 the Eagles offense got off to a terrible start, scoring just one touchdown in the first three games. Coach Ray Rhodes wasn't happy with offensive coordinator Dana Bible so he started letting assistant Bill Musgrave get involved with playcalling. Things picked up a bit and eventually Rhodes let Musgrave take over and call all the plays. The offense never got substantially better, but did show improvement. The personnel didn't change much. The playbook was the same. Musgrave just had a better feel for the situation and called better plays.
Bowles isn't going to reinvent the wheel. He's not going to be a defensive genius that comes up with some new scheme that changes the game. Bowles simply needs to do a better job of running the defense. To me, that's not a drastic move.
It certainly was a dramatic move. Any time you fire a coordinator in-season, that isn't to be taken lightly. Reid wanted Bowles to take over so that he could fix the defense. I also think Reid wanted to get the attention of his coaches and players. You can bet Vick is one of the guys Reid had in mind.
Michael Vick has been a major disappointment in 2012. The offense is 31st in the league in scoring. The Eagles are near the top in turnovers as a team and Vick is in the same situation as a player. This was supposed to be the year that Vick blossomed and became a dominant quarterback. If anything, it looks like he's regressed.
Benching him would be a drastic move for the simple reason that his backup is a rookie. If Andy Reid takes Vick out of the lineup and turns the team over to Nick Foles, that is a huge, huge move. Think about what that move would say. Vick is more talented. Vick is more experienced. For Reid to set those things to the side and go with the rookie would be an enormous risk. Reid would be telling the world that he trusts a rookie more than his veteran quarterback.
The fact we're even having this discussion about Vick vs Foles tells you how much Vick and the offense are struggling. There is a compelling argument to make you want to bench Vick. If you compare his numbers to the five starting rookie quarterbacks, Vick is worse than some, better than others. That is mind-blowing. Vick should be a superstar, not someone showing how he's better than Ryan Tannehill.
I think the Eagles best chance at having the offense play like it needs to is with Vick at quarterback. Right now he's a huge part of the problem, but I do think he can be a big part of the solution. The turnovers must stop. He must get the ball to receivers when they're open. The offense is leaving points on the field every week. Vick needs to play like the talented, veteran quarterback that he is.
Reid isn't giving him the job for good. Vick has to play well to keep it. This is fair, and I think that is important when talking about the situation. Vick remains a very popular player in the locker room. You can't bench him the way you could some other quarterbacks. Some teammates like him. Others love him. They all respect him for how tough he is. You don't bench Vick and keep his teammates happy unless you do it the right way.
By giving Vick a chance after the bye, Reid is handling the situation in a way that the other players should be okay with. He's not making a rash decision. He's not benching Vick to say "It's your fault." Reid is giving Vick a chance to keep his job and to turn things around.
It is now up to Vick to do that and get things going in the right direction. I am curious to see if the offense changes post-bye. Right now Vick is struggling with his deep passing. On Sunday he had DeSean Jackson open for a touchdown and threw an errant pass that was instead picked off. It has been that way all year. Vick is playing well when the Eagles go to more of a ball control attack. That means a lot of short and intermediate passing.
The offensive line is able to protect Vick on the shorter routes and quicker passes. Vick gets the ball out on time and accurately. Defenses fear the speed of Jackson and Jeremy Maclin so they keep at least one safety very deep. That leaves room for the receivers to get open.
A lot can be blamed on Vick for this year's struggles, but Reid and Mornhinweg have not helped him enough. When a player is struggling, you adapt to help him out. They continue to want to go for big plays with the vertical passing attack. Reid and Mornhinweg are right when they point out that opposing defenses do have holes down the field. Watch the tape. You'll see holes. Unfortunately Reid and Mornhinweg fail to see that the Eagles just aren't executing well on those plays. The blocking is erratic. Vick's deep accuracy, normally a strength, isn't there this season.
Reid had no reason to remove Mornhinweg as the playcaller. Reid helps script the first 15 plays and has a big hand in the gameplan. Mornhinweg calls the actual plays, but he is running the offense Andy Reid wants to see. In order to change that, both Reid and Mornhinweg have to admit there is a problem and adjust to it. They have done this before. Back in 2008 Donovan McNabb and the offense were in a funk. The coaches went to a more balanced approach (run/pass) and called shorter pass plays. Things clicked and the offense played better down the stretch.
Whether Vick gets help from the coaches or not, he is on thin ice. Vick must play much better. If you're going to have a quarterback that isn't scoring points and turns the ball over too much, why not have it be a rookie? The whole point in playing a veteran is to avoid the kind of mistakes that Vick is making.
Reid is on thin ice as a coach. Jeffrey Lurie made it clear that Reid needed to win in 2012. There is no guarantee that going 9-7 and getting a wildcard berth will be good enough. Lurie expected much more out of this team. Reid expected much more out of Vick. If the team gets below .500 and Vick continues his sloppy play, Reid will pull him. Reid would not expect Foles to be a savior, but would hope that he could somehow be the right guy to help get things turned around.
I hope Reid realizes that he and Mornhinweg need to be part of the solution as well. They must put aside their desire for an explosive passing attack and embrace ball control offense. They have done it in the past. They can do it again. Reid loves to say that he needs to do a better job of putting players in position to succeed. Well, Big Red, here's a chance to put your money where your mouth is. Change the offense. The vertical passing game isn't working right now. The coaches are drawing up good plays, but the line isn't blocking well and Vick isn't doing his part, with reads or throws. Sometimes he doesn't find the open guy. Other times he does, but makes a poor throw. Bottom line - the deep ball isn't working. It's time go away from it.
Michael Vick is in dangerous territory right now. If he gets benched for a rookie, Vick may not get his job back. He might get cut at the end of the season. Once a quarterback hits the street, there are no guarantees for another job. Just ask Donovan McNabb and Vince Young. It is hard to fathom that they are unemployed by NFL teams right now. Just a few years back, each guy was the face of a franchise.
Reid is dealing with a delicate situation. I think he's making the right move. You give Vick a chance to save his job. If he doesn't, you can bench him and people will have to see that it is the right move. The flip side is that if Vick does snap out of his funk, you can have a top flight starting quarterback. Eagles fans saw in 2010 just how good Vick can be when he gets on a roll. I don't expect the guy from 2010 to magically show up, but anything close would be a major improvement over the current situation.